Suzanne Rozsa

Vioinist, teacher and co-founder of the Dumka Trio


Suzanne Rozsa, violinist and teacher: born Budapest 14 September 1923; married 1950 Martin Lovett (one son, one daughter); died London 9 November 2005.

The violinist Suzanne Rozsa managed to keep her own identity as a performer and teacher despite being married to Martin Lovett, cellist with the renowned Amadeus Quartet.

Her greatest achievement was founding the Dumka Trio, with the cellist Vivian Joseph and the pianist Liza Fuchsova, in 1965. They were considered at the time to be one of the leading trios and specialised in the works of Bohemian composers. They recorded all of Dvorák's works with piano; the one of his E minor Opus 90 "Dumsky" trio has become a classic and is still issued on various labels. The trio was only disbanded on the death of Fuchsova in 1980.

Rozsa became one of Britain's most respected teachers. Her students loved her because she always seemed to understand their problems and could find a solution to almost any difficulty; furthermore, her lessons never went by the clock. Her enjoyment of teaching was obvious. "We often go on for an hour and a half or longer," she once told me:

But what does that matter if a child needs that extra attention? If they have developed a fault that must be corrected, you can't stop. It may make a terrific difference to the way they work for the whole of the next week.

Suzanne Rozsa was born in Budapest in 1923, into a Jewish family who loved music. When she was six, she was given a small violin and soon taught herself to pick out folk tunes on her new toy. She was then given lessons with a local teacher and made such good progress that at 10 she was awarded a scholarship to the State Academy in Vienna, to study with Ernst Morawec, a pupil of Otakar Sevcik.

At 14 she won the coveted Kreisler Prize and one of the rewards was to appear as a soloist at one of the Academy concerts. So Rozsa prepared the Bach E major Concerto for what would be the most influential performance of her young life.

But the date in March 1938 was dramatically significant as it coincided with Hitler marching into Austria. Almost immediately Rozsa received a letter telling her she was not required at the forthcoming concert and Morawec - who had a Jewish wife - was sacked from the academy. He strongly advised her to leave the country and recommended her to go to London where Carl Flesch was then teaching.

A successful application to the cultural attaché at the British Embassy brought visas for Rozsa and her mother for three months. They arrived in London with only hand baggage and her violin and their sole subsistence was one pound a week, provided by the British Committee for Jewish Refugees.

In order to augment their tiny allowance, Rozsa's mother worked as a dressmaker, but insisted that her daughter only practised the violin. Eventually Rozsa auditioned for Flesch and he was sufficiently impressed to reduce his fee to £4, still a vast sum to be found. Unfortunately, her period of study with Flesch was brief, since at the outbreak of the Second World War he left for Holland.

At 18, Suzanne Rozsa was awarded a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, where she became a pupil of Isolde Menges, a pupil of the legendary Leopold Auer. It was here that she first met Martin Lovett, a fellow student.

Two years later, Rozsa was asked to lead the London Polish Quartet, a group sponsored by the British Council and the Polish government in exile. She said:

They were all supposed to be Polish musicians, but the violinist, Frederic Herrmann, was taken ill and I was asked instead. As my mother was Polish, they reckoned I was an honorary Pole.

She always felt that the experience of working with this ensemble greatly helped her musical development, but above all: "We were paid £6 10s a week! It was a fortune!"

When the war ended, the quartet disbanded and Rozsa decided she needed more tuition, so she went to study with the Flesch pupil Max Rostal at the Guildhall School of Music; here she later became a distinguished professor herself and was later elected a Fellow. However, she still had to earn a living, so at the same time she took on a job in the orchestra at the Cambridge Theatre in London. There were also occasional concerts on Sunday afternoons, so, with much understanding of her difficulties, the Principal of the GSM released her from playing in the college orchestra.

None the less, in retrospect she felt that attending school during the day and playing in an orchestra at night did not allow her to develop her playing as she would have wished.

Despite all this distraction, Rozsa managed to win the Gold Medal at the Guildhall and her career gained momentum. She was invited to lead a number of chamber orchestras including the one formed by Benjamin Britten at Aldeburgh for many of his opera productions. One of her prized possessions was the score of Turn of the Screw where the composer had inscribed: "To Suzie, with love, after so many lovely performances, Ben."

She went on to give many solo recital broadcasts from the BBC and for some time was a member of the Czech Trio. She also formed a partnership with the pianist Paul Hamburger, for whom Malcolm Arnold and many other composers wrote works. She was a founder member of the English Chamber Orchestra and played often with Yehudi Menuhin in the Bath Festival Orchestra.

As a person, Suzie Rozsa was possessed of a charismatic personality that sparkled like a diamond. She was always good company and possessed a delightful sense of humour. She would fight tooth and nail to achieve something that would benefit the cause of music and could be wickedly persuasive in the face of opposition.

Margaret Campbell

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