Gábor Magyar


Born: December 5, 1914
This Hungarian musician is one of the important cellists in classical music of the twentieth century, with a career that was brutally interrupted by the confines of a concentration camp. Gabor Magyar studied at the Franz Liszt Royal School of Music, working under Kodály as well as Leo Weiner, Antal Frisch, and Jeno Kerpely. Prior to World War II he began a career as a soloist, presenting the first performance in Hungary of Darius Milhaud's Cello Concerto. This composition became something of a signature piece with Magyar during his life, including a particularly emotional performance in Caracas after he had been released from a German concentration camp. He emigrated to Venezuela in 1941. In this period he resumed his career and played a great deal of music with Casella in Rome. In 1949, he made a move to the United States that represented a plunge right into the western heartland, accepting the chair of cello and chamber music at the State University of Oklahoma. He stayed at this post from 1951 through 1956, using it as a perfect home base from which to present a series of concerts across the United States. In 1956, he set aside his solo career to replace Vilmos Palotai as the cellist in the Hungarian String Quartet, remaining with this group for its remaining 16 years. Palotai and Magyar were the only two cellists to perform with this group during its long and successful history. The Hungarian String Quartet was lauded for its performances on American college campuses and throughout the world, also recording some of the key interpretations of modern masters, especially Béla Bartók. The group was celebrated by the Hungarian government as worldwide ambassadors for this composer's music.

Magyar himself received many honors including the Béla-Pásztory Award, Bartók Kuratorium 1987, and the French Grand Prix du Disque. He later taught as a professor of cello and chamber music at the University of Illinois from 1972 through 1980. He retired in Urbana.