The Wigmore Hall, situated in Wigmore Street, is one of London’s most prestigious concert venues. It has a unique affinity with chamber music, due to its intimate ambience and ideal acoustic, which has earned it a special place in the heart of chamber music lovers, performers and audiences alike. Traditionally the first choice for young artists giving their London début recital, it has had a long association with many of the world’s finest musicians.
The Hall was built by the German piano-manufacturer C Bechstein Pianofortefabrik, whose showroom was next door, to a design by the renowned British architect Thomas Edward Collcutt, who also designed the Savoy Hotel on The Strand.
The Bechstein Hall opened on 31st May 1901 with a concert featuring the virtuoso pianist and composer Ferruccio Busoni and violinist Eugene Ysaye, and throughout its early period attracted celebrated artists such as Artur Schnabel, Pablo Sarasate, Percy Grainger, Myra Hess and Artur Rubinstein. During the First World War the Bechstein Company was forced to cease trading and in 1916 the Hall was sold at auction as alien property. It re-opened as the ‘Wigmore Hall’ the following year.1
In February 1994, a year after their London début at St John’s Smith Square and following the release of their Bartók CDs, the violin/piano duo of Susanne Stanzeleit and Gusztáv Fenyő gave their first recital at the Wigmore Hall.
The duo had first performed together at the Bartók Seminar in Szombathely, northern Hungary in 1989.
Their programme featured the British première of several solo violin and solo piano pieces by György Kurtág, Hungary’s foremost living composer and one of the leading composers of the twentieth-century. In 1978 Gusztáv Fenyő had given the British première of Kurtág’s ‘Plays and Games’ in his London début recital at the Wigmore Hall.
The Hall had also been the setting for the British première of Béla Bartók’s six string quartets and, continuing the Hungarian focus, the duo’s programme included Bartók’s ‘Hungarian Folksongs’, a transcription by the violinist Tivadar Országh of Bartók’s piano pieces entitled ‘For Children’.
In February 1994 Susanne Stanzeleit and Gusztáv Fenyő recorded the complete violin/piano sonatas of Frederick Delius for Naxos (see CDs for further details), and their Wigmore Hall recital highlighted the forthcoming recording with a performance of Delius’s third sonata. Other works in their recital were the Debussy Sonata (another work given its British première at this unique London venue), the third sonata of George Enesco, and Schubert’s Sonatina in A minor.
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