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.