Hungarian Music in Canada | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Hungarian Music in Canada

In 1986, some 189,000 people of Hungarian origin were living in Canada. The first Hungarians arrived via the USA ca. 1886 and settled in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Other groups immigrated between 1901 and 1911 and several established communities in Alberta.

Hungarian Music in Canada

In 1986 some 189,000 people of Hungarian origin were living in Canada. The first Hungarians arrived via the USA ca. 1886 and settled in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Other groups immigrated between 1901 and 1911 and several established communities in Alberta. The folk culture of the early settlements has been researched by Kenneth Peacock, who collected over 150 songs.

After the stiffening of US immigration laws in the 1920s, many Hungarians preferred to enter Canada. A number of farmers and tradesmen settled in the Niagara district, in the grape- and tobacco-growing areas of southwestern Ontario, and in urban centres such as Brantford, Hamilton, and Toronto. In the 1930s very large numbers (perhaps as many as 80 per cent) from the western-Canadian Hungarian communities migrated to eastern Canada.

During the 1920s and 1930s Hungarian cultural activities in urban areas were co-ordinated by local churches. Records deposited with the Multicultural History Society of Ontario show that the Toronto Hungarian Presbyterian Church, the St Elizabeth of Hungary Roman Catholic Church, and the Hungarian Baptist Church in Toronto sponsored choirs, string ensembles, and silver bands. Community organizations - eg, the Kossuth Sick Benefit Society and the Brantford Mutual Benefit Society - also organized choirs and folkdance classes.

Probably the first distinguished Hungarian musician to live in Canada was Clara Lichtenstein, who claimed to have studied with Liszt and who settled in Montreal in 1899. The violinist Géza de Kresz lived in Toronto 1923-35 and 1947-59 and did much to introduce Hungarian music (especially by Bartók) to Canadian audiences. The violinist Jean de Rimanoczy settled in Winnipeg in 1925, and the pianist Paul de Marky took up residence in Montreal in the late 1920s. A central non-sectarian community organization, Hungarian House Inc, was founded in Toronto in 1947 (and renamed Hungarian Canadian Cultural Centre in 1974), to promote sports and cultural activities, including Hungarian music.

As immigration to Canada increased after World War II a number of Hungarian musicians arrived, among them the cellist George Horvath in 1948 and the composer István Anhalt in 1949. A major wave of immigration - some 35,000 individuals, mostly urban business and professional people, including many musicians, music teachers, and university students - followed the 1956 Hungarian uprising. The majority settled in Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal, Winnipeg, and Vancouver. By 1960 they had begun to establish additional means of maintaining their musical traditions.

Among Hungarian-Canadian performing groups active in the 1970s was the Hungarian Kapisztrán Folk Ensemble of Winnipeg, a mixed choir, orchestra, and folkdance group founded in 1960 by its conductor, Gertrud Edenhoffer. Affiliated with St Anthony of Padua Hungarian Roman Catholic Church, the ensemble, dressed in regional folk costumes, has appeared on TV and in multicultural and Hungarian folk festivals in a repertoire of church music, folksongs, and works by Bartók, Kodály, and others. The Kodály Ensemble of Toronto was founded in 1960 by George Zadubán, as the Kodály Male Voice Choir. By 1963 a mixed-voice choir, an orchestra, and a dance group had been added. The mixed choir supplemented the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir in COC productions of Aida (1964) and Turandot (1965). In 1979 the ensemble comprised an orchestra, a mixed choir, a chamber choir, and a dance group and was described as the largest and best-known Hungarian group of its kind outside Hungary. Its orchestra, choir, and dance group also have performed separately. The entire ensemble has appeared at festivals in Ontario and has filled engagements in Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, and Winnipeg. The Vancouver Hungarian Choir was founded in 1967 by Josef Sallos and was conducted later by Thomas Schadl. It has participated in folk festivals, and in 1969 and 1970 it competed successfully at the Kiwanis Festival. It has made private recordings of Hungarian choral works and Christmas carols.

In 1974 the House of Reményi (for some years spelled Remeny), a Budapest musical firm which had relocated in Toronto, revived the Reményi Award Competition, a contest initiated in 1902 at the Franz Liszt Academy and suspended in 1950. In its revival of the competition the company was assisted by Lorand Fenyves and the University of Toronto (see Awards).

