B1436. Joseph Szigeti. With Strings Attached – Reminiscences and Reflections [2nd Edition, Revised and Enlarged]. New York, Knopf, 1967. 394pp. Index; Discography; Photos; DJ.
“Joseph Szigeti, one of the titans of the violin in this century, a pioneer of contemporary music and a jealous guardian of the classic tradition, was a stylist with rare delicacy of tone and directness of feeling. A close friend of Bela Bartók, Szigeti helped to introduce his fellow Hungarian's music to new audiences. He was also a pioneer in presenting the music of Serge Prokofiev, the Soviet composer, whose Violin Concerto in D he played and recorded. He is credited, moreover, as the first to record Darius Milhaud's ‘Le Printemps’ and Ernest Bloch's ‘Nigun’. At the same time that Szigeti was making concertgoers familiar with new and difficult music, he was rewarding them with such staples of the violin diet as the concertos of Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Brahms, which he tended to play with elegance.
Szigeti's surface calm and gracious manner, underscored by his impeccably tailored dark blue pinstripe suits of the type once in vogue among diplomats, masked his intensely high‐strung and temperamental nature. For all this, the violinist was accounted a modest man.
Shortly after his 1905 Berlin debut, Szigeti moved to London, where he performed at concerts of the National Sunday League and at private musicales. There followed tours with Nellie Melba, Blanche Marchesi and a joint recital with Myra Hess. By 1909 he was fairly launched with a concert directed by Bloch, and his recordings, including Bach's Prelude in E, began to sell.
Szigeti's American debut came in 1925 at the invitation of Leopold Stokowski, the conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. After that, he played with every major orchestra in this country and gave solo performances in all the major cities. Indeed, he was almost constantly on tour here and abroad until his retirement. One of his final appearances was at the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico in 1957, where he played Mozart's Concerto in D and the Adagio in E. Commenting on the concert, Howard Taubman, THE NEW YORK TIMES critio wrote: ‘[Szigeti] understands Mozart. It is an honest Mozart. The flash and flare that a young virttioso would bring to the task are not there. Instead, there is the transparent simplicity that only an experienced and subtle artist knows how to evoke’.
Yehudi Menuhin, also a wunderkind violinst, wrote ‘We must be humbly grateful that the breed of cultured and chivalrous violin virtuosos, aristocrats as human beings and as musicians, has survived into our hostile age in the person of Joseph Szigeti. Perhaps he may be the string that will attach some chosen newborn reincarnation to his spiritual ancestor - to an Enesco, a Kreisler, a Joachim or an Ysaye’.”
- Alden Whitman, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 21 Feb., 1973