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  • Briefs / Feuilletons
  • Aleš Březina

The Central Library of the Liszt Academy in Budapest has acquired several documents from the legacy of the composer and conductor Emil Ábrányi Jr. (1882–1970). This collection is highly valuable from several aspects. The Ábrányi family is one of the most important Hungarian musician families of the nineteenth and twentieth century. The composer, musicologist, and music critic Kornél Ábrányi (1822–1903) was a member of the first teaching staff of the Music Academy in Budapest; his son, the poet Emil Ábrányi Sr. (1850–1920) translated many opera librettos into Hungarian. The wife of Emil Ábrányi Sr., Margit Wein (1861–1948) was a coloratura soprano opera singer, and, between 1901 and 1920, voice teacher at the Music Academy. Their son, Emil Ábrányi Jr., whose legacy has now become part of the collection of the Central Library of the Liszt Academy, studied composition with Hans von Koessler (1853–1926) at the Music Academy in Budapest, and conducting with Arthur Nikisch (1855–1922) in Leipzig. He began his career in 1904 at the Opera in Köln, and from 1907 he was conductor of the Opera in Hannover. His wife was also an opera singer, Rósa Ábrányi-Varnay (1885–1962), member of the Opera in Hannover. They returned to Hungary around 1910, and Emil Ábrányi Jr. became conductor of the Royal Hungarian Opera, while his wife became a member of the new opera house of Budapest, the Népopera (People's Opera). Emil Ábrányi Jr. was the director of the Opera in Budapest in a very difficult period, from 1919 to 1920, and after that he became the director of the Városi Színház (Budapest Municipal Theatre, in cooperation with the Royal Hungarian Opera). He also taught conducting at the Music Academy and worked as an opera conductor in Budapest, Debrecen, and Szeged. He composed twelve operas to librettos by several authors, including Maeterlinck, Dante, Cervantes, and Ferenc Herczeg, among others. His last opera, A Tamás-templom karnagya (The Cantor of the St. Thomas Church, 1947, unperformed), is the first opera composed about Johann Sebastian Bach. The Ábrányi family lived in the same house as Gustav Mahler in his Budapest years.

The grandchildren of Emil Ábrányi Jr., Lívia Ábrányi, and Margit Ábrányi donated the legacy of their grandfather to the Central Library of the Liszt Academy The collection consists of printed and manuscript scores of his compositions, a total of twenty-two complete works and fragments, as well as photographs. Most of the scores are in manuscript, including full scores of three operas, two ballets, two works for symphony orchestra, and a Mass. Furthermore, the legacy contains handwritten vocal scores of seven operas and some songs for voice and piano as well. In the hope of performances abroad, Ábrányi wrote German translations beneath the Hungarian texts in most of the full scores and vocal scores of his operas. As part of the donation, the Library also received a photograph of Lívia Ábrányi›s painting depicting her grandfather, as well as Margit Ábrányi's manuscript memoirs in English and Hungarian. The cataloguing of individual items and the digitisation of sheet music will begin in 2021. The legacy of Emil Ábrányi Jr. will add considerably to several valuable Hungarian musician-legacies housed at the Central Library and the Research Library of the Music Academy. [End Page 33]

An early version of String Quartet No. 2, H 150 (1925) by Bohuslav Martinů discovered

'I do not deny of course that Stravinsky has influenced me'.

If we include the early string quartet Three Riders, H 1 (ca 1902), which Bohuslav Martinů took with him to the entrance exams at the Prague Conservatoire, then the missing string quartet, H 60 (1912), String Quartet in E-flat major, H 103 (from 1917, dubbed 'No. 0'), and String Quartet No. 1, H 117 ('French', apparently written a year later), we would be right to note String Quartet No. 2, H 150 (1925), as the composer's fifth foray into a genre that has been considered the pinnacle of chamber music...


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