Jelly D’Aranyi and Bartok

Posted on March 8th, 2011 by


Jelly d'Aranyi, Bartok, and Adila Fachiri in 1923

Jelly D’Aranyi  by Charles Geoffroy-Dechaume
oil on canvas, 1920s?

Bela Bartok-Second Sonata (1922)
Dedicated to Jelly d’Aranyi
Live Performance-Aaron Shorr-Piano, Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin (Stradivari 1698 ‘Joachim’)
Wiltons Music Hall July 11th 2011
Engineer-Colin Still (Optic Nerve)
1st Movement-

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Jelly d’Aranyi was the great niece of Joseph Joachim. This became a mystical communication through Jelly’s use of the Ouija Board, through which she believed that she had direct link to Joachim’s collaborator Robert Schumann.

D’Aranyi constantly sought the link between her great uncle and the past. In 1927, she evoked his connection to Beethoven; one which many people felt was as profound as his links to the composers who he had actually met. She wrote:

‘Someone once asked Joachim how it was that he alone could make Beethoven seem simple to understand. His answer was that the secret was to trust Beethoven.’

There is another rather mystical connection built into her picture. In his memoirs William Glock writes:

As to my second family; Anne was the fourth of ten children, born very nearly in a regular alternation of boy-girl-boy-girl. Her father, Charles Geoffrey-Dechaume, seriously wounded in the First World War, and as an artist, a ‘new old master’ died in 1944, but his wife lived till 1966.

Garrick and Jelly d'Aranyi arrive

Glock, of course, through his work at the BBC and Dartington was very much responsible for driving a similarly modernist, creative musical agenda as that which the sitter for his father-in-law had represented, forty years earlier.

Béla Bartók had actively sought out the d’Aranyi family when he was a young man in Budapest, at least partially because of the link to Joseph Joachim, who represented for him, a rigour and discipline in Hungarian music making to which he clearly aspired. Jelly’s address in London was 18 Elm Park Gardens, Chelsea in the 1920’s-Bartok visited here for the first time in March 1922.Her equally talented sister, Adila was living at 10 Netherton Grove Chelsea in 1922 and 1923 when Bartók visited. Janácek rehearsed his Sonata with her there in 1926. Gustav Holst would write his Double Concerto for the sisters.

On 14th March, Béla Bartók and Jelly gave a private performance of the 1st Violin Sonata at 18 Hyde Park Terrace. Stravinsky was in the audience. He was not inspired to write a new work. for Jelly; however, a few weeks later, Ravel attended a private performance that they gave of the work in Paris. The result was his own ‘Hungarian Rhapsody’ (his words), a dramatic portrayal of Jelly’s playing, Tzigane-Rhapsodie de Concert.

It is clear that Bartók’s rhapsodically astringent music created lively conversations and controversy amongst those who heard it in London on that first visit. Edwin Evans recreates the essence of these discussions, which one can imagine raging after one of Jelly and Bella’s performances in 1922:

‘We now reach the most controversial aspect of Bartók’s chamber music, that revealed by the two violin sonatas composed for Miss Jelly d’Aranyi. Here such an explanation as could find place in a dictionary is mostly pure expressionism, not of understanding, but of sensibility. For that reason, all argument is futile. One hearer receives the impression; another does not, and therefore probably denies its presence, as is the usual practice. Neither can convince the other, and there the matter must rest. But those whose perceptions are receptive to this music find in it emotional simplicity, alternating with elemental simplicity. It is, at the same time, near to nature, and expressed in a remote idiom, just as some forms of art among ancient races delight in an elaboration which does not in the least disguise the simplicity of the artistic impulse that initiates them.’

Jelly d’Aranyi enjoyed a broad range of contacts, and was an enthusiastic correspondent, not least with Aldous Huxley. They two wrote to each other over two decades, often discussed their love of Bach.

Towards the end of the First World War Huxley discussed the importance of connection in a letter to the violinist:

‘[One].must not ….to look back. Certainly one way that people survive after they are dead is in the society to which they belonged, particularly in their friends. To look back is a kind of betrayal of the life entrusted to one: one must go forward. The best way of remembering them is not dwelling on the past but the future.

I wonder if they also discussed Paganini. Huxley’s country house farce, Chrome Yellow, written to antagonise Lady Ottoline Morrell, includes a description of Paganini’s visit to London in 1833.

Some composers were less content with d’Aranyi. Ralph Vaughan Williams moaned to Harriet Cohen that d’Aranyi was not playing the Concerto Academicco that he wrote for her.

‘I gave Jelly a 6 month run of my violin concerto (not that she ever made much use of it). How long did Kreisler keep the Elgar Concerto?’

 Music & Letters, Vol. 8, No. 2, Beethoven (Apr., 1927), pp. 191-197 Oxford University Press

 Notes in Advance, William Glock, OUP, Oxford, 1991, P.189

 A Musical Gazeteer of Great Britan and Ireland, Gerald Norris, David Charles, Newton Abbot/London, 1981, P.58

A Musical Gazeteer of Great Britan and Ireland, Gerald Norris, David Charles, Newton Abbot/London, 1981, P.57

 A Musical Gazeteer of Great Britan and Ireland, Gerald Norris, David Charles, Newton Abbot/London, 1981, P.95

 Cobbett’s Cyclopedic Study of Chamber Music, Compiled and Edited by WW Cobbett, OUP,  London, 1929, Volume 1, P.63

 Unpublished Correspondence, Aldous Huxley-Jelly D’Aranyi

 Aldous Huxley to d’Aranyi 1918:

Chrome Yelow, Aldous Huxley

Music and Men, The Life and Loves of Harriet Cohen, Helen Fry, The History Press, Gloucester, 2009, P.211