Varkonyi, Béla, Hungarian-American composer and teacher; b. Budapest, July 5, 1878; d. N.Y., Jan. 25, 1947. He studied with Koessler and Thomán at the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest (Ph.D. in law and M.M. in music, 1902). After winning the Robert Volkmann Competition twice and receiving the Hungarian national scholarship, he studied in London and Paris. He returned in 1907 to Budapest, where he taught at the Royal Academy of Music. At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, he joined the Hungarian army, was captured by the Russians, and spent three years as a prisoner of war; he continued to compose, but his MSS were destroyed when the Danish Consulate was burned. After the war, he emigrated to the U.S. (1923); taught at Breneau Coll., Ga. (until 1928) and at Centenary Coll. in Term. (1928-30); then settled in N.Y., where he was active as a teacher and composer. Varkonyi is reported to have had a fantastic memory; he was able to recount more than 40 years of his life by day and date; S. Rath devotes a chapter to it in his book Hungarian Curiosities (1955).
dramatic: M e l o d r a m a s: Captive Woman (1911); Spring Night (1912). ORCH.: Piano Concerto (1902); Overture (1902); Dobozy,symphonic poem (1903); Symphonic Ballad (1907); Sym. (1913); Fantastic Scenes (n.d.). CHAMBER: Piano Trio (N.Y., Nov. 24, 1918); Scherzo for String Quartet (N.Y, Nov. 24, 1918); many piano pieces. VOCAL: Hungarian Chorus Rhapsody,about 100 songs.
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire