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Janos Scholz Viola da Gamba

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Sopron, where Janos Scholz was born to a family with a long history of amateur music-making, was a cross-roads of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, on the border between the two constituent Kingdoms of that Empire. His grandmother was Italian, from Trieste. Janos was the fifth generation of his direct line to take up the cello. So many of his family played instruments that chamber music performing was simply part of his environment.

However, his family tradition required him to acquire a profession other than music, one that would be a dependable one, so he attended an agricultural college. When he received his diploma, he handed it to his mother and said he was off to Budapest to be a musician.

He entered the Royal Conservatory there and succeeded in entering a professional career. He played in local orchestras and chamber music ensembles. In 1932 he joined the Roth String Quartet, one of the premier string quartets in Europe. The group toured Europe successfully. In 1937 he was offered a position as professor at the Budapest Conservatory, but turned it down.

With war-clouds gathering, the quartet accepted an invitation to travel to the United States to play. Scholz, expecting to return home, took only his cello and a suitcase. However, the other three members of the quartet, all Jewish, immediately declared their intention to stay and receive citizenship. The quartet disbanded in 1939 after the tour.

Scholz now thought better of returning to Europe, and found he was able to do well as a soloist and chamber musician in New York, in addition to becoming principal cellist in the City Center Opera in New York. He also joined the New York City Symphony, a group of younger musicians formed by Leopold Stokowski and also counting as one of their conductors an unknown newcomer named Leonard Bernstein.

When his countryman, the great composer Béla Bartók, came to New York, Scholz often played chamber music at home with him and violinist Josef Szigeti.

Scholz entered New York musical life wholeheartedly. He co-founded the Violoncello Society of New York in 1956, and was the organization's president from 1962 to 1967. He was again offered a professorship in Budapest in 1948 but again turned it down. However, he was welcomed back to Hungary for a visit in 1973, where he was honored for his 70th birthday, and was reunited with his family.

He played a fine 1731 Stradivarius cello that had previously been owned by Joseph Hollman, and is an avid collector of viola da gamba and cello bows. He has over 200 of them, all meticulously cataloged, authenticated, and minutely described. They were given to the Smithsonian Institution. He continued playing actively to a very late age.

© Joseph Stevenson, All Music Guide
Portions of Content Provided by All Music Guide.
© 2008 All Media Guide, LLC. All Music Guide is a registered trademark of All Media Guide, LLC.
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