Sunday, September 25, 2011

Robert Virovai

Robert Virovai is a Hungarian concert violinist born (in Duravar, Yugoslavia) on March 10, 1921.  Except for this blog profile, he is today almost totally forgotten.  He began his violin studies with his mother at age 6.  By age 8, he was studying at the Belgrade Conservatory with Peter Stojanovich, a Serbian violinist, teacher, and composer.  He spent four years there.  He then studied, from the age of 13, with Jeno Hubay at the Budapest Conservatory.  Hubay later said of him, “Virovai plays so beautifully as to astonish even me.”  Some sources say Hubay declared him his best pupil.  He lived in New York City for a while but later spent most of his career in Europe.  He made his U.S. debut (playing a rented Stradivarius) on November 3, 1938, at age 17, with the New York Philharmonic.  He played Vieuxtemps’ Fourth Concerto in d minor (Opus 31) and all critics agreed he was sensational, one of them declaring that “his attack was positively ferocious.”  He later played a solo recital at Carnegie Hall on December 17 of the same year.  Virovai was soon placed among the front ranks of violinists.  It was said that his playing was “remarkable for speed, accuracy, and beautiful tone.”  He toured the U.S. for two or three years after that, playing with the most important orchestras.  Then he dropped out of sight, spending most of his time in Europe.  As far as I know, he has never commercially recorded anything, though that would be extremely unusual since recording technology had a progressive surge in the 1950s when Virovai would have been in his thirties.  Most violinists reach their apogee between thirty and fifty years of age.  Why there is no record of a discography is a mystery.  Perhaps I just don’t know where to look.  Later on, Virovai played and taught in Switzerland, where he now lives.  As a youth, Virovai was fluent in four languages – German, Hungarian, Croatian, and Slovenian.  Perhaps today, he is fluent in a few more. 


  1. Virovai is so obscure, I actually thought he was dead. Thanks to concert violinist Manrico Padovani, Virovai was located alive and well in Switzerland. Virovai does not play anymore and does not wish to be disturbed.

  2. Actually there are some radio broadcast recordings which I got by him from 1953

  3. I took lessons with Robert Virovai from age 14 to 30 in the conservatory Schaffhausen, Switzerland. An excellent teacher. Is he still alive ? Last I heard of him when he was about 75. Please let me know ! I am living in Australia now, after living in South Africa for 13 years and I am leading a small community Symphony Orchestra in Perth. Danielle Traber Steinauer

  4. Hello Danielle, Robert Virovai is alive and well and living in Switzerland - he is somewhat reclusive. A friend of mine who is a concert violinist - above-mentioned - and who lives not far from him contacted him not too long ago.

  5. Thanks for letting me know. In the meantime I found him too via a search on the web. It was lovely to catch up with Robert. He lives close to my birth town. I hope to be able to visit him soon.

  6. To update your record and Robert Virovai was my father, as he died near Schaffhausen on the 3rd December 2015 in age of 94. Regards
    Zoltan Virovai

    1. I am so sad to hear your news Zoltan and would like to send my condolences to you and your family. I sent him a letter to announce my visit for July 16 in Switzerland right after I booked my flight in November 15. My call in December 15 was not answered. I would like to visit his grave if this is possible. Please let me know. Regards Danielle