Faction is a well-established genre
but this is an unusual example of
it. Like a midnight scribe of old,
Gianluca La Villa sat down and,
in pretty much one sitting, wrote
this book. It’s based on an exhibit
held in Ferrera in 2003 on the ‘Hungarian
Violin School.’ Professor László
Gombos of the Hubay Foundation curated
the exhibition and provided the
photographs – many of which are
reproduced in the book and fabulous
they are too.
But let’s step
back for a moment. Jenö Hubay
was one of the most important of
all violin players and pedagogues.
His school was extensive, long-lived
and still contentious - that notorious
"Hubay vibrato" – but
produced some of the leading players
of the day from Eugene Ormandy to
Szigeti, Johanna Martzy to Jelly
d’Aranyi, von Vecsey to Telmanyi,
from Sandor Végh to Andre
It’s the mention
of Vecsey that directs one to the
spine of this story – a supernatural
meeting between the Master, Hubay,
and that most eminent pupil of his,
through the conduit of the author’s
evocative and razor sharp imagination.
La Villa takes an imaginative stroll
down the years and in essence ponders
what the Ferrara conference considered
through the means of a dialogue
between Hubay and Vecsey at which
the author is a star-struck spectator.
In essence then this is an essay
on this aspect of the Hungarian
Violin School conducted in the form
of a reminiscent dialogue.
But don’t let the
seemingly Socratic nature of this
fool you. There is a wealth of information
here for those of specialised tastes.
La Villa is well known for his admiration
both of this School and of von Vecsey
in particular – the violinist lived
for a number of years in the sumptuous
apartment in a house in Venice in
which Wagner had lived for a short
The book is written
in English and Italian. There are
splendid appendices which include
articles by Gombos himself, by Carla
Moreni on Wanda Luzzato and by the
English violin authority Cheniston
K. Roland - and those terrific photographs.
This book is neither a biography
of Hubay nor of Vecsey, though I
daresay La Villa would be better
placed than almost anyone to write
a biography of the latter. Specialists
will want to note the regard La
Villa expresses for Luzzato, whom
Hubay held in the highest regard
as well, and will want to agitate
for the release of her radio broadcasts.
And finally the
title; The White Music Room was
in the Hotel Victoria in Budapest
where Hubay lived, taught and performed
for many years.