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date: 15 December 2019

Budapest Quartetlocked

  • Robert Philip

Extract

String quartet of Hungarian origin. The original members were Emil Hauser, Imre Poganyi, Istvan Ipolyi and Harry Son, all of whom played in the orchestra at the Royal Hungarian Opera House. They gave their first concert in 1917 at Kolozsvar (now Cluj-Napoca). Their European tours during the 1920s included visits to London, first in 1925 when their performances of Bartók’s First Quartet and Smetana’s Quartet in E minor were admired for their fine ensemble and depth of feeling. During the quartet’s subsequent history, the membership changed completely. In 1927 Joseph Roisman joined as second violin, becoming the leader within a few years, and during the early 1930s Ipolyi was replaced by Alexander Schneider, and Son by Schneider’s brother, Mischa. When Boris Kroyt joined as viola in 1936, the quartet became entirely Russian and Ukrainian, but its name remained the same. The character of its playing changed dramatically when the leadership passed from Hauser to Roisman. Hauser was a violinist of the old school, sparing in his use of vibrato, liberal in his use of portamento, and unhasty in his rhythms. Roisman, by contrast, was of the new generation of string players, with a faster and more continuous vibrato, and incisive in rhythm. The quartet reflected these qualities, being known for its expressive warmth under Hauser, and for its forthright brilliance and unanimity of style under Roisman – admittedly not without occasional suggestions of businesslike efficiency....

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