Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jenö Hubay

Jenö Hubay (Eugen Huber) was a German (some would say Hungarian) violinist, composer, and teacher born on September 15, 1858 (Brahms was 25 years old.) He first studied with his father, concertmaster of the opera orchestra in Budapest. At age 11, he made his first public appearance, playing a concerto by Viotti. Two years later, he began studying with Joseph Joachim in Berlin, where he remained for five years. In 1878, he made his Paris debut. He then undertook a course of study with Belgian violinist Henri Vieuxtemps. Beginning in 1882, he taught for four years at the Brussels Music Institute (some say it was the Brussels Conservatory.) He returned to Hungary in 1886 and took a post as head of the Budapest College of Music, where his father used to teach. (He also held a violin teaching post at the Budapest Conservatory at the same time.) Soon thereafter, he (and David Popper) founded the original Budapest String Quartet, which ceased to exist in 1913. Brahms frequently played chamber music with this group. (The subsequent Budapest Quartet was founded by other players in 1917 and was disbanded in 1967.) Together with Popper and Brahms, Hubay premiered Brahms’ third Piano Trio (1886.) Among his many pupils were Joseph Szigeti, Eugene Ormandy, Peter Stojanovic, and Stefi Geyer (Bartok’s girlfriend.) Hubay wrote four violin concertos, the first and second of which – as far as I know - are played only by English violinist Chloe Hanslip. In fact, Hanslip’s Naxos recording of the first and second concertos will be released this month. The third concerto is played (and has been recorded) by Israeli violinist Hagai Shaham. In addition, Hubay wrote several operas and symphonies which have been utterly neglected, except perhaps in Hungary. Among violinists, he is remembered for his short violin encore pieces, one of which is the popular Hejre Kati. Livia Sohn and Benjamin Loeb did recently record Hubay’s Fantasy on themes from the opera Carmen and that recording (also on the NAXOS label) is very much available everywhere on the internet. Aside from that, Hubay’s considerable output lies dormant somewhere. Hubay died on March 12, 1937, at age 78 (Heifetz was 36 years old.)

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