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Joseph Szigeti (9/05/1892 - 2/19/1973)

‘The Scholarly Virtuoso’ was born Joseph ‘Jóska’ Singer to a Jewish family in Budapest, becoming ‘Szigeti’ when, following his mother’s death when he was three, he lived with his grandparents in Máramaros-Sziget. Here he was surrounded by music, the town band being almost entirely comprised of his uncles, one of whom started him on the violin when he was six.

Like compatriots Vecsey, Telmányi, d’Arányi, Végh and Geyer, Szigeti was taught in the Hungarian tradition by Joachim’s former pupil Jenő Hubay, already one of the pre-eminent teachers in Europe. In 1905 Hubay took him to play for Joachim in Berlin but Szigeti declined to take tuition from the aged master.

A Berlin debut in 1905 was followed by his first tour of England, where he premiered the first work dedicated to him, Hamilton Harty’s Violin Concerto. He also toured with Nellie Melba, Ferruccio Busoni and others, the latter becoming his mentor and prompting him to develop the intellectual approach that earned him his nickname.

Following a bout of tuberculosis, during which he was reacquainted with Bartók who was at the same sanatorium recovering from pneumonia, Szigeti succeeded Marteau as Professor of Violin at the Geneva Conservatoire in 1917. Although he was often frustrated by the mediocrity of the students, the environment enabled him to deepen his own understanding of performance as an art.




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