Sándor Végh, Camerata Salzburg Végh conducts Schubert (2CD)
“How did I become a conductor? The fact is, I am not a conductor: I am a musician, who conducts because he feels he cannot live without music.” Sándor Végh
The music of Schubert played a special role in Végh’s life: he approached it with deep respect and worked painstakingly with it. At the helm of the Camerata he conducted all of Schubert’s symphonies. Of Schubert’s eight symphonies, recordings of the last four by the Camerata Academica under Sándor Végh were already available, including the deservedly famous B minor (D. 759) “Unfinished” and the “Great” C major (D. 944) symphonies. In the latter, the conducting was a realization of one of the maestro’s youthful ambitions. This is also available as a unique release on the BMC disc “Végh in Hungary” (BMC CD 194). However, the first four symphonies, composed between 1813 and 1816, have until now not been available in Sándor Végh’s interpretation. This present compilation contains previously unpublished recordings that were made in the concert hall of the Cologne Philharmonic during the Camerata Academica’s Schubert cycle, in which all the composer’s symphonies were played between 26 May and 2 June 1996.
Conducted by Sándor Végh
About the album
Licensed by WDR mediagroup GmbH
Recorded by WDR in the Kölner Philharmonie on 26 May (CD1 5-8, CD2 1-4),
27 May (CD1 1-4), 30 May (CD2 5-8), 1996
Executive producer: Christoph Held
Recording producer: Klaus-Dieter Harbusch
Recording engineer: Reinhold Nickel, Bardo Kox (CD2 5-8)
Production editor: Dániel Lőwenberg
Artwork: Huszár László / Greenroom
Produced by László Gőz
Label manager: Tamás Bognár
Supported by the National Cultural Fund of Hungary
Special thanks to Alja Batthyány-Végh and the Camerata Salzburg
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Schubert: Symphony No. 1 in D major, D. 82
Schubert: Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, D. 125
Schubert: Symphony No. 3 in D major, D. 200
Schubert: Symphony No. 4 in C minor, D. 417 “Tragic”
The album is available in digital form at our retail partners
Sándor Végh and Schubert
The music of Schubert played a special role in Végh’s life: he approached it with deep respect and worked painstakingly with it. He often played Schubert’s chamber music, including the string quartets, and also, sometimes as chamber partner to Pablo Casals, the B-flat major (D. 898) and the E-flat major (D. 929) Piano Trios, and the C major String Quintet (D. 956). At the helm of the Camerata he conducted all of Schubert’s symphonies. When his illness became more serious at the end of 1996, in hospital he studied the score of Schubert’s incidental music for Rosamunde (D. 797), but he did not live to conduct it.
Of Schubert’s eight symphonies, recordings of the last four by the Camerata Academica under Sándor Végh were already available on the Capriccio label (Capriccio CD 10535, 10503), including the deservedly famous B minor (D. 759) “Unfinished” and the “Great” C major (D. 944) symphonies. In the latter, the conducting was a realization of one of the maestro’s youthful ambitions. This is also available as a unique release on the BMC disc Végh in Hungary (BMCCD194). However, the first four symphonies, composed between 1813 and 1816, have until now not been available in Sándor Végh’s interpretation.
This present compilation contains previously unpublished recordings that were made in the concert hall of the Cologne Philharmonic during the Camerata Academica’s Schubert cycle, in which all the composer’s symphonies were played between 26 May and 2 June 1996.
The Life of Sándor Végh
Violinist, chamber musician, conductor and teacher Sándor Végh, one of the most important musicians of the twentieth century, was born in Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca) on 17 May 1912. At the age of twelve he was admitted to the Music Academy in Budapest where he was a pupil of Nándor Zsolt and Jenő Hubay, and studied chamber music with Leó Weiner and Imre Waldbauer. He also studied composition for a year with Zoltán Kodály. In 1929 he won the Reményi Prize, and in 1931 he graduated from the Music Academy, the same year he was awarded the Hubay Prize.
He founded his first string quartet, the New Hungarian String Quartet, in 1935. In 1936 several European cities, including Budapest and Vienna, and the festival of the International Society for Contemporary Music in Barcelona, had the privilege of hearing Végh’s quartet premiere Bartók’s String Quartet No. 5. Before the premieres the composer himself spent time with the new chamber ensemble, and during the rehearsals a very good working relationship developed between Végh and Bartók, which was to last. He founded his second string quartet in 1940. In 1946 the Végh Quartet took part in the Geneva International Music Competition, where the jury unanimously awarded them the first prize, and this was the beginning of the group’s world career spanning three decades. In the years following the competition Sándor Végh lived in France, later Switzerland and Germany, then in the final decades of his life made his home in Salzburg in Austria.
Végh played with the finest musicians of the century. He performed as a chamber partner to Ernő Dohnányi, Annie Fischer, Mieczysław Horszowski, Wilhelm Kempff, Rudolf Serkin, and Yehudi Menuhin. For many years he played with Pablo Casals at the legendary cellist’s Prades Festival. In 1964 Végh founded his own chamber music festival in Cervo, Italy, which is still held to this day, and in which over the last almost fifty years many world-famous musicians have performed.
