“Were he a violinist or a cellist, he would probably be talked of in the same breath as Kreisler and Casals and command that kind of public.”
-The Sunday Times, London
Csaba Erdélyi, born in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, made musical history when, in 1972, he won the prestigious Carl Flesch Violin Competition with the viola – the first, and so far, only time. Lionel Tertis, who was present at the finals, called Erdélyi “a great ambassador for the viola and for his country.” The Flesch Prize launched Erdélyi’s international career. In the same year, he was invited by Joseph Szigeti and Rudolph Serkin to the Marlboro Festival (USA) where he also worked with Pablo Casals.
A viola student of Pál Lukács and subsequently Yehudi Menuhin and Bruno Giuranna, Erdélyi became Menuhin’s partner performing concertos and chamber music together in several countries. Menuhin wrote to Benjamin Britten: “Erdélyi is an invaluable link between the two great musical cultures of Eastern and Western Europe.”
As a soloist, Csaba Erdélyi has recorded for Concordance, Decca, Hungaroton, Lyrita, Nimbus and Philips records. He was the viola soloist in the film score of Amadeus, with Sir Neville Marriner conducting the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. He has played viola concertos with the leading British orchestras in the Royal Festival Hall and on the BBC Promenade Concerts, as well as in major international music festivals with Rudolf Barshai, Erich Bergel, Sir Colin Davis, Sir Andrew Davis, Louis Frémaux, Raymond Leppard, Sir Charles McKerras, Riccardo Muti, Kurt Sanderling conducting.
In recitals and chamber music, Erdélyi has performed in concerts and recordings with such world-renowned soloists as Radu Aldulescu, Rachel Barton, Joshua Bell, Alfred Brendel, Denis Brott, James Campbell, Colin Carr, Roger Chase, Paul Coletti, Paul Dunkel, Eli Eban, Peter Frankl, Felix Galimir, Maurice Gendron, Szymon Goldberg, Johannes Goritzki, Leonid Gorokhov, Bruno Giuranna, Franco Gulli, Ian Hobson, Nobuko Imai, Steven Isserlis, Kim Kashkashian, Yong-Uck Kim, Ralph Kirshbaum, Wolfgang Laufer, Marc Lifschey, Yo-Yo Ma, George Malcolm, István Matuz, Susan McDonald, Hepzibah Menuhin, Yehudi Menuhin, Jessye Norman, György Pauk, Bruno Pasquier, Miklós Perényi, Anthony Pini, Bernard Roberts, Imre Rohmann, András Schiff, Alexander Schneider, Richard Stolzman, Vilmos Szabadi, Henryk Szering, Andor Toth, Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, Sándor Végh, Amadeus Webersinke, Moray Welsh, Carol Wincenc.
Csaba Erdélyi was the viola player of the London-based Chilingirian Quartet, one of the world’s most celebrated and widely travelled ensembles (1980-1987). Their recordings can be found on EMI and CRD labels. As a member of the Eszterházy Baryton Trio, Erdélyi recorded exclusively for EMI (1974-1979).
As a guest violist, Erdélyi has also performed with such chamber ensembles as the Pauk-Frankl-Kirshbaum Trio, Dresdner Streichquartett, Fine Arts Quartet, Kodály Quartet, Kocian Quartet, Lindsay Quartet, Smetana Quartet, St. Petersburg Quartet, Cuarteto Latinoamericano, Végh Quartet and the Sächsische Staatskapelle Chamber Players of Dresden.
Csaba Erdélyi was principal viola player of the Philharmonia Orchestra of London from 1974 to 1978 under principal conductor, Riccardo Muti and chief guest conductor, Lorin Maazel. He was guest principal violist of the BBC Symphony, invited by Gennady Rozhdestvensky. In 1980, Erdélyi had the honor to be invited by Sir Georg Solti to the principal viola post in the Chicago Symphony, but he respectfully declined in order to embark on a new career as the violist of the Chilingirian Quartet, as well as professor of viola at the Guildhall School of Music (1980-1987).
