producer Marcel Prawy asked Viennese conductor Bernard Paumgartner to make recordings
for Remington and as a bait Prawy mentions the contract he has for making recordings
with the Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg which was eventually conducted by Joseph
Messner. However, Prawy did not mention the name of Zoltan Fekete, the Hungarian
conductor who conducted the Mozarteum on several occasions, but whose biography
remains an obscurity. Zoltán Fekete was not a specific Remington artist
in the sense that Kurt Wöss, H. Arthur Brown, Joseph Messner, or later Thor
about Zoltán Fekete is very scarce, in fact it is practically nonexistent.
Encyclopedias do not mention the man. Grove's does not have an entry on Fekete.
And liner notes on the LP releases often merely mention his name and only in two
cases one or two facts which may allude to an existing biography. On the Remington
cover of Bruckner's Symphony No. 3 on R-199-138 there are just a few lines
which indicate that Zoltán Fekete came to the US, apparently just before
World War II, and that he must have obtained American citizenship:
"(This) American-Hungarian conductor first penetrated the musical consciousness
of New York through a series of concerts with the Midtown and New York City orchestras."
the war he returned to Vienna as Wanda C. Von Rudolph writes on the back of the
cover of Colosseum CLPS 1012 with Suites of music by Georg Friedrich
Handel arranged and conducted by Zoltán Fekete:
Zoltán Fekete to whom we are indebted for the suites presented here, conducted
this performance with the Vienna State Symphony Orchestra. A Hungarian by birth
his musical education includes study in the Budapest Academy of Music and in Vienna.
Mr. Fekete has devoted a great deal of research to the final period of Handel's
creations. In his arrangements he has kept faithfully to the original melodies
and harmonies, transposing them into forms which are easily understandable today.
Mr. Fekete is also a composer, one of his compositions on another Colosseum record
is his "Caucasus Ballet Suite" (CLPS 1011). Other numbers conducted
by him are : "Snow White Ballet Suite" (CLPS 1011), and the "Grand
Duo Opus 140" arranged by Fritz Oeser as the "Gastein Symphony"
(CLPS 1013) also Bartok's early work (1905) - First Orchestra Suite, opus 3 (CLPS
Zoltán Fekete is arranger of Mozart's Fantasy and of Suites by Handel.
He conducted works by Bartók, Bruckner, Mahler and Tchaikovsky, and he
is the composer of Caucasus Ballet Suite and Snow White Ballet Suite.
Fekete was born on July 25th, 1909, in Budapest, Hungary. He studied with
Zoltán Kodály and Béla Bartók in Budapest
and later in Vienna. The recordings of Zoltán Fekete are not many. They
have been released in various countries on different record labels. Reviewers
were not always appreciative of his conducting. I suspect that the poor technique
of most recordings led to this opining. Some of Fekete's performances show that
he certainly had the needed authority to lead an orchestra in an inspiring way.
He surely did not have the wish to build a career solely as a conductor forcing
him to lead performances of an extensive repertory with many different styles.
He was the man who preferred to appear from time to time in front of an orchestra,
would arrange works from others and would compose orchestral scores of his own.
How many works he wrote in total is not known. Also the exact date he passed away
is not found. But Teri Noel Towe told me that Fekete died in the late 1970s. He
was living in Munich. His wife was Alma Hoehn, the legendary dealer in
collectable 78 rpm shellac records and vinyl LPs. She died around 1988.
Fekete's Remington recordings:
- Elisabeth Wysor in Contralto Arias: Mozart, Meyerbeer, Verdi, Wagner
- The Vienna Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Zoltán Fekete. It was originally
released by Don Gabor on Continental CLP 1002 in 1950 (Songs of the Great Masters).
It also became available on Halo 50312 in 1957.Edward Tatnall Canby noted reviewed
this disc in Saturday Review of November 1950.
