Andor Toth

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Violinist Andor Toth (1925 - 2006) earned international celebrity as a soloist, concert artist, conductor and educator with a musical career spanning over six decades.

}Andor Toth, violin, and son Andor Toth Jr., cello, the Toth Duo, September 1999

Toth played his violin on the World War II battlefields of Aachen, Germany ; performed with the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini in 1943[1]at age 18; and formed several chamber music ensembles, including the Oberlin String Quartet, the New Hungarian Quartet, and the Stanford String Quartet. For 15 years he was the violinist in the famed Alma Trio. [2]Toth conducted orchestras in Cleveland, Denver and Houston, was founding concertmaster of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra under Neville Mariner, taught at five important colleges and universities, and recorded for Vox, Decca Records and Eclectra Records.

Early years

Born in Manhattan in 1925, Toth began playing violin as a child and launched his career in 1942 at age 17 as solo violinist with the original Ballet Russes while he was still a graduate student at the Juilliard School. In 1943 at age 18, he joined the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini.[3] At Juilliard he studied with Hans Letz[4](formerly of the Kneisel quartet and a student of Joseph Joachim) and Ivan Galamian.

Andor Toth was married to Louise Rose,[5] a noted soprano, who died in 2005. The couple had three sons: Andor Jr., a cellist; Thomas, a software engineer; and Christopher, a programmer and network administrator who created a web site in his honor.[6] He formed the Toth Duo (violin and cello) with Andor Toth Jr., his eldest son - a CD is available. [7] Andor Jr. died in 2002 following a year-long battle with cancer. [8]

Andor Toth and his wife, Louise Rose Toth, September 1999

Performance career

Andor Toth was Associate Concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell and concertmaster Joseph Gingold. He was Associate Conductor of the Houston Symphony under Sir Thomas Beecham and Leopold Stokowski before joining the Oberlin faculty in 1955. In 1955, Toth formed the Oberlin String Quartet with violinist Matthew Raimondi, violist William Berman, and cellist John Frazer. In 1957, violinist John Dalley (second violinist in the Guarneri Quartet ), and cellist Peter Howard[9] (for many years principal cellist in the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra ) joined the Quartet. In Summer 1958 the Oberlin String Quartet won fourth prize in the Concours International de Quatuor, sponsored by H.M. Queen Elizabeth Music Competition in Liege, Belgium "Quartet Debuts . . ."

In 1963 Toth joined the Alma Trio with pianist Adolph Baller and cellist Gabor Rejto, following the death of violinist Maurice Wilk. After the retirement of Adolph Baller, William Corbett Jones became the pianist. Toth remained with the Alma Trio until 1976 when it disbanded.

Toth founded the New Hungarian Quartet in 1972 with Richard Young, violin; Denes Koromzay, viola (1913-2001), formerly violist in the Hungarian Quartet; and Andor Toth Jr., cello (1948-2002), formerly principal cellist of the San Francisco Symphony under conductor Josef Krips. All members were faculty at the Oberlin Conservatory. From 1975-79 the Quartet was the first faculty quartet-in-residence at the Taos School of Music in Taos, New Mexico. [10]

In 1984, Toth founded the Stanford String Quartet with cellist Stephen Harrison[11], violinist Zoya Leybin[12], and violist Bernard Zaslov[13]. The quartet performed internationally until his retirement from Stanford in 1989.

In 1992, Toth toured Europe playing first violin with the Takács Quartet. [14]

Education career

  • Oberlin Conservatory of Music (1955-1960);
  • during the year 1960-1961 he was conductor of Leonard Bernstein 's musical, West Side Story , in New York City ;
  • San Fernando Valley State College, now California State University, Northridge (1961-1963);
  • University of Colorado at Boulder (1963-1968);
  • University of Texas at Austin (1968-1972);
  • Oberlin Conservatory of Music (1972-1978); and
  • Stanford University in Palo Alto, California (1978-1989).

While at Oberlin in 1958, he founded and conducted the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra. At Colorado, he founded the Baroque Chamber Ensemble that performed important Baroque works, including 'The Four Seasons' (Vivaldi) with Toth as soloist.

In June, 1967, he taught and played at the New College of Florida in Sarasota, Florida , for the first year of the Experimental Instrumental Performance Clinic, an event that became the Sarasota Music Festival.[15]

In the summer of 1968, Andor Toth performed and taught at the Rocky Ridge Music Center[16] in Estes Park, Colorado .

After moving to the San Francisco Bay area in 1978, Toth also taught briefly at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and directed the Morrison Artist Series [17]. Andor Toth retired at Stanford University in 1989.

Following his retirement, he taught for one year at Arizona State University and then moved to Friday Harbor, Washington , on San Juan Island . In Friday Harbor he founded Chamber Music San Juans[18], a successful chamber music series that still is thriving. He also presented annual children's concerts for area schools.


Andor Toth taught a large number of students during his 35-year career in higher education. Most of them occupy important positions in orchestras and higher education as performers, teachers, conductors, and in allied professions. Some of his more prominent former students are listed here.

