String Quartet in Banff: The Hungarian Connection

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Zoltán Székely, Lorand Fenyves, violins, Gabor Magyar, cello and Georges Janzer, viola.

In  1967 Thomas Rolston was acting chairman of the Department of Music at the Univerity of Alberta, which hosted the Hungarian String Quartet for two days following a performance in Edmonton. Tom had plans to forge an artistic relationship between the Hungarian Quartet and the University of Alberta – plans which would soon include The Banff Centre for Continuing Education. At the same time the Quartet’s manager Agnes Eisenberger, on behalf of Colbert Arists Management, was seeking an academic residency in North America for the musicians. The University of Alberta was able to offer the Quartet a one-month residency in March 1968.  In 1972 the Hungarian String Quartet came to Banff as the first faculty members of the newly created Academy of Chamber Music.  At this time Lorand Fenyves was teaching Janos Starker’s daughter in Banff and with Starker’s growing interest in Banff programs Neil Armstrong visited him in Indiana and met many of the other musicians who would later come to Banff  (Janzer, Sebok, Pressler)  Starker eventually came to Banff from 1975 to 1991 to give cello master classes.

This six week Academy of Chamber Music, from mid-May to late June, included a three week piano master class with Gyorgy Sebok, a three week Piano Chamber Music Academy for pre-formed ensembles organized by Lorand Fenyves and Isobel Moore Rolston, and The String Quartet Academy with the Hungarian String Quartet members: Denes Koromzay, Michael Kuttner, Gabriel Magyar and Zoltán Székely, long time friend of composer Béla Bartók. Programs were now designed for the finest talents from anywhere