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EDUARD REMÉNYI – VIOLINIST
Extraordinary 12” x 18” single sheet two-colored lithograph caricature cover by Karel Vaclav Kliv from the Viennese weekly “Der Floh” satire journal, March 3, 1872. The lithographer was Tommasich. The sheet also bears a partial German tax stamp in the top right corner.
Eduard Reményi, the Hungarian born, later American violin virtuoso is pictured as Orpheus playing his violin with songbirds arising from the instrument whilst stone carvings of the heads of the members of the government of the Hungarian Land of the Crown of St. Stephens lay at his feet. The stone statues include members of the Nationalist party, Prime Minister Count Guyla Andrassy bottom right and his successor Menyhert Lonyay above Andrassy and the Minister of Justice Ferenc Deak above Lonyay.
A satirical poem which eludes to his troubles with the Hapsburg controlled Hungarian government would have made more sense at the time and is on the back of the lithograph. Translated from the German:
Humanity is steady in its perfection. In a short span of time, amazing things have happened. A few loose ranks have been tossed since the time when Orpheus might have lived, if he had lived at all, and humanity already has a Remenyi. What is the difference between Orpheus and Remenyi? Orpheus was a mythological man, while Remenyi is a born Hungarian.
It is easier to imagine creating the fireworks and leading a marvelous artistic life, which nobody saw, than to live in a true, border surrounded country and to be true to ones art!
In the time of Orpheus and among the beasts, some fiddler will soon basking in the sun.
Good heavens, had Herr Eduard Mautner been drawn into Greek mythology by accident, he would have achieved a reputation there as the strongest, gesticular German poet. Over and among solid people and after the advances made by art to this day - occupy an outstanding position, that is one of our essence.
Orpheus loosened the animals and stones around him with his music, and they listened to his sound, excited and quiet. But Remenyi melts the hearts of people of their passions through his playing and makes them peaceful listening to the wondrous sounds of his instrument.
The government should have Remenyi go to the S. S. (Saint Stephen) government and let Orpheus play for them in order to remove the constitutional opposition and other roadblocks of their disagreement with him.
(Eduard Mautner 1824-1889 was a fellow Hungarian who became an ex-patriot in Vienna in 1848 where he was a journalist, author and playwright.)
Reményi (1828-1898) is a seminal figure in the world of 19th Century music and a controversial figure in Hungarian at the time. First and foremost, he was born to a Jewish family whose last name was Hoffmann. The family for political reasons converted to Catholicism in 1836 when Eduard was first recognized as gifted. The local Archbishop realizing his talent sent him to Vienna in 1842 to study with Joseph Böhm, the Director of the Vienna Conservatory who had a professional relationship with Beethoven, a touring virtuoso career and whose progeny became the greatest violinists in the German speaking world at that time, including, Ernst, Hellmesberger, Hubay, Joachim and Reményi. (Böhm was also Jewish) The violinist left Vienna, spending time in Paris and London and returned to Hungary in 1848 to enlist in the forces fighting the Hapsburgs for their freedom. At this point, Eduard and his older brother both soldiers “Hungarianized” their last name to Reményi to demonstrate their patriotism. He was assigned as a musical aide de camp to General Artur Györgey the commander in chief of the Hungarian forces and kept away from the fighting as he was considered too valuable in terms of the morale of the troops and his impromptu concerts to raise their spirits. After the Austrians crushed the rebellion, he was expelled from Hungary by the newly installed pro Hapsburg government. He left for Hamburg where he played a series of highly praised concerts, including one where he collaborated with Jenny Lind and Otto Goldschmidt. The violinist continued to wear his uniform during these concerts and his loyalties became suspect and therefore he left for America in late November 1849 where Hungarian refugees were welcomed. Greeted as a hero in America for his participation in the "Great Patriotic Magyar Revolution" he played first in New York City in large venues and then toured his way South playing benefit concerts for his fellow Hungarian dissidents. New Orleans was as far as he reached at the time.
