Zoltan Szekely, 97; Famed Violinist

From a Times Staff Writer

Zoltan Szekely, the Hungarian violinist who was a frequent recital partner of composer Bela Bartok, has died. He was 97.

Szekely died Oct. 5 in Banff, Canada, where he was the longtime artist-in-residence at the Banff Center.

Born in Kocs, Hungary, Szekely studied composition with Zoltan Kodaly at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest. At age 18, he began appearing in sonata recitals with Bartok.


The famed composer wrote his Violin Concerto in honor of Szekely, whose rise to prominence in European musical circles reached its height in 1939 in Amsterdam, when he performed the world premiere of the composition.

For much of his early career, Szekely was first violinist of the Hungarian String Quartet, which he led from 1937 until 1972. During World War II, the quartet were trapped in the Netherlands, where they spent their time perfecting the Beethoven Quartet cycle.

In the early 1950s, the quartet moved to Los Angeles and had a two-year residency at USC.

After the USC residency ended, the quartet returned to Europe for recitals but disbanded after the 1972 season. Szekely was named artist-in-residence at Banff in 1973. From that position, he was named Alberta’s violinist-in-residence, traveling throughout the Canadian province as a teacher.

Szekely’s compositions, mainly chamber music, included a string quartet, a duo for violin and cello, and a sonata for unaccompanied violin. His arrangement of Bartok’s Romanian Dances for violin and piano has become popular.

He is survived by his son, Frank Szekely Everts, and two grandsons.