Oeuvre and awards *
The Dutch composer Géza Frid (1904-1989), of Hungarian birth, was a key figure in the world of post-war Dutch music. Géza Frid’s extensive and varied oeuvre – about 100 registered compositions – does not lend itself to one simple description. Characteristics of his style are in any case a striking feel for rhythm and a melodic creativity rooted in the folklore of his native land. His works, often commissioned, were inspired by Bartók, Debussy and Ravel.
A whole series of chamber works were written for almost all settings imaginable, and include five quartets, but also a considerable amount of music for the violin and the piano, plus numerous works for orchestra, opera and ballet music, vocal works, music for a wide variety of wind instruments, and so forth.His first works received their premières in Budapest, but the Orchestral Suite, opus 6 was first performed in Paris Paris [program] by Pierre Monteux, followed by performances by the Concertgebouw Orchestra (Amsterdam) and the Boston Symphony Orchestra in New York [program].
In 1969 Frid wrote for Emmy Verhey and the brothers Christiaan and Dick Bor his Concerto for Three Violins and Orchestra, opus 78 : “Unique in the literature of violin concertos”, according to Wouter Paap in Mens & Melodie, April 1970. One of his most frequently performed pieces is undoubtedly the Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra, opus 55 , that received its première in 1952 in the hands of the inimitable duo Herman Krebbers and Theo Olof with the Residentie Orchestra conducted by Willem van Otterloo.
He was awarded the Amsterdam Music Prize twice: in 1949 and 1954 for his Paradou, opus 28 for a large orchestra, and for Etudes Symfoniques, opus 47 [Haagse Post], also written for a large orchestra. Frid received a second prize in 1950 in the composition competition run by the Dutch World Broadcasting Service and the KNTV (Royal Dutch Musicians Association) for his Variations on a Dutch Folksong, opus 29 for choir and orchestra. A further prize was awarded by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science for the Sonata for Violin and Piano, opus 50. Frid’s Third String Quartet, opus 30 and Fourth String Quartet, opus 30a won respectively third prize in 1951 and a fourth prize in 1956 at the Concours International à Cordes in Liège. In 1990 Géza Frid was awarded posthumously the prestigious Béla Bartók prize by the Hungarian Government for his complete oeuvre as “internationally renowned musician of Hungarian descent”.
Bartók and Kodály *
Géza Frid gave his first public performance as a 7-year-old child prodigy on the piano in his native town Máramarossziget. He was taught by the director of the local music school. He played everything effortlessly from memory: “Mostly gypsy-like Hungarian songs of dubious quality”, Frid remembered. In 1912 the family moved to Budapest so that Géza could study at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music there.
There he was taught by stars such as Béla Bartók (piano) and Zoltán Kodály (composition), with whom he would maintain contact as friends and colleagues even after his departure from Hungary. In 1924 he was the first student in the history of the academy to take final exams in two subjects simultaneously: piano and composition. Because of the Nazi escalation he very soon left his native country, living for a time in France and Italy and completing a series of concert tours through Europe with the violinist Zoltán Székely. In 1929 Frid settled for good in the Netherlands. The cosmopolitan in him chose in the end for Amsterdam rather than Brussels, London or Paris, due to the musical climate, but also, as he confesses in his autobiography of 1984, due to “the exceptional and for me still acute attraction of Dutch girls!”. In 1937 he married the singer and pianist Ella van Hall in his home town, Amsterdam. In 1939 their son, Arthur, was born.
Concert tours *
As a successful concert pianist, but also as an interpreter of chamber music, Géza Frid made countless concert tours over the whole world. In 1948 he visited Indonesia, as the first Dutch artist to do so, and in two months gave more than forty concerts and piano recitals, as well as standing in for the sick conductor of the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra in Jakarta, Yvon Baarspul. In 1951 and 1956 he again performed as a soloist in Indonesia. Frid gave further concerts in, amongst other lands, Italy (1926, 1955, 1965), Siam and Egypt (1951), Israel (1962, 1965, 1967), South and North America (2965, 1967), Turkey (1965), Surinam and the Netherlands Antilles (1970), the the USA (1970, 1974) and Hungary (1971, 1974). He accompanied among others the pre-war vocal stars Ilona Durigo and Elisabeth Schumann. He formed a duo with the pianist Luctor Ponse . Their collaboration is still recalled in the sparkling 1960 performance of Béla Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion with members of the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Antal Doráti (Mercury Living Presence, CD 434 362-2, 1995). Frid performed with outstanding soloists such as the singer Guus Hoekman and the violinists Henryk Szering, Elise Cserfalvi, Jo Juda and Christiaan Bor. He was at the same time permanent accompanist of the soprano Erna Spoorenberg. Together they went on tour through the Soviet Union in 1963, the first Dutch musicians since the Second World War to do this.
During the occupation of the Netherlands, Frid, as a stateless Jew, could not perform. He was active as a forger of coupons and identity documents and took part in the artists’ resistance movement. In 1948 he was, at long last, naturalized. The pianist Frid revealed himself to be a versatile creative and performing artist, composer, teacher and author/critic. After the war he taught for some years at the Music Lyceum in Rotterdam and from 1964 to 1970 he was head of chamber music at the Utrecht Conservatory. He occupied various managerial positions in the music world, including 20 years with BUMA, the performing rights organization for the Netherlands.
The 1950’s saw Frid writing increasingly for Dutch music journals, covering a range of topics and musicians. He had, for example, over the years eleven articles devoted to Kodály and no less than 25 to Bartók. In 1955 the Bartók Society was founded, with Géza Frid as chairman. From 1954 to 1970 he was music critic with Het Vrije Volk. Two books – both unfortunately now out of print – were published. In 1976 ‘Oog in oog met …’ (‘Eye to eye with …) (Heuff Publishers, Nieuwkoop, with a foreword by Theo Olof) about his contacts with seven great personalities: Tolstoy, Thomas Mann, Bomans, Mussolini, Mengelberg, Bartók and Ravel. In 1984 appeared his bulky autobiography (291 pages, Strengholt Publishers, Naarden, with a foreword by Lex van Delden): ‘In tachtig jaar de wereld rond’ (‘Around the World in 80 years’). For his promotional work, Frid received from the Hungarian government both the Bartók Diploma [diploma] and the Kodály Diploma [diploma] . On his seventieth birthday he was knighted by the Amsterdam Alderman Evert Brautigam during a jubilee concert in the Concertgebouw. Nico Schuyt gave the address on behalf of the Society of Dutch Composers. Béla Bartók Jr. and the young wife of Kodály spoke on behalf of his Hungarian musical friends.
Géza Frid Foundation *
Géza Frid was an erudite man with unmistakable flair, a Dutchman who never belied his origins, bon vivant and widely read lover of literature. Artist in heart and soul, a romantic, too, who coupled an exceptional expertise with an equally exceptional sense of humour. His music breathes this!
The Géza Frid Foundation was inaugurated in 1998 with the objectives (according to the statutes) to: “Attract the attention of the public to the extensive and varied oeuvre of the composer Géza Frid and to secure an enduring position for this in the dutch and international music world.”
The three officers of the foundation are:
- Sietse Steenstra, chairman
- Han van der Leek, treasurer
- Arthur Frid, secretary