Professor Erdélyi has a reputation as an extremely dedicated and caring pedagogue who attracts fine students to his studio and master classes from all over the world. He is more than a music teacher, he teaches his students to develop themselves as a whole human being. Erdélyi taught at Indiana University (1987-1991), Rice University (1991-1995), Butler University (1998-2003), Bowling Green State University (2003-2008) as professor of viola and chamber music. In each position, he succeeded in improving the quality and the quantity of his students. He has also established and taught a new course of its kind: “The History of the Viola and Viola Players.” Dr. William B. Mathis, Chair of the Department of Music Performance Studies at Bowling Green State University wrote: “Csaba is a charismatic and demanding teacher who inspires his students to achieve their highest potential. He has a proven record of recruitment. His national and international reputation draws students to his studio.” A large number of Professor Erdélyi’s former students can be found in prestigious positions in music performance and education all over the world.
As a well-known protegé of Lionel Tertis, Erdélyi was asked to be a patron and jury member of the first Tertis International Viola Competition held in 1980 on the Isle of Man. He has since been invited to adjudicate at many international music competitions both in Europe and the USA. He has held viola and chamber music master classes in major conservatories all over the world, including the Australian National Academy of Music in Melbourne, the Beijing Conservatory, the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest, the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Zürich-Winterthur Conservatory in Switzerland. Since 1978 to the present, Csaba Erdélyi has frequently been a featured performer and lecturer at International Viola Congresses in the USA, in various European countries and in New Zealand.
During the summer months, Professor Erdélyi travels to Europe to give concerts and master classes. He has performed and taught at the Britten-Pears School in Aldeburgh, England, the Gubbio Festival in Italy, the Hindemith Institute and the Menuhin Academy in Blonay, Switzerland, Ionian Music Academy in Corfu, Greece, Music Castle in Brasov, Romania, Schnackenburg Festival in Germany and the Seven Meadows Festival in Hungary.
Csaba Erdélyi has also trained as a conductor and composer. He has a keen interest to keep up with the music of our creative contemporaries. He considers it a special privilege to have a composition written for him, to have the opportunity to shape the final form of the new work together with the composer, and to receive performing instructions right from the source. Among the many composers he has worked with, it is important to mention George Benjamin, Benjamin Britten, Pierre Boulez, Paul Chihara, Michael Colgrass, Aaron Copland, Melanie Daiken, Stephen Dodgson, Péter Eötvös, Ross Lee Finney, Alun Hoddinott, György Kurtág, Witold Lutoslawski, Andrzej Panufnik, Roberto Sierra, András Szöllösy, John Tavener, Augusta Read Thomas.
In addition to performing, recording, and teaching, Professor Erdélyi devotes much time to research and publication with the utmost respect for original manuscripts. His publications include: Bach: Suite pour la luth (BWV 995) and Fantasia Cromatica (BWV 903) for viola solo; Bartók: Hungarian Suite; Brahms: Sonata in D, op. 78; De Falla: El Amor brujo; Liszt: 5 late works, all for viola and piano; and Mozart-Erdélyi: Sinfonia Concertante (KV 364), for string sextet. In August 1998, Erdélyi gave the world première of Bach’s Concerto for Viola and Orchestra in E-flat (the manuscript lost to the present day), which he reconstructed from the composer’s well-known later version for harpsichord (BWV 1053). The performance took place at the Schnackenburg Musikfestival in Germany with the St. Petersburg Chamber Orchestra.
For over 20 years, Csaba Erdélyi researched the original manuscript of the Bartók Viola Concerto, the composer’s last masterpiece left in its first draft. He corrected the mistakes of the first edition and with the help of world-renowned Bartók scholars, Elliott Antokoletz and László Somfai, as well as composers Péter Eötvös and György Kurtág, he restored and orchestrated the work in the purest and most authentic manner. Former violist of the Kolisch-quartet, Eugene Lehner, friend of Bartók, praised Erdélyi’s score and recording as “an invaluable service to Bartók and all violists.” The full score and parts as well as a viola-piano reduction are published by Promethean Editions and a CD was recorded in 2001 with Erdélyi and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra with conductor Marc Taddei on Concordance label, which continues to receive worldwide professional acclaim.
Csaba Erdélyi is a citizen of Hungary, Great Britain and the USA. He is principal viola of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra and Sinfonia da Camera at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His favorite instrument is a magnificent viola made for him by master luthier Joseph Curtin in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
(Updated February 2014)