Robert Verebes

Robert Verebes, violist, teacher (born 15 November 1934 in Budapest, Hungary; died 12 April 2016 in Montréal, QC). Robert Verebes’s performances exhibited sophisticated musicianship and impassioned playing. After earning his artist diploma at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, Verebes came to Canada and became a prominent member of the Montréal Symphony Orchestra for 40 years. He was also an acclaimed soloist and a founding member of the New Chamber Music Ensemble of Ottawa, the Musica Camerata Montréal and the Classical Quartet of Montréal. He taught chamber music at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal for 23 years and premiered several works commissioned for him, including Jean Coulthard’s Symphonic Ode and Lothar Klein’s Concerto Sacro.

Early Years and Education

Robert Verebes began studying the violin at age seven. He later studied that instrument with Dezsö Rados at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest (1949–56) before studying viola under Paul Lukács. In 1953, at age 19, Verebes became a founding member of the Béla Bartók String Quartet of Budapest. He performed with this ensemble across Europe and recorded Bartok’s 3rd and 6th quartet in Paris in 1956.

Career in Canada

Following the collapse of the Hungarian revolution against Soviet authority in 1956, Verebes came to Canada in 1957. That year, he received a scholarship at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont and became first viola with the Ottawa Philharmonic Orchestra. While in Ottawa, he founded and performed with the New Chamber Music Ensemble. He then joined the Montréal Symphony Orchestra (MSO) in 1959 and in 1962 he became a naturalized Canadian. He served primarily as either first or second viola with the MSO until his retirement in 1999. His final performance with the MSO was of Jean Coulthard’s Symphonic Ode, which was written specifically for him.

Career as Soloist and Chamber Player

Verebes performed as soloist or chamber player in a number of venues in Canada and the United States, as well as in Tokyo (1997), Shanghai (1995, 1997), Buenos Aires and Damascus (1999). His European engagements included Paris (1975), Oxford (1981) and at the Wigmore Hall in London (1990). In 1997, he performed two recitals in Budapest, his first time there in 41 years. In addition to the New Chamber Music Ensemble of Ottawa, he was a founding member and active participant of Musica Camerata Montréal (1971–) and the Classical Quartet of Montréal (1968–76). He was also a soloist with the McGill Chamber Orchestra, the Montréal Symphony Orchestra, the CBC Vancouver (Chamber) Orchestra and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.

Premieres and Dedications

Verebes premiered several works written specifically for him, including Jean Coulthard’s Symphonic Ode and Lothar Klein’s Concerto Sacro. He performed the world premiere of Milton Barnes’s Concerto for viola and orchestra and the Canadian and US premieres of Ivan Erod’s Konzertante Fantasie.

Recordings

Verebes recorded dozens of programs for CBC Radio as part of the Classical Quartet of Montréal. From 1983 onwards, he made recordings with pianists Dale Bartlett, Suzanne Blondin and Mireille Lagacé. In total, Verebes released three LPs and eight CDs; all of the latter have been made available on YouTube.

Teaching Career

Verebes taught viola at the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal from 1978 to 2001, and introduced the concert series Robert Verebes et ses amis there in 1985. He also gave summer courses at various music camps starting in 1982, and gave master classes in Canada, the US, China and the Middle East.


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