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(Image courtesy: British Library)

British-Hungarian Violin Virtuoso Jelly d’Aranyi Died in 1966

The violinist gave the premieres of notable works including Béla Bartók’s First and Second Violin Sonatas and Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane


Born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1893, Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Arányi was the youngest of three sisters — Adila was a violinist and Hortense played piano. Their mother was a homemaker and their father was the chief of police in Budapest, whose family were of nobility. Additionally, Jelly and her sisters were all grand-nieces of violinist Joseph Joachim

D’Arányi initially played the piano and gave her first recital at age six. Two years later, while accompanying her sister Adila, she was advised by Adila’s teacher Wilhelm Grünfeld (then concertmaster of the Budapest Opera) that she play the violin instead due to her hand shape and greater physical suitability for the instrument. 

During the summer holiday, Adila spent six weeks teaching her younger sister to play the violin, on which d’Arányi became so proficient that she was accepted in 1901 to the Royal National Hungarian Academy of Music on an entrance scholarship. There, she took preparatory violin lessons with Grünfeld and later studied for five years in the advanced class of violinist Jenő Hubay.

In 1908, d’Arányi arrived in Britain for the first time with her mother and sisters. Despite traveling during a difficult time for migrants, the family’s stay was safeguarded by family connections, including those from the recently deceased Joachim, who did not have the chance to formally teach d’Aranyi as her parents stated she was then too young to travel abroad. 

In the same year, d’Aranyi performed her first public concert with Adila in Vienna. Throughout their careers, the two sisters often played together and made many records as a duo. They also became protégés of musicologist Donald Francis Tovey, who frequently accompanied them on piano. 

With their stay in Britain extended from one to four months, the sisters embarked on a busy concert schedule, both playing as soloists and together as duettists. The pair’s London debut was held at Wigmore Hall in 1909, gaining them recognition as top-class musicians in English society. 

As detailed by NAXOS, Hungarian composer Béla Bartók’s two violin sonatas were originally dedicated to Adila, but eventually were performed by him and Jelly in 1922 and 1923 to great success. In the audience was Maurice Ravel, who was so taken by d’Aranyi’s performance that he began writing a showpiece for her — his famed Tzigane — which she premiered in London in 1924 after receiving the manuscript only three and half days prior. 




Known for performing new pieces, she also premiered other works written for her — Vaughan Williams’s Concerto accademico, Ethel Smyth’s Concerto for Violin and Horn, and Gustav Holst’s Double Concerto for Two Violins, composed for her and Adila. 

In 1933, d’Aranyi played a key role in uncovering the “lost” manuscript for Schumann’s Violin Concerto in D minor, which was later found in the Prussian State Library where it had been sold by Joachim’s family after Joachim, Brahms, and Clara Schumann had decided not to publish it due to its supposed inferiority in Schumann’s oeuvre. The UK premiere of the work was given by d’Aranyi with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1938. 

As a chamber musician, she often collaborated with cellists Guilhermina Sillva and Felix Salmond and pianist Dame Myra Hess. Jelly’s violins included a 1733 Carlo Bergonzi I, now known as the “d'Aranyi, Fachiri,” and was presented with the 1710 “Lord Dunraven” Stradivari to play in 1937. 

After a decline in her health after WWII, she performed less often and only at private salons. She died in 1966.

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