Jenő Hubay (1858–1937), the brilliant violinist, composer and educator built his house on the banks of the river Danube in 1897-98. On the first floor of the four-story building exists his salon, a legendary white music hall where gatherings of music, literature, and other arts were regularly held. During the Second World War, the music hall fell quiet. But happily in 2008, the owners of the Hotel Victoria renovated the salon to its original grandeur and reopened it to the public. Today it is a part of the hotel and, together with some other rooms of the Hubay home, it can be entered through the hotel lobby.
Jenő Hubay was born into a German family of musicians, but was raised Hungarian and is considered one of the country’s most well-known and acknowledged musicians, adopting the sounds of Hungarian folk music in his mazurkas. His name—which he changed at age 21 from the Huber to Hubay to sound more Hungarian—remains connected to the world-famous Hungarian violin school. It was from his father, Károly Huber, who was the conductor and concert master of the Hungarian National Opera House, that Hubay, learned the basics of playing the violin, after which he went on to study from Josef Joachim in Berlin. On the advice of Franz Liszt (1811-1886), Hubay traveled to Paris in 1878 and soon won over audiences all over Western Europe. Naturally, his violin of choice was a Stradivarius.
With his smooth manner, exceptional personality and intelligence, Hubay created a wide circle of contacts. He was invited by kings, heads of states, artists and church leaders to their homes throughout Europe. In 1882, Hubay was appointed head of department at the Conservatoire Royale in Brussels, but on call from Franz Liszt he returned home, and supervised violin education at the Conservatory of Budapest for half a century. He was also a successful and prolific composer. Besides several hundred violin pieces and songs, he composed symphonies (Symphony 1914, Dante Symphony) and operas (The Villain of the Village, Moss Rose, Anna Karenina, The Mask). His opera The Violin Maker of Cremona (premiered in 1894 in Budapest) proved to be a world success, performed on several dozen stages throughout Europe within a single decade. It was the first Hungarian opera to be performed outside Europe (New York, 1898). The famous violin solo of the 2nd act was often played by the composer himself behind the scenes.The main work of Hubay is the cantata entitled Ara pacis (The Altar of the Peace), composed between 1915 and 1937 to the poem Hymn of Peace by Romain Rolland. Because of its pacifist message, the piece was banned during the Second World War; after six decades, the orchestra and choir of the Hungarian Radio premiered it at the Conservatory of Budapest in 2000 with László Kovács conducting.
Information sourced from the Hubay Music Hall, Budapest. To read more about Jenő Hubay, listen to some of his music, and find out about upcoming music events, please visit the Hubay Music Hall’s website at www.hubaymusichall.com.