Thursday, November 4, 2010

Johanna Martzy

Johanna Martzy was a Hungarian violinist born on October 26, 1924 (Heifetz was 23 years old.)  She is remembered for her short career.  Martzy began studying violin at age six.  Soon afterward she started lessons with Jeno Hubay at the Liszt Academy in Budapest and continued with him until 1937.  By age 13 she was already touring Hungary and Romania.  Her debut, playing the Tchaikovsky concerto, took place in 1943 with Mengelberg conducting the Budapest Philharmonic.  In October of 1947, she won first prize in a competition in Geneva, Switzerland.  In February of 1949 she made her debut in Amsterdam (again with the Tchaikovsky concerto), accompanied by the orchestra of the Concertgebouw.  Once established, Martzy enjoyed great success throughout Europe.  Her first appearance in England was in 1953.  Her New York City debut, with the New York Philharmonic, came in November 1957 playing Bach’s E Major concerto, an unusual work with which to debut.  In December 1958, she played the Mendelssohn concerto with this same orchestra with Bernstein at the podium.  Bernstein had just been appointed chief conductor of the Philharmonic.  She continued touring worldwide until 1976 though by 1969 she had effectively slipped from the limelight.  Some say it was because she had by then married a very rich man – Daniel Tschudi – and lacked any financial incentive to stay active.  She did comparatively little recording – Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Dvorak, Bartok, Stravinsky - though many tapes of radio broadcasts still exist.  Rumors have circulated that she chose to give up her recording career rather than give in to Walter Legge (EMI’s Director.)  Martzy mostly played a Carlo Bergonzi violin (1733) though she also owned a 1733 Stradivari (previously owned by Kreisler and Huberman) and a Peter Guarnerius - Carl Flesch’s old violin.  She died in Switzerland, her death virtually unnoticed, on August 13, 1979, at age 54. 


  1. YouTube has a few postings of her playing and some reissues of her recordings are quite expensive.

  2. I heard the Mendelssohn with Bernstein live on the radio in 1958. I remember it well because I was working on the very same concerto at the time. She completely missed the octave passages on the first page. i had never heard such a disaster from such a high level concert. I never heard her name after that concert and i always assumed it was from that embarrassment with the NY phil.

    1. Hello Maestro Long. I really love hearing from eyewitnesses (as it were) because it brings a true historical reality feeling to the blog. I have sometimes heard from listeners who were present at concerts which I reference in the blog; they relate details which are otherwise impossible to ascertain from other sources. Thank you so much for writing and for providing this very interesting detail!