AHF Cultural News: Ervin Nyiregyházi
NEW BIOGRAPHY OF ERVIN NYIREGYHAZI: LOST GENIUS: The Curious and Tragic Story of An Extraordinary Musical Prodigy, By Kevin Bazzana, Carrol & Graf; 383 pages; $28
The October 14-20, 2007 edition of “Book World,” the weekly supplement to The Washington Post, published a lengthy, full page review of a new biography of Ervin Nyiregyhazi, the unorthodox Hungarian musical genius (1903-1987). Michael Dirda, the reviewer, devotes a large part of his review of Nyiregyhazi’s strange life. He was born in Budapest in 1903; he took to the piano at an early age; by age six he had a large repertoire, including Haydn and Mozart sonatas, Beethoven’s Pathetique, and pieces by Chopin, Mendelssohn and Liszt. He gave his first public concert at age 6; by age ten he was proclaimed another Mozart; his listeners “included Lehar, Puccini, Richard Strauss, Bartok, the Prince of Wales and most of the Hungarian nobility.” During his adolescence, he toured Europe, and came to America in 1920. Here, he was mismanaged, and his career had obviously stalled. In the early 1970’s after decades of public neglect, Nyiregyhazi was “rediscovered,” and recordings were issues, the best known being “Nyiregyhazi Plays Liszt.” As Dirda puts it, “esteemed critics like Harold Schonberg of the New York Times and Richard Freed of Stereo Review were bowled over…” Japanese fans invited him to their country, where he was applauded as a revelation and revered as a musical sensei. But by then his life was virtually over, and he died in 1987.
As a rule, I avoid including personal notes in these brief notices, on the grounds that readers would find them irrelevant. At this time, however, I am compelled to include a short note: In the late 1970’s, after attending a professional conference in San Francisco, I was in a cab, headed to the airport one morning, when I spotted Nyiregyhazi, walking on the street. I told the driver to stop, got out of the car, introduced myself to Nyiregyhazi, told him how much I enjoyed his Liszt recordings. He was extremely personable and engaging, told me about his then-current musical projects. (All the while the cab’s meter is running.) He explained that his new Liszt recordings will be issued in the next few weeks. “Ismet Liszt muveket fogok eloadni,” he said. In a very old-fashioned and humble manner he added, “Megtisztelne, ha venne a faradsagot meghallgatni ezeket a muveket…” “I would be honored if you’d take the trouble of listening to these pieces…” That tone is clearly missing in our 21st century conversations.] - Zoltan Bagdy
(To read the entire review, see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/11/AR2007101101936.html)
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