André Gertler


Born: July 26, 1907 Died: July 23, 1998
André Gertler was a prominent twentieth century violinist whose secure intonation, imposing technique, and interpretive acumen set him apart from most of his contemporaries. He might well have been better known had he not focused so much of his attention on contemporary music. He played all of the violin output of Bartók, giving many chamber music concerts with the composer himself; he also played concertos by Berg and Hindemith at a time when these three composers were not yet broadly established. But riskier still, he delved into more uncertain territory, premiering works by Alexandre Tansman, Lars-Erik Larsson, Niels Viggo Bentzon, Matyas Seiber, and other lesser known figures. But Gertler's repertory also included more mainstream fare, such as concertos by J.S. Bach, Tartini, Mozart, and Beethoven, as well as a fair number of standards in the chamber music realm. Because of renewed interest in Gertler's career in the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries, many of his previously out-of-print recordings have been restored to the catalogs of major labels like Hungaroton and Supraphon.

Gertler was born in Budapest, Hungary, on July 26, 1907. From 1914-1925 he studied at the Franz Liszt Academy, where his most important teachers were virtuoso violinist Jenö Hubay and, for lessons in composition, Zoltán Kodály.

In 1920 Gertler began limited concertizing in Europe, eventually befriending Bartók. The two appeared regularly in concert from 1925 to 1938, playing a broad range of duo repertory. During this period, as well as throughout most of his career, Gertler also performed with his pianist wife Diane Andersen. In 1928 Gertler settled in Brussels and three years later founded an eponymously named string quartet there. It would remain active until 1951.

In the latter half of his career Gertler was quite active as a teacher: from 1940 he was a professor on the music faculty at the Brussels Conservatory; later he taught in Cologne at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik (1954-1959) and after 1963 at Hanover's Hochschule für Musik und Theater.

The aforementioned renewed interest in Gertler's career rests disproportionately on his recorded Bartók, which has generally been widely praised. In November 2007 Supraphon reissued a four-disc set containing Gertler's complete Bartók violin output. As a composer and arranger, Gertler was a minor figure, although he did produce cadenzas for the Mozart G major and Beethoven violin concertos and made a violin/piano arrangement of a Bartók sonatina.