"This is a very great voice, rich, with phenominal range, perfect control
(like that of the great voices of the turn of the century); musicianship excellent,
too, with impeccably accurate pitch. Wagner items "Tristan", "Rheingold"
are most in style but unusual "Clemenza de Tito". Mozart is well done.
Tone is bit monotonous, diction not too good. Orchestral backing weak. Decidedly
a worthwhile record, at any price." - Edward Tatnall Canby
- Mozart: Music To "Thamos, Koenig in Aegypten", Austrian Symphony
Orchestra conducted by Zoltán Fekete, coupled with Finlandia (Sibelius)
conducted by Kurt Wöss.
Fekete's name was a convenience
name as the conductor stated in a letter to Saturday Review that he never recorded
"Thamos" for any record company.
- Mozart: Fantasia in F Minor KV 608 (arr. Fekete) - The Vienna Symphony
Orchestra conducted by Zoltán Fekete, coupled with Symphony No. 1 (Schubert)
conducted by Kurt Wöss.
for a Sound Clip of a fragment from Tchaikovsky's Tempest.
- Tchaikovsky: Tempest (Symphonic Fantasia, Op. 18, The Storm) - Vienna
Symphony Orchestra conducted by Zoltán Fekete, coupled with Le coq
d'or (Rimsky-Korsakov) conducted by George Singer.
R-199-55 was first
released in the winter of 1951/1952.
The recording was also released
by Gabor on the Etude label (ref. 706; again coupled with Le coq
d'or) but then Le coq d'or was attributed to Zoltan Fekete
who protested about this in Saturday Review writing to the editor "Sir,
I have never heard of this Etude company and wish to state categorically that
I have no contract with them whatsoever." And he writes that he never in
his life has conducted Selections from Thamos King of Egypt and has never recorded
for any company Rimsky-Korsakov's "Le cocq d'or".
April of 1955 the recording of The Tempest was issued in Great Britain on Concert
Artist LPA 1022, but here coupled with Fekete's own composition 'Caucasus
Ballet Suite'. The issue in England had nothing to do with Remington as the Fekete
owned copyright on both sound recordings. Although a Concert Artist release, reviewer
R.F. exactly described the Remington-like sound character and the quality of the
performance of this recording in the April 1955 issue of (then) 'The' Gramophone:
The performance is reasonably good, though lacking in precision of attack, but
the balance of the instruments is not satisfactory. There is no mellowness about
the string toneand after all they are Viennese violins and cannot really
sound like this. The microphone, presumably too close, is picking up too much
from too few desks, and the result is edgy tone with some distortion on climaxes.
On the other side there is a piece by the conductor who is not known by Grove
or any other book of reference that I can find. Readers will notice that he has
been doing a lot of recording in Vienna lately. According to the sleeve he is
a Hungarian who has lived in America since just before the war. Had I not been
told, I would have guessed that his Caucasus was the work of a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov
writing in the 1890's. It seems to me to be quite without merit.
- Roger Fiske
You may disagree somewhat - as I do - with the reviewer's qualification of
the performance as being "reasonably good". It suffice to listen to
the - indeed badly recorded - but exhilarating performance on the Remington disc.
The harsh string tone can certainly be corrected somewhat. But it is clear that
Fekete is in full command of the orchestra and the players show that they really
can cope with the virtuoso passages of the storm building up and raging. Noteworthy
is the brass section of the Orchestra of the Viennese Symphonic Society. It is
not a polished recording, that's for sure, yet Fekete's is a strong and captivating
performance and reminds one of the suspense generated by the sound track of an
old 1950's B-movie, indicating the important influence of European, Eastern European
and Russian artists, musicians and composers in Hollywood at the time.
- Bruckner: Symphony no. 3 (1889 ver., pub. Rättig 1890) - Zoltán
Fekete, Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra (1950).
on this recording had been available on Concert Hall Society CHS 1065.
