JELLY D' ARANYI
Alongside her sister, Adila Fachiri, Jelly d’Arányi was celebrated across Europe (mainly in England, where she settled at thirty) and in America, receiving the admiration and favour of several prominent composers. There were three d’Arányi sisters: Jelly, originally destined for the piano, on which she gave a recital aged six; Adila, whose teacher Grünfeld noticed her physical suitability for the violin and encouraged her towards that instrument; and Hortense, a rather less well-known pianist.
Jelly’s Jewish-Hungarian parentage gave her a fashionable advantage in her early career: as grandniece of Joseph Joachim and protégée of Jenő Hubay at the Budapest Music Academy her successful début in London, aged fourteen, was more or less guaranteed. She was, however, somewhat cast adrift by Joachim’s death in 1907. At the age of ten she played to him and he declared the wish to teach her; but alas he was on his deathbed (from which he famously criticised her overuse of vibrato!) before this could come about.
Although Bartók’s two violin sonatas were dedicated to Adila, it was Jelly with whom he presented them in London in 1922 and 1923 to great acclaim. Ravel, in the audience at the first of these performances, was so impressed by d’Arányi’s delivery that he immediately began work on a new showpiece for her: Tzigane. She became known particularly for performing new works: as well as the Ravel Tzigane, Vaughan Williams’s Concerto accademico was written for her, and Gustav Holst’s Double Concerto for Two Violins for her and Adila. Her repertoire, however, encompassed music from Bach to her contemporaries, as represented by her recorded output.
She was the focus of a famous story concerning the world première of Schumann’s Violin Concerto. This work, which is described in Andreas Moser’s biography of Joseph Joachim, was never performed in public in Schumann’s lifetime. Joachim was critical of it, suggesting that it showed a waning of powers, and vowed never to perform it. D’Arányi claimed to have received information from Schumann himself at a séance in 1933 on the basis of which she laid claim to its première. The story is dubious on many levels, not least of which is that the ‘message’ from Schumann contained many uncharacteristic grammatical errors! Indeed, as Joachim’s grandniece it seems highly probable that she already knew of the work’s existence. Ultimately its première was at the hands of Georg Kulenkampff and Karl Böhm with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, but d’Arányi performed it in 1937 at the behest of the German National Socialist Party who sought a replacement in the repertoire for Mendelssohn’s Concerto in E minor; she also gave the work’s London première.
D’Arányi, who for a time became a favourite of Elgar after meeting him at a party in London, reflects the heritage of Jenő Hubay (evident in a slightly nagging, wide and slow vibrato) and yet also a full understanding of and aspiration to the lofty aims of the Berlin ‘classical’ school of violin playing epitomised by Joachim. Her Brahms-Joachim Hungarian Dance performances are laden with character and warmth; the incisive tone and vigour of her 1928 recording of No. 8 further demonstrates an affinity with Brahms and the German school. It is significant that she performed Joachim’s Romance in C (one of the works Joachim himself recorded in 1903), although this 1924 recording displays a thicker, heavier texture, is less rhythmically volatile, and uses appreciably more vibrato than the composer’s own performance. In my view, one of her most successful recordings is the Larghetto movement of Spohr’s Duo, Op. 67 No. 2 (1924); here, as in the Bach Double Concerto (1926), she and her sister Adila make a remarkably close match. This performance of repertoire directly linked to Joachim and the older German school is sensitively shaped and exquisitely phrased: it is only the gloss of vibrato that separates it significantly from Spohr’s own likely practice. In this sense the recording is perhaps a fitting testimony to both Jelly and Adila. They were born early enough to embody some of the legacy of the nineteenth century and their illustrious connections, whilst in many ways pointing the way to a style that departed decisively from them.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)
Role: Classical Artist