All at Naxos were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Hungarian pianist Jenő Jandó. One of the most prolific artists in the history of classical music recording, Jenő released his first album for Naxos in 1988 as the young label’s first house pianist. He would go on to produce a series of the complete works for keyboard by major composers that generated a truly phenomenal discography of classical-romantic and, later, 20th-century repertoire.
Born in Pecs, a quiet town in southern Hungary, Jenő Jandó was taught piano by his mother before undertaking formal study of the instrument at the Liszt Academy in Budapest where, later in life, he would be appointed professor. After graduation, he enjoyed a series of successes in major international competitions, including the Cziffra and Ciani Piano Competitions, yet he himself believed his professional career really began when he took third prize at the Beethoven Piano Competition at the age of 18. In addition to lifelong critical recognition for his performances, he received numerous personal awards, including the prestigious Liszt Prize, the highest honour for Hungarian musicians, and the Knight’s Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit, which recognised his contributions to the arts and culture of Hungary.
Jenő’s recordings for Naxos include all of Mozart’s piano concertos and sonatas; the complete piano sonatas of Haydn and Beethoven; the complete piano music of Bartók; and numerous albums of chamber music. Jenő mirrored Naxos’ approach to its catalogue, that of embracing innovation, completeness, quality, breadth and availability. To this can be added the supremacy of the work over the ego of the performer, which led to Jenő’s reputation as the prime example of a ‘silent star’.
As an accompanist, Jenő worked closely with violinist Takako Nishizaki. Together, they recorded over 100 works for Naxos, gaining widespread recognition for their interpretations of classical repertoire, most notably for their four-volume set of the Mozart violin sonatas. Looking back on their partnership, established over 30 years ago, Takako Nishizaki commented:
“The world has lost a wonderful musician. I have not seen or played with him for a long time, perhaps more than 20 years. But when we recorded the Beethoven and Mozart sonatas together many years ago, we always had a lot of fun. He was highly intelligent and extremely musical with technique to spare and the ability to create tone colour always appropriate to the music. I will miss him.”
Jenő’s final recording for Naxos was released in 2020. The programme comprised later works by Liszt. The critical reception it received from American Record Guide serves as an appropriate valediction: “Jandó’s sheer output is admirable. As a recording artist, he is one of the most prolific, and yet quality does not suffer at all with the sheer volume of his output … Excellent and clean playing, as always.”