Joseph Szigeti – in conversation with Manoug Parikian, BBC Radio – circa 1964 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
The legendary violinist Joseph Szigeti, in conversation with Manoug Parikian for the BBC Radio series Talking About Music – from circa 1964.
Joseph Szigeti was a Hungarian violinist who was one of the leading musical figures in the 20th century .
Born into a musical family, he spent his early childhood in a small town in Transylvania. He quickly proved himself to be a child prodigy on the violin, and moved to Budapest with his father to study with the renowned pedagogue Jenő Hubay. After completing his studies with Hubay in his early teens, Szigeti began his international concert career. His performances at that time were primarily limited to salon-style recitals and the more overtly virtuosic repertoire; however, after making the acquaintance of pianist Ferruccio Busoni, he began to develop a much more thoughtful and intellectual approach to music that eventually earned him the nickname “The Scholarly Virtuoso”.
Following a bout of tuberculosis that required a stay in a sanatorium in Switzerland, Szigeti settled in Geneva, where he became Professor of Violin at the local conservatory in 1917. It was in Geneva that he met his future wife, Wanda Ostrowska, and at roughly the same time he became friends with the composer Béla Bartók. Both relationships were to be lifelong.
From the 1920s until 1960, Szigeti performed regularly around the world and recorded extensively. He also distinguished himself as a strong advocate of new music, and was the dedicatee of many new works by contemporary composers. Among the more notable pieces written for him are Ernest Bloch’s Violin Concerto, Bartók’s Rhapsody No. 1, and Eugène Ysaÿe’s Solo Sonata No. 1. After retiring from the concert stage in 1960, he worked at teaching and writing until his death in 1973, at the age of 80.
If you’re familiar with his recordings, but not his voice or his thoughts on the art of playing, have a listen to this interview.
Manoug Parikian is a figure of note as well – made his solo début in 1947 and led several orchestras – the Liverpool Philharmonic (1947–48), London’s Philharmonia Orchestra (1949–57), the Yorkshire Sinfonia from 1976 to 1978 – and was musical director of the Manchester Camerata from 1980 to 1984. He also led the English Opera Group Orchestra between 1949 and 1951, and participated in various Aldeburgh Festival concerts as a chamber musician as well as in opera productions. He died in 1987.