October 22, 1883. Budapest – December 12, 1921. New York
Like almost all of the significant Hungarian composers of the first half of the twentieth century, Viktor Jacobi also studied with the Brahms follower German master, Hans Koessler, at least for two academic years (1903-1904 and 1904-1905) demonstrably. It means on one hand that Jacobi was a schoolfellow of the great ‘classics' Bartók, Kodály and Weiner - in which there is some piquancy from a historical perspective – and on the other hand that probably he wanted to worship the light muse from the very beginning, otherwise he would have finished the school of classical music. However in completing his studies ahead of its time his first fabulous musical play A rátartós királykisasszony (The Haughty Princess, 1904) could play a role. Unlike Koessler's other students later becoming famous in the field of the operetta (Imre Kálmán, Albert Szirmai) Jacobi was preparing to conquer the entertaining musical theater as a student already. It was typical to the emphatically national mood of the era that Jacobi was mentioned as ‘Jakabfi' by the press, avoiding the alienage of the name (that was the period when Leó Weiner changed his name to ‘Vándor' sounding Hungarian and Béla Bartók wore a cross frogged attila, a dress of old Hungarian gallants). The value of the success in the genre of Hungarian operetta of the twenty-four years old Jacobi is increased by the fact that his first stage work (for the song texts of Jenő Heltai) was premiered slightly later than the János vitéz (John the Valiant). Thus the ‘light' and ‘classical' composers of the class of Koessler started their careers with quite similar goals: they sought for the specific Hungarian tone and tried to get rid off the exaggerated influence of German music. Viktor Jacobi also moved on that way with his operettas composed in the following years: A legvitézebb huszár (The Bravest Hussar) 1905; A tengerszem tündére, (The Fairy of the Tarn) 1906; and especially the Tüskerózsa (The Spike Rose), that was transformed to a libretto from a novel of Jókai by Ferenc Martos for Jacobi in 1907, and the child operetta titled Jánoska (Little John) addressed to the most grateful layer of the audience in 1909. By the influence of the Hungarian fashion's decay and probably Sári Fedák, the uncrowned operetta diva of that period, Viktor Jacobi together with his contemporary and friend, Albert Szirmai turned to the kind of operetta with English themes that allowed greater latitude to the modern dances. The Leányvásár (Girl Fair), the first operetta of Jacobi gaining international attention, was created in the spirit of this idea in 1911. It was special but still logic that Viktor Jacobi turned not to the operetta-metropolis of Vienna but to London, hearing the sounds of an era of dance music just being at its dawn. His next great operetta the Szibill (Sybil) with a genre designation of ‘Musical Comedy' would have been premiered in London after Budapest in 1914, but Jacobi's career was blocked in the country on the side of the ‘enemy'. He fled to America in 1915, where the Szibill with its Russian subject matter made the name of Viktor Jacobi famous in a moment in 1916 in New York. However the composer had only a short time there to have a possibility to conquer the Broadway. He returned to Europe to say farewell being fatally ill and then traveled again to New York – despite the advice of his friends – to die.