Our task is to form veritable talents who possess the necessary gifts to become masters, without attending to the ungifted mediocrity.

Liszt to Giovanni Sgambati

Ödön Pártos

1  October 1907, Budapest – 6 July 1977, Tel Aviv
The first teacher of the violin and viola player, composer and music pedagogue, Ödön Pártos, was Eugene (Jenő) Ormándy. From the age of 14 he carried on his instrumental studies at the Music Academy under Hubay (1923-1925). His chamber music teacher was Leo Weiner, and he learned composition in Kodály's class (1921-24), where his fellow students included Mátyás Seiber and Antal Doráti. Pártos, an instrumental player of outstanding talent, completed his studies at the Music Academy at the age of 17, and from the age of 18 worked as orchestral leader in the musical centres of Europe: from 1925 in Luzern, and from 1928 in Berlin, in Edwin Fischer's chamber orchestra. It was here that in 1931 he formed his first string quartet, under the name of Pártos Quartet. During his five-year stay in Germany, he composed, under the influence of Kurt Weill, light music and film music. However, in 1933, because of his Jewish origins, his scope became continuously more restricted; consequently he returned to Budapest, where he became the leader of the Metropolitan Orchestra.
In order to escape Nazism, which was gaining ground in Hungary as well, Pártos first went to Baku as the result of a Soviet-Russian invitation, then in 1938, in order to escape the Stalinist terror, emigrated to Palestine, where Hubermann offered him the post of principal viola in the Israeli orchestra founded by him. It was here that Pártos and fellow Hungarian performers founded the Israeli "Hungarian Quartet", in which Pártos played the viola, the Fenyves siblings first and second violin, and László Vincze the cello.
It was in Israel that the other two main areas of Pártos's work opened up: on the one hand his career as a teacher, and on the other that of a composer, at the centre of which at that time the adaptation of the Israeli temani music stood. Later on he created ever more independent compositions. His piece, Jizkor, won the Engel Prize in 1948. Once the state was established, the one-time Hubermann Orchestra was the foundation for the Israeli Philharmonic, which, with the help of excellent guest conductors (Molinari, Bernstein) achieved ever higher standards. Pártos was head of section in the orchestra. The orchestra's European and American tours provided the chance for important meetings. He asked Schönberg, whom he knew from the Berlin days, to become the director of the Israeli Music Academy; Schönberg said that because of his health problems, he could accept the offer only in an honorary capacity. On the orchestra's return from its foreign tours, in 1951, Pártos was appointed the director of the Music Academy. He was forty-four at the time. In 1954 he was the first composer to receive the Israel Price, as a reward for his symphonic fantasia Ein Gev. As a result of the stimulation provided by further important commissions, his work as a composer became ever more varied: in response to a commission from Chicago, he composed a violin concerto for Yehudi Menuhin, who gave it its premiere in 1964. He composed viola concertos to be performed by himself. Of these, the second was performed in Luzern in 1960, on the occasion of his trip to Europe. He met his one-time teacher, Zoltán Kodály, at the IFMC (International Folk Music Council) conference held in Tel Aviv in 1963; at the concert given in honour of the international participants, he performed his Third Viola Concerto.
Pártos remained in contact with the one-time Kodály pupils at the Music Academy, and as the author of one of the movements of the joint composition saluting Kodály, he recalled his studies in Hungary. This joint composition, the "Hommage a Zoltán Kodály", gave a last chance for Pártos for intellectual-artistic co-operation with, among others, Fried, Serly, Doráti and Veress, as a late reflection on the start of his career in Hungary.
M. B.