ISGOT: The d’Aranyi Sisters

The violin-playing d’Aranyi sisters were fascinating women, and their lives are practically begging for a contemporary biographical treatment. To the best of my knowledge, only one book has been written about them, called (surprise!) The Sisters d’Aranyi, by Joseph MacLeod…this despite the fact that Jelly inspired some of the greatest violin masterworks of the twentieth century. Oh, biographers. Sigh. I’ve wanted to get my hands on a copy of the book for a long time, but just haven’t had the cash. Once I do, and once I buy a copy, expect to see some research here about these two extraordinary women.

The d’Aranyi sisters – Jelly and Adila – were born in Budapest, studied under Jeno Hubay, and knew Bartók as girls (just like Stefi Geyer). They were grand-nieces of arguably the greatest violinist of the late nineteenth century, Joseph Joachim, who was great friends with Brahms. The two inspired works from many of the major composers of the day – Bartók (his two violin and piano sonatas), Vaughan Williams (Concerto Academico), Ravel (Tzigane), Holst (Double Concerto). Jelly was friends with Elgar, as well; their relationship was dramatized in the admittedly rather Lifetime-y-looking (is that an adjective? well, it is now) movie Elgar’s Tenth Muse. (This article says “After Alice Elgar died, he conceived a brief passion for the dynamic young Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Aranyi, whom he treated to expensive dinners, a trip to the British Museum and an unfortunate scene over tea and a book at his Hampstead home that left the girl ‘cursing old men’ “… Hmm.) Bartók too was attracted to her; she actually ended up refusing to work with him outside of rehearsals because she was so uncomfortable with his obvious interest in her. Jelly herself had a tragic love affair with Frederick Septimus Kelly, an Australian Olympic athlete, pianist, and composer, who died in World War I. (His sonata for Jelly has recently been re-discovered.) And that’s not even touching the sisters’ fascination with spiritualism, which resulted in the uncovering of the mostly forgotten Schumann violin concerto. Adila actually wrote or co-wrote a book on spiritualism called Widening Horizons, and apparently she “possessed the rare gift of transmitting spiritual waves in a waking state and fully conscious, never falling into a trance.”

Here’s Jelly playing Brahms. She was a gutsy firebrand on that fiddle!

And Adila playing Beethoven –

I’m more keen on Jelly’s playing than Adila’s, but perhaps it’s just the quality of the recording. Adila’s is heavy on the piano, to put it mildly!

Here is a treasure trove of recordings of the two. They were two larger-than-life personalities who deserve a full biographical treatment pronto. Until then, I hope this little entry encourages some people to seek out what they can about the sisters and their fascinating lives. If you have any information on Jelly d’Aranyi or Adila Fachiri…or a used copy of The Sisters d’Aranyi…contact me! In the meantime I’ll keep digging online.


Filed under My Writing, Women Violinists

4 responses to “ISGOT: The d’Aranyi Sisters

  1. Andrea Sim

    This is great, thanks for the info! There’s not much coverage on these fascinating women violinists, which is a shame as there aren’t many from this era.

  2. Andrea Sim

    Or at least, not many that are remembered… :)

  3. If you happen to live in the San Francisco Bay area, the SF public library has a copy – I have it out on loan right now! Very very interesting book, I’m particularly intrigued by all of the anecdotes about Joachim… good luck with your search!

  4. Therese Radic

    I am the editor of Race Against Time, the diaries of F.S.Kelly, 2004, National Library of Australia. Jelly was a child when Kelly met her and 20 when he was killed on the Somme in 1916. He was 35. There was no love affair though she thought there was a romantic connection. He didn’t. She kept his photo on her piano for the rest of her life but there is no record of her playing his work beyond a commemorative or two. The Gallipoli Sonata was not written for her but sent home to his sister at Bisham, England.. Jelly played it with him for the Bonham Carters while he was on leave before the Somme. A second sonata written at the same time and again for violin was also in an early stage at the same time. Kelly’s sexual orientation is not known.

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