In the beginning of 1954 Concert Hall CHS 1065 was no longer available and had
been deleted from Schwann Long Playing Record Catalog. The reason was that Concert
Hall had now recorded a Bruckner Third with Walter Goehr conducting
The Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra which was released on
Hall CHS 1195 and was well received by the critics.
In High Fidelity Magazine of April 1954, critic Paul Affelder wrote: "Walter
Goehr conducts a compact, intense performance that is played in fine fashion by
the Netherlands Philharmonic." From then on the original recording of Fekete's
performance from 1950 became available on Remington R-199-138. It is definitely
not a Remington MUSIRAMA recording as is suggested by cover and label. In Great
Britain the Fekete recording was released on Concert Artist LPA 1018. Many
years later it also appeared on Qualiton (Hungaroton) LP HLPX 1047.
A curiosity is
Concerteum CR 326 on which Zoltán Fekete conducts "Orchestral
Suite" (Suite d'orchestre, Op. 3) by Béla Bartók. Although
the Bartok Suite recording appeared on Concerteum with the specific Remington
prefix CR, the Suite never appeared on Remington but was released on Colosseum
CLPS 1010 in the US. A
release on Remington was maybe planned but did not go through. It could well be
that the plates were cut in the
Webster pressing plant or at least by the
same engineer who cut the lacquers of other Remingtons. See:
Remington releases on the Concerteum label.
Fekete on other labels:
Fekete: "Caucasus Ballet Suite" Colosseum CLPS 1011. (April 1955)
Fekete: "Snow White Ballet Suite" Colosseum CLPS 1011.
Le corsair, Prague Symphony Orchestra - Supraphon SUG 20371
Berlioz: Le Corsaire, Benvenuto Cellini.
Vincent d'Indy: La mort
de Wallenstein, Istar.
Prague Symphony Orchestra - Supraphon SUA ST 50735.
Issued as a Crossroad release in the USA. Prague Symphony Orchestra conducted
by Zoltan Fekete.
Schubert: Gastein Symphony (orchestration by Fritz Oeser of Schubert's Grand
Duo Opus 140, now known as Symphony No. 9 (The Great) D 944. Colosseum CLPS 1013.
Béla Bartok: Suite for Orchestras No. 1, opus 3 - Colosseum CLPS
In France on Concerteum CR 326. (1955)
Mahler: - Das Klagende Lied.
Ilona Steingruber (Soprano), Sieglinde Wagner
(Contralto) and Ernst Majkut (Tenor). Vienna State Opera Orchestra, conductor
Zoltan Fekete. Mercury 10102.
In Great Britain this recording was
not released as a Mercury but was issued on the Concert Artist label in
Georg Friederich Handel: Jephta Suite No. I ,
arranged by Zoltan Fekete. Joseph Haydn: Symphony in C (arranged by Fekete).
Salzburg Mozarteurn Orchestra conducted by Zoltan Fekete. Mercury 10066.
Mather Spelman: The Vigil of Venus. Ilona Steingrunber (Soprano), Otto Wiener
(Baritone), Vienna Academy Choir conducted by Ferdinand Grossman, The Vienna State
Opera Orchestra conducted by Zoltan Fekete. MGM E3085. (1955).
Friedrick Handel: Alceste Suite and Festival Suite (arranged by Zoltan Fekete).
Vienna State Opera Orchestra conducted by Zoltan Fekete. Colosseum CLPS 1012.
Haydn: Symphonies 86, 88. Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra conducted by Zoltan
Fekete. Mercury MG 10071
Frederick Handel: The Triumph of Truth arranged by Zoltan Fekete. The Orchestral
Society of Vienna conducted by Zoltan Fekete. Lyrichord LL 25.
Massenet: Werther, excerpts. Geori Boué (Soprano), Barnay Marti (Tenor).
Orchestra conducted by Zoltan Fekete. Orphée 51082 E (France). Later issued
on Vogue LDM 30130.
A. Bruil. Page first published on March 29, 2009