Sándor Végh, Camerata Salzburg Végh in Hungary

BMCCD194 2012

Over the years I had occasion again and again to hear his teaching, work and concerts with the Camerata Academica.

...and the series of rehearsals in Prussia Cove he invited me to... They were preparing Beethoven’s grosse fuge all week with sixteen strings. The way he brought to life every passage of the work, and made it tangible, as approaching it from Bartók he conjured up for us a new image of Beethoven, was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

I consider my encounter with Sándor Végh a great gift from fate.

György Kurtág


Camerata Salzburg (formerly Camerata Academica of the Mozarteum Salzburg)
Conducted by Sándor Végh

About the album

Recorded at the Budapest Congress Center, 20 March, 1995 (CD 1: 1, 6-9) and
the Academy of Music, Budapest, 23 March, 1993 (CD 1: 2-5, CD 2)
Supervisor of production: Judit Stettner (MTVA)
Digital sound restoration: Zsolt Komesz and Richárd Vahl
Mastered by Péter Erdélyi at ArtField Studio, Piliscsaba

Photos by Andrea Felvégi
Design > Meral Bachman Design Studio > Bachman

Produced by László Gőz
Label manager: Tamás Bognár

In association with the Media Service Support and Asset Management Fund
Recordings are property of the archives of the Hungarian Radio

Supported by the National Cultural Fund of Hungary

Very special thanks to Alja Batthyány-Végh and the Camerata Salzburg
Thanks to András Keller, János Pilz and Dániel Lőwenberg


Rob Cowan - Gramophone (en)

Jonathan Woolf - MusicWeb International (en)

Victor Eskenasy - suplimentuldecultura.ro (ro)

Balázs Miklós - Café momus (hu)

Csont András - Magyar Narancs ***** (hu)

4500 HUF 14 EUR

Sándor Végh in Hungary – CD1


01 Coriolan Overture, op. 62 8:42

Mozart: Symphony No. 35 in D major, K. 385, "Haffner"

02 I. Allegro con spirito 6:04
03 II. Andante 7:26
04 III. Menuetto 2:56
05 IV. Finale. Presto 4:02

Haydn: Symphony No. 103 in E flat major "Dromroll"

06 I. Adagio - Allegro con spirito 9:43
07 II. Andante piú tosto allegretto 8:55
08 III. Menuetto 8:56
09 IV. Finale. Allegro con spirito 5:37
Total time 114:11

Sándor Végh in Hungary – CD2

Schubert: Symphony No. 9 (7) in C major, D. 944 “The Great”

01 I. Andante - Allegro ma non troppo 13:43
02 II. Andante con moto 16:01
03 III. Scherzo. Allegro vivace 10:12
04 IV. Finale. Allegro vivace 11:54
Total time 114:11

The album is available in digital form at our retail partners

It was while playing in quartet I made an important discovery: it is the power of musical presence that gives the performance its indispensible spontaneity, and fills it with life.

I think this plays a decisive role in conducting too, since conducting is first and foremost a spiritual activity, and doesn’t depend on beating technique. The decisive factor is the conductor’s aura, the way he experiences the music.

Sándor Végh

Over the years I had occasion again and again to hear his teaching, work and concerts with the Camerata Academica.

...and the series of rehearsals in Prussia Cove he invited me to... They were preparing Beethoven’s grosse fuge all week with sixteen strings. The way he brought to life every passage of the work, and made it tangible, as approaching it from Bartók he conjured up for us a new image of Beethoven, was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

I consider my encounter with sándor végh a great gift from fate.1

György Kurtág

It really is difficult to explain in words what he did when he conducted. Perhaps we get closest to the truth if i say that somehow he drew, he painted the music into the air. 2

András Schiff

1 Programme for ‘Festival Begegnung – Hommage an Sándor Végh’ (18–20 May 2007), pp. 70–71.
2 András Schiff: A zenéről, zeneszerzőkről, önmagáról [On Music, composers, and himself]
(Budapest: Vince Kiadó, 2003), p. 88.

A glance was enough

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 Ernst von 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 over the last fifty years many world-famous musicians have performed there.

Throughout his life Végh attached particular importance to passing on his knowledge to the upcoming generations. From 1941 to 1946 he led violin classes in the Budapest Music Academy, then later in conservatoires in Basel, Freiburg, Düsseldorf and Salzburg, and gave many masterclasses all over the world. In 1972 in Prussia Cove, 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 worldfamous, such as Kim Kashkashian, Yo-Yo Ma, Mischa Maisky, and Shlomo Mintz. 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. Among members the turnover was too high, and the ensemble gradually lost its former sheen.

In 1978 Sándor Végh took on the leadership of the Camerata Academica Salzburg. With the joint work they put in over the following two decades, the orchestra flourished once more, 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,’ 3 said Végh in an interview.

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 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.

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.