  • Stephen Clapp , Dean of the Juilliard School and violinist in the Beaux Arts String Quartet that won the 1965 Walter W. Naumberg Foundation award in Chamber Music [19]. Former dean of the Aspen Music Festival and School .
  • David Zinman , Conductor Emeritus of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Aspen Music Festival and School [20]. Founder and director of the American Academy of Conducting at the Aspen Music Festival and School.
  • Fred Nelson, former member of the Quebec Symphony Orchestra (1968), the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (1968-70), and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (1970-73. Violinist in the Purcell Quartet (1970-76), concertmaster of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra (1976-78); member of the Seattle Symphony (1979-81); and concertmaster of the Symphonie Canadiana (1981-85). Fred has performed many concerti with orchestra, including those by Beethoven , Mendelssohn , Wieniawski , Mozart , and Paganini.
  • Dr. Paul Roby, violinist, violist, conductor, was a student of Andor Toth at Oberlin Conservatory from 1955 until graduation in 1958. Dr. Roby has taught in many universities including the University of Oklahoma and Kansas State University at Manhattan, KS . He was the Owner and Director of Point CounterPoint Chamber Music Camp [21], Lake Dunmore, VT [22], for eighteen years. Dr. Roby was the concertmaster of the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra and has performed as soloist and chamber musician throughout the United States.
  • Charles Barber, DMA in Conducting, Stanford. Conductor and Artistic Director of City Opera of Vancouver , Vancouver, BC [23]. Founder and guest conductor of the Civic Orchestra of Victoria, BC.

New York Times review

On September 28, 1982, New York Times critic John Rockwell had this to say about Toth's last New York concert: "Mr. Toth's principal virtue is his ability to invest even the most brilliant of passages with thoughtfulness; every phrase sounded shaped and considered, with a rich, ample tone . . . And Mr. Toth is hardly one of those violinistic poets who wins one over despite an erratic technique; his intonation and articulation were secure in a way that was continually impressive yet never called undue attention to itself." [24]

Andor Toth died of a massive stroke in Los Angeles, California , November 28 , 2006 . He was 81 years old.

Selected discography

LAUREL Records: Stanford String Quartet [25]

  1. William Bolcom : Tenth String Quartet
  2. Ben Johnston (composer) : String Quartet No 9
  3. Marc Neikrug: String Quartet Stars in the Mirror (Laurel)

LAUREL Records: Stanford String Quartet [26]

  1. Frank Bridge : Quartet No. 1 in e
  2. Darius Milhaud : Quartet No. 7 in B-flat
  3. Gabriel Fauré : Quartet, No. 121

Arkiv Music: Duos For Violin And Cello / Toth Duo [27]

  1. Duo for Violin and Cello, Op. 7 by Zoltán Kodály
  2. Duo for Violin and Cello no 1, H 157 by Bohuslav Martinů
  3. Sonata for Violin and Cello by Maurice Ravel

Arkiv Music VoxBox CDX 5022: Schubert, String Quartets / New Hungarian Quartet [28] Andor Toth (Violin), Richard Young (Violin), Denes Koromzay (Viola), Andor Toth Jr. (Cello)

  1. String Quartet No. 13 (Schubert) in A minor, D 804/Op. 29 no 1 "Rosamunde"
  2. String Quartet No. 14 (Schubert) in D minor, D 810 "Death and the Maiden"
  3. String Quartet No. 15 (Schubert) in G major, D 887/Op. 161
  4. Quartettsatz (Schubert) in C minor, D 703/Op. posthumous

VoxBox (Classical) CD3X 3012: Beethoven, The Middle Quartets / New Hungarian Quartet [29] Andor Toth (Violin), Richard Young (Violin), Denes Koromzay (Viola), Andor Toth Jr. (Cello)

  1. String Quartet No. 7 (Beethoven) in F major ("Rasumovsky 1"), Op. 59/1
  2. String Quartet No. 8 (Beethoven) in E minor ("Rasumovsky 2"), Op. 59/2
  3. String Quartet No. 9 (Beethoven) in C major ("Rasumovsky 3"), Op. 59/3
  4. String Quartet No. 10 (Beethoven) in E flat major ("Harp"), Op. 74
  5. String Quartet No. 11 (Beethoven) in F minor ("Serioso"), Op. 95

VoxBox (Classical) CDX 3031: Debussy and Ravel Quartets / New Hungarian Quartet [30] Second CD of 3 CD Set. Andor Toth (Violin), Richard Young (Violin), Denes Koromzay (Viola), Andor Toth Jr. (Cello)

  1. String Quartet (Debussy) in G Minor, Op. 10
  2. Quartet in F Major (Ravel)

Vox SVBX 593 Béla Bartók, 1881-1945: The 6 string quartets. New Hungarian Quartet: Andor Toth and Richard Young (violins), Denes Koromzay (viola), Andor Toth Jr. (cello). Cataloged in the Library of Congress, Control No. 77760307.