Throughout his life Végh attached particular importance to passing on his knowledge to the upcoming generations. From 1941 to 1946 he led violin classes at the Budapest Music Academy, then later at conservatoires in Basel, Freiburg, Düsseldorf and Salzburg, and gave many masterclasses all over the world. In 1972 in Prussia Cove, in Cornwall (south coast of England), he created the International Musicians’ Seminar, a master class which to this day faithfully retains Végh’s musical legacy.
Twenty years after founding the Végh Quartet, and now a musician of great fame, he created (probably in 1961) the Sándor Végh Chamber Orchestra, made up of his ex-pupils. In autumn 1961 the orchestra toured in Switzerland and Germany, performing in 1962 and 1963 in the Prades Festival, and in 1964 in Cervo. However, due to financial difficulties the orchestra was soon forced to discontinue its activity. The determining factor in Végh’s becoming a conductor was his experience at the Marlboro Music Festival in the USA, where outstanding young musicians at the beginning of their careers played chamber music with famous musicians, and the participants also formed an occasional orchestra. Végh took part in the Marlboro Festival four times, from 1974 to 1977, and every year he led the orchestra, which in those years included musicians who later became world famous, such as Kim Kashkashian, Yo-Yo Ma, Mischa Maisky, and Shlomo Mintz.
In the last two decades of his life Sándor Végh placed increasing emphasis on conducting. At the beginning of this period he was still performing as a violinist, until because of age-related joint problems he had to lay down the bow. Végh conducted the Camerata Academica chamber orchestra from 1978 right until his death in 1997, though from time to time he also conducted other orchestras, including the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics, and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.
In recognition of his art Végh was awarded many decorations and prizes, including the CBE (Honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, 1989), a French arts knighthood (Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, 1989), and first class in the Austrian Order of Merit for Sciences and Arts (Österreichisches Ehrenkreuz für Wissenschaft und Kunst I. Klasse, 1992). In Hungary he received the Order of the Star of the People’s Republic of Hungary decorated with the Golden Wreath (1987), the Pro Cultura Hungarica Prize (1995) and was made an honorary citizen of Budapest (1995). The Franz Liszt Music Academy made him an honorary teacher (1992), and the Végh Quartet was awarded the Béla Bartók–Ditta Pásztory Prize (1989).
Sándor Végh and the Camerata Academica
The Camerata Academica Salzburg was founded in the 1951–52 season by Bernhard Paumgartner from the teachers and students of the Mozarteum in Salzburg. In a short while the orchestra gained significant acclaim: it was a permanent invitee of the Salzburg Festspiele, and for many years outstanding solo artists such as Clara Haskil and Géza Anda frequently returned to play with the ensemble. In the 1960s, as well as the orchestra’s elderly leader, other conductors also appeared at the helm of the Camerata.
In 1978 Sándor Végh took on the leadership of the Camerata Academica Salzburg. With the joint work they put in over the following nigh two decades, the orchestra flourished, and was ranked among the best in the world. As well as many guest appearances abroad from 1983 the orchestra was a regular guest at the Salzburg Festspiele. After taking over leadership of the orchestra, Végh slowly replaced the whole ensemble, leaving only the bassist. A marked feature of the Camerata sound was that the strings were usually Végh’s students. This resulted in the creation of an even string sound and unity of style which was unique in its type. ‘For me the Camerata is an instrument, and the members feel every frisson of my soul. They give me a great deal of pleasure.’ – said Végh in an interview. Initially the Camerata operated as a small string orchestra, complemented with double oboes and horns at most. Later the ensemble grew and often famous soloists were happy to play in the winds.
As a Salzburg orchestra the Camerata naturally dedicated special attention to Mozart’s oeuvre. Végh recorded many Mozart works with his orchestra, and the disc of the divertimentos and serenades won the Grand Prix du Disque. Végh’s interpretations of Mozart were rewarded with high recognition, and he was given the gold medal of the City of Salzburg and the Vienna Mozart Society. The rich, varied repertoire of his orchestra also included works by Bach, Bartók, Beethoven, Berg, Brahms, Dvořák, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Schoenberg, Schubert, Stravinsky, Veress, Weiner, Wolf and others.
Sándor Végh was not a conductor in the customary sense. In his hands, the Camerata was like a multiplied string quartet. He held a great many rehearsals, and put painstaking effort into shaping the works. The orchestra often started work before he arrived, but all he had to do was walk through the door, and the sound produced changed immediately. Members of the Camerata recount that Végh was incredibly inspiring for them; his aura was so strong that it was impossible to play differently to what he imagined and conveyed through his presence. Just a glance was enough, a facial expression, a gesture, a movement, and everything fell into place.
Translated by Richard Robinson