Aranyi, Jelly d' (1895–1966)

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Aranyi, Jelly d' (1895–1966)

Hungarian-born British violin virtuosa. Name variations: Yelly d'Arányi. Born as Jelly Eva Aranyi de Hunyadvar in Budapest, Hungary, on May 30, 1895; died in Florence, Italy, on March 30, 1966; grandniece of Joseph Joachim (Austro-Hungarian violinist, conductor, and composer); studied with Jenö Hubay at the Hungarian Royal Academy; began public career in 1908.

Jelly Eva Aranyi de Hunyadvar was born in Budapest on May 30, 1895, into an assimilated Jewish family. The grandniece of the great Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim (1831–1907), she showed musical talent at an early age. Although her first instrument was the piano, in 1903 she switched to the violin, making rapid progress under the instruction of noted musical pedagogues Heinrich Grünfeld and, later at the Budapest Academy, Jenö Hubay. D'Aranyi's career began auspiciously in 1908 in a series of joint recitals with her sister Adila Fachiri (1886–1962) in several cities including Vienna, where they received rave reviews. Fachiri, who had been left a 1715 Stradivarius belonging to Joachim, made her Vienna debut in 1906 playing the Beethoven violin concerto. In 1909, the two performed in England to an equally enthusiastic reception. D'Aranyi and her sister settled in Great Britain in 1913 on the eve of World War I. They quickly became known for exquisite performances of works like Johann Sebastian Bach's Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra. Within a few years, D'Aranyi was able to surpass the musical reputation of her sister, who was ten years older but whose violinistic technique was considerably less impressive.

D'Aranyi's colorful personality made excellent newspaper copy. Her violinistic style was passionate, exhibiting a true gypsy exuberance. The warmth and almost improvisational nature of her playing was suited to works such as Johannes Brahms' Violin Concerto. Her style, often described as rhapsodic, also worked well for many modern compositions, including a number of important works written for and dedicated to her by major contemporary composers. These pieces included both of Bela Bartók's two Sonatas for Violin and Piano, and Maurice Ravel's gypsy-drenched Tzigane. D'Aranyi's powerful playing inspired a number of important concert works for violin, including a concerto by Julius Röntgen, the concerto for violin and horn by Ethel Smyth , and Ralph Vaughan Williams' Concerto Accademico. Recognizing the superb virtuosity of both sisters, Gustav Holst composed his Double Concerto for D'Aranyi and Fachiri. As talented a performer of chamber music as she was an acclaimed concert virtuosa, D'Aranyi formed a piano trio as early as 1914 with the brilliant cellist Guilhermina Suggia and the pianist Fanny Davies . Another grouping, this time with cellist Felix Salmond and pianist Myra Hess , was popular with the public in the 1930s.

One of the more bizarre incidents in the history of music was associated with D'Aranyi's psychic interests and the music of the great German Romantic composer Robert Schumann (1810–1856). In 1853, Schumann, who was rapidly slipping into dementia, had composed his last major work, a violin concerto. After Schumann's death in 1856, his widow Clara Schumann and Joseph Joachim decided the piece was unworthy of the composer and should not be published or performed. The manuscript was then deposited in the Prussian State Library with a proviso that it was not to be released until 1956, a full century after Schumann's death. There had long been curiosity about the piece but little could be done to effect its release from the dusty archive. In 1933, D'Aranyi announced that her Ouija board had lifted the ban, and sensational stories of her communing with the spirit of the long-dead Robert Schumann appeared in countless newspapers and magazines throughout the world. In Germany, a number of Nazi musicologists and propagandists argued that it was the malignant influence of the long-dead Hungarian Jew Joseph Joachim that had denied public performance of immortal German music. Finally, in 1938, D'Aranyi gave the British premiere of this sometimes disjointedly fragile but poignantly beautiful work. One of the most dynamic musicians of the first half of the 20th century, Jelly D'Aranyi died in Florence, Italy, on March 30, 1966.


Creighton, James Lesley. Discopaedia of the Violin, 1889–1971. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974.

Gill, Dominic, ed. The Book of the Violin. NY: Rizzoli International Publications, 1984.

Macleod, Joseph Todd Gordon. The Sisters d'Aranyi. London: Allen & Unwin, 1969.

Schwarz, Boris. Great Masters of the Violin. NY: Simon and Schuster, 1983.

John Haag , Associate Professor of History, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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Aranyi, Jelly d' (1895–1966)

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