Being a Salzburg orchestra the Camerata dedicated special attention to Mozart’s oeuvre. Végh recorded many Mozart works with his orchestra, and the discs 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. Regarding Mozart, Végh once said in an interview: ‘What is Mozart? The right degree, and right form, which is as perfect as the forms of the cosmos, from the atom to the entire universe. Just as the universe dwells in natural harmony (Harmonia mundi), so I feel that Mozart’s music encapsulates the harmony of this world and in its motion captures the rhythm of nature.’ 4

As conductor of the Camerata Végh conducted all of Schubert’s symphonies; in conducting the C major symphony ‘The Great’ he realized a dream of his youth. The rich, varied repertoire of his orchestra also included works by Bach, Bartók, Beethoven, Berg, Brahms, Dvořák, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Veress, Weiner, Wolf and others.

In the last two decades of his life conducting became increasingly important for Sándor Végh. At the beginning of this period he was still performing as a violinist, but later in life, because of joint problems, he had to lay down the bow. As well as the Camerata, from time to time Végh conducted other orchestras, including the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics, and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.

Although Sándor Végh visited Hungary several times, it was not until 1984 that he came in a musical capacity, to give a masterclass in the Music Academy. The Hungarian public was able to hear him as a performing artist once more in 1986, forty years after his last concert appearance in Budapest. His first masterclass in Hungary was followed by others. He also appeared as a conductor in Budapest concert halls, and in addition to the Camerata Academica Salzburg he conducted the Budapest Festival Orchestra and the Budapest Chamber Symphony.

In recognition of his art he received many decorations and prizes, including the CBE (Honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, 1989), the French Knight of the Order of Art and Letters (Chevalier de l’Ordre des Art et des Lettres, 1989), the Austrian Cross of Merit for Science and Art, Class I (Ehrenkreuz für Wissenschaft und Kunst I. Klasse, 1992) while 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).

The recordings in this compilation were made at two concerts of the Budapest
Spring Festival.

For the concerts on 23 March 1993 and 20 March 1995 Sándor Végh brought his own orchestra, the Camerata Academica Salzburg to Hungary. György Kroó reviewed the March 1993 concert for radio listeners in the programme Új Zenei Újság: ‘Not only was the 23 March concert in the Music Academy the finest so far in the Budapest Spring Festival; the Camerata Academica Salzburg’s Mozart and Schubert evening under Sándor Végh was one of the most inspired we have ever heard in the Hungarian capital. I won’t use the word conduct, because the current professional meaning of that is different to what the eighty-year-old artist does at the helm of the orchestra. ... with his fostered musicians, the rejuvenated Camerata Academica based on twenty-two strings, he has no need to play the conductor, but as one of the most significant musical personalities of our time, he can express himself as a wonderful chamber-music teacher. Just as in the preparation of a string quartet, the interpretations are refined to the minutest details, and the concertmaster, directs the tutti passages with his violin held high under his chin in a complementary capacity, so that Sándor Végh at the conductor’s lectern, like a kind of guardian angel, might ensure circulation and respiration for the musical processes, for the very work, with his characteristic shoulder, elbow, and wrist signals, which are never jagged or pointed, but always represent the violin bow, the perpetually singing tone, the basic Mozartian-Schubertian dolce sound of the music.

Let there be no misunderstanding: this performing art denies not an iota of the scenes and bustle of life transferred into music, of the eddies and tragedies of life. But the evocation, the way the thing is said, or sung, eases its passage, and processes it: thus do the joyful tragedies of Schubert’s music come into being as a series of catharses.

The orchestra played Mozart’s
‘Haffner’ symphony and Schubert’s Great C major symphony beautifully. Astonishingly exact, well-shaped, intent but always sot string sound, in the Mozart the ensemble wind entries gave the impression of all the drawers in a chest of drawers being pulled out at the same time; in the Schubert work the trumpets and trombones took part in the music-making like chamber instruments, the legato was so refined and sensitive that one suspected a smaller mensura; the horns were splendid, the oboist had a lovely tone, the articulation of all the music-making was enchanting, and they all know that a brilliant artist of outstanding ability smoothes their path toward Mozart and Schubert.’ 5 (György Kroó)

Dániel Lőwenberg
Translated by Richard Robinson

3 Dr. György Székely: ‘Dr. Székely György két interjúja. Salzburg 1993. Végh Sándor Bartókról és a népzenéről’ [Two interviews with Dr. György Székely. Salzburg 1993. Székely Végh on Bartók and folk music’, Muzsika 1993 no. 11 p. 17.
4 Péter Csobádi: ‘Harmonia mundi, a természet ritmusa. Csobádi Péter beszélgetése Végh Sándorral’ [Harmonia mundi, the rhythm of nature. Péter Csobádi talks to Sándor Végh], Muzsika 1991 no. 12 p. 31.
5 László Sári (ed.): A mikrofonnál Kroó György 1981–1997 [György Kroó at the microphone] (Budapest: Magyar Rádió Rt., 1998), p. 261-262. [28 March 1993]

Related albums