In November 1851 the violinist arrived in London where he was consistently booked in large venues. In the Fall of 1852, Reményi arrived in Hamburg with an accompanist. The accompanist called in sick the morning before a concert and the violinist needed a replacement. The owner of a local musical instrument shop recommended the talented 19 year old Johannes Brahms who was apparently attempting to make a living as piano teacher and failing miserably. Brahms auditioned for the violinist in his hotel room and Reményi found he was a far better musician than his current accompanist and was immediately hired. (The legend of meeting Brahms by accident in a bar is a tall tale.) Even years later, Reményi's politics were still suspect and some thought he was a Hungarian spy. While the Germans and Austrians were to still fight the Austro-Prussian War a decade later, they had been on again, off again allies over the centuries and Hungarians were treated with suspicion. The violinist and his young accompanist toured Europe together, stopping in Weimar where Brahms was introduced to the violinists fellow countryman Franz Liszt. In Hannover Reményi introduced his accompanist to his old “friend” Joachim which was to become an exceedingly important professional and social relationship. While there, Reményi was arrested as a spy by the Hannover police for subterfuge and expelled from the city. While the violinist and Brahms parted company at that time, Reményi’s profound influence can be felt in Brahms "zingare" works written later in his life.
Reményi next reappeared in London in 1854 where he was quickly appointed Court Violinist to Queen Victoria. He remained there until the 1860 Amnesty which brought many Hungarian revolutionaries back to their native land. In Vienna, Reményi was a hit and as Queen Victoria made him her Court Violinist, the Franz-Josef I not wanting to be upstaged appointed the violinist to the same position in his court.
While Reményi returned to Hungary, he was never comfortable there again. The Conservative government led by Prime Minister Count Guyla Andrassy and Justice Minister Ferenc Deak were not predisposed to the young and charismatic violinist. Well aware of this fact, Reményi spent more time than not touring Europe with his new young accompanist Nandor Plotenyi. In 1872, their professional partnership ended with Reményi's marriage to Gisella de Fay de Faj, the daughter of a well placed Hungarian musician who Liszt claimed would have been an even greater composer than he and his son and law, Richard Wagner if only he would spend time composing. The marriage was one of the social events of 1872 with Liszt arriving in town for his Jubilee and with a special march he wrote for the occasion as well as the promise of composing a violin concerto for Reményi. The young couple were blessed with twin daughters, but that did not keep the violinist in Hungary long; he began a long world tour of Europe, Asia and Africa. In 1878, still frustrated with the Hungarian government, which by that time had become more liberal, he left with his family for America where he lived for the rest of his life. He toured until the day he died in San Francisco on stage of a heart attack.
Reményi’s political problems were not unique to the musical world. For Jan Paderewski and Feodor Chaliapin, the political realities of the time shaped their lives. However, to my knowledge no great virtuoso endured the harsh political issues Reményi endured for his fervent nationalism for fifty years. The various Hapsburg governments in Hungary controlled the country until the end of World War I, twenty years after his death. The rampant anti-Semitism there was at the root of the matter. Despite the fact that Reményi's family converted to Catholicism and his religious indifference (Though he was known to attend Yom Kippur services from time to time and was observed with tears running down his face in at least one service.) the government treated him differently even after the 1860 Amnesty and the 1868 changes in the law for Jews to fully participate in Hungarian life except politics. Perhaps they thought his nationalism combined with his charisma on the stage and life would make him a formidable organizer against the at times tenuous pro-Hapsburg government. Interestingly, under Emperor Franz-Josef I, the Jews had far more freedom in Austria. The satiric poem attached to this lithograph clearly shows a disdain for the government of the Land of the Crown of St. Stephens and their treatment of a living violin legend who pleased the public.
The artist Karel Vaclav Klic (1841 - 1926) was born in Bohemia and worked in Vienna. He was a well known painter, inventor, photographer and graphic artist.
The condition of the piece is impeccable given the age and size. It was lithographed on a better quality of journal stock. We did not back it to linen. If your intent would be to frame the item, I would suggest it be archivally backed to linen. The creases will disappear. We can quote this service to you if you are interested.
Would be superb framed on your music room wall!