The principles of musical education developed by Zoltán Kodály (see Kodály Method) were introduced to Canada in 1965 through courses at the RCMT and at Montreal's École normale de musique. Kodály visited Canada in 1964 and again in 1966, when he gave the MacMillan Lectures at the University of Toronto and received an honorary doctorate from that university. Toronto's Hungarian community mounted a musical tribute on the centennial of his birth in November 1982, featuring violist Rivka Golani, pianist Tibor Polgar, soprano Barbara Collier, and visiting Hungarian pianist Ádám Fellegi

In 1973 the CAPAC-MacMillan Lectures were given by another Hungarian composer, György Ligeti. Among other Hungarians who have appeared in Canada are the pianist Ernst von Dohnányi, who gave a piano recital for the Ladies' Morning Musical Club of Montreal in 1900 and returned to Montreal during the 1930s to perform with Clarke'sMontreal Orchestra in the Canadian premiere of his Variations on a Nursery Rhyme. The violinist Joseph Szigeti appeared at a Montreal Ladies' Morning Musical Club concert in 1927 and played in Toronto, Winnipeg, and other cities, and the Roth Quartet appeared in Montreal in 1929. Béla Bartók, whose Canadian pupils included Violet Archer, Agnes Butcher, and Jean Coulthard, was to have played in Montreal in 1940 but was forced to cancel owing to illness. The pianist György Cziffra made his North American debut at the 1957 Montreal Festivals. The Hungarian String Quartet premiered Harry Somers'Third String Quartet at the Vancouver International Festival in 1959. The pianists Georges Solchany, Tamás Vásáry, Zoltán Kocsis, and András Schiff, the cellist Janos Starker, the musicologist László Somfai, the Nouveau Trio hongrois, the Végh Quartet, and the West German orchestra of refugee Hungarians the Philharmonia Hungarica (formed in the late 1950s) have appeared in Canada, Starker frequently. The pianist Lili Kraus has performed with the McGill Chamber Orchestra, the NACO, and the TSO and has given numerous recitals in Canada. The soprano Eva Marton recorded an album of works by Richard Strauss with the TS.

Emma Albani sang in the English premiere of Liszt's St Elizabeth, with the composer in the audience; Waugh Lauder was one of Liszt's pupils. Musicologist Alan Walker is a leading authority on Liszt. Canadians who have performed in Hungary include Mona Bates, who studied with Kodály, and Alexander Brott, who conducted there. The pianist David Swan made a recital tour in Hungary in 1978. Budapest was the scene of one of the first all-Canadian concerts outside of Canada (24 and 26 Aug 1949).

Hungarian-born musicians and those of Hungarian origin who have lived in Canada include the cellists Klara Benjamin Belkin, Kristine Bogyo (m Kuerti), Dezsö Mahalek, Ivan Toth, Laszlo Varga, and Andras Weber; the clarinetists Lajos Bornyi and Imre Rozsnyai; the composers John Fodi, Thomas Legrady, and Tibor Polgar; the conductors Laszlo Gati and Arpad Joo; the guitarists Antonin Bartos, Frank Nagy, and Abel Nagytothy-Toth; the organists and choirmasters Oscar Buchbinder, Izabella Dedinsky, Miklos Takacs, and Xavér Varnus; the pianists Ernest Bánky, Béla Böszörmenyi-Nagy, Endre Gaál, Lajos Ivánfay-Gondos, Eva Hidassy-Hajos (m Jahn), Bartók specialist Mary Kenedi, Charles Reiner, and Ilonka Seder-Szabolcsi, the pianist and administrator Peter C. Simon, the pianist and composer Ivan Gondos, the piano teachers Margaret Hajdú, Judit Kenedy, and Idilko Vadas; the singers Aurelie Revy Chapman, Veronica d'Eclesis (b Kalfman), Rózsa Erdélyi, Ferenc Korodini, Gloria Jean Nagy, and Margaret Zydron (b Pirositz); the violinists Ilona Adorján, Béla Bucz, Kornelia Dvorzsák, Arthur Garami, Moshe Hammer, Marta Hidy, Lajos Molnár, Joseph Peleg, Charles Szilády, János Tóth, Elizabeth Tömösváry, Dezsö Vághy, and Árpád Verseghy; the violists Janos Csaba, Ernest Kiss, Tibor Vághy, and Robert Verebes; and the bassist Leslie Obercian, the french horn player Eugene Rittich, the educator Gabor Bartha, the harpist Susana Remeny, the trombonist Antal Dvorak, the music journalist Nancy Gyokeres, the trumpeter Steven Pettes, and the musicologist Zoltan Roman. Musicologist and pianist Stephen Satory has performed and written about Hungarian music, including an article on the Táncház ('dance house') tradition of improvised dance and music (CUMR, vol 8, 1987), an interview with Ligeti (CUMR, vol 10, no. 1, 1990), and a PH D thesis on 'String Quartet composition in Hungary, 1958-1981' (University of Toronto 1991). The violin and viola builder Otto Erdesz lived in Toronto from 1974 until ca 1990. Violinist and composer Zoltán Székely moved to Canada in the early 1970s and became a Canadian citizen in 1979. A member of the Hungarian String Quartet 1937-52, he was the dedicatee of Bartók's Rhapsody No. 2 for violin (1928), Concerto for violin and orchestra (1937-38), and String Quartet No. 6 (1939). In 1991 he continued as artist-in-residence at the Banff CA, a position he first assumed in 1975.

'Hungary Reborn,' the largest festival of Hungarian arts ever mounted in North America, was held in Toronto in the fall of 1991. Visiting groups included the Hungarian State SO, the Hungarian National Ballet, and the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra; in addition concerts of Hungarian music were given by the TS, the NMC and other Toronto groups.

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