In 1990, Glasgow proudly bore the title of ‘European City of Culture’. It was an accolade that brought with it a large injection of European money to support an expansive programme of cultural activities, reviving its former cosmopolitan character and status as a major European city due to its international prowess in shipbuilding and its achievements in applied sciences, industry and the arts. This was highlighted in 1888 at the first of four international exhibitions held in Kelvingrove Park, close to the re-sited Glasgow University in the city’s West End.
Gusztáv Fenyő’s contribution to this cultural bonanza was a complete cycle of Beethoven’s 32 Piano Sonatas, one of the pinnacles of the piano repertoire, which he performed in 7 recitals, between January and June 1990, in the main concert hall of the RSAMD.
He also performed a second cycle concurrently in Edinburgh at the Queen’s Hall, the prestigious recital venue for the Edinburgh International Festival.
‘For what drives all else in his playing is a huge sense of conviction, an intelligently thoroughgoing vision not only of whole movements or individual sonatas, but seemingly of the whole cycle itself.’ The Herald, Glasgow
The Beethoven cycle was followed by a further pair of concerts at the RSAMD in November 1990. The first featured the young German violinist, Susanne Stanzeleit, with whom Gusztáv Fenyő had formed a duo partnership in 1989. Their programme included Bartók’s Second Sonata, which they were later to record for ASV in their 3-CD complete cycle of Bartók’s violin/piano music (see CDs).
The second was a two-piano collaboration with Balázs Szokolay, one of Hungary’s leading pianists, who had won second prize in the Scottish International Piano Competition staged at the RSAMD earlier that year. He had also been awarded fourth prize in the 1990 Leeds International Piano Competition. Their programme included Seven Pieces from ‘Mikrokosmos’ by Bartók.
From 1980 to 1992, Gusztáv Fenyő was Lecturer of Piano at the RSAMD. The institution has its roots in the 1890 Glasgow Athenaeum School of Music. By 1944, it had become the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and finally, in 1968, having already added a drama department in 1950, the Royal Scottish Academy of Music & Drama (RSAMD). Its re-branding in 2011 as the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) reflects its broader remit, which now includes modern ballet, digital film and television and other production technology studies.1
The RSAMD formerly occupied premises at the corner of Buchanan Street and Nelson Mandela Place (formerly St George’s Place) and performances were memorably held in the ornate, grand Stevenson Hall (named after a major donor) and steeply-raked Athenaeum Theatre. In 1988 the RSAMD moved to its present, purpose-built premises at the corner of Renfrew and Hope Streets.
The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, was originally built as Hope Park Chapel in 1823 to a design by the Edinburgh architect Robert Brown, becoming Newington Parish Church in 1834. Due to a declining congregation, it closed in 1976. Its closure coincided with a search by the Scottish Baroque Ensemble (now the Scottish Ensemble), Scottish Philharmonic Singers and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra for performance and rehearsal premises. After conversion to use as a concert venue seating 900, it re-opened as the Queen’s Hall in July 1979. It is currently the performance home of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and hosts some 200 live performances per year.1
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