Gabor Rejto was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1939. His first teacher was Frederick Teller, whose ideas, for the time, were exceptionally forward- looking. At sixteen, Rejto entered the Academy of Music under Adolf Schiffer (pupil of and later assistant to the great David Popper), and two years later, armed with his Artist’s Diploma, he embarked upon a European concert career.

At twenty, he studied for two years’ with Pablo Casals, first in Barcelona and then in Prades. For a month, they worked on nothing but basic technique – no literature. Casals revolutionized the approach to playing the cello and at that time it was very modern. Rejto concertized extensively throughout Europe and played with major orchestras in Vienna, Budapest, Rome, Warsaw and elsewhere, as well as in solo recitals in the great European cities.

In 1952, Gabor Rejto and Yaltah Menuhin undertook an extensive tour of New Zealand together. Over a period of five weeks they gave about 25 concerts, to great critical acclaim. Gabor’s essay on the musical life of New Zealand follows below.

Rejto was a resident of the US from 1939 until his death in 1987. He was on the faculty of the Manhattan and Eastman Schools of Music and from 1954 to his death, was professor of cello at the University of Southern California. He was also the cellist in the Paganini and Hungarian String Quartets, among others, and was a founding member of the Alma Trio. His chamber music experience attracted many students to his Cello Workshops held throughout the United States.

Rejto was chosen Artist-Teacher of the Year at the American String Teachers Association’s 25th anniversary conference. He was a revered teacher who believed that students should be taught as individuals. One must be involved with them and be aware of their individual needs. Not only from the instrumental approach but also from a personal angle. A teacher has to be psychologist as well as instructor.

Musical life of New Zealand – Gabor Rejto

On the eve of my departure I feel like jotting down impressions I have received of the musical life of New Zealand while on tour with Yaltah Menuhin.

The month we have spent here was most gratifying. We found wonderful audiences with excellent response and readiness to take and enjoy chamber music. Again we became convinced that the so-called “musical education” many people think is necessary for the enjoyment of this musical idiom is not at all essential if the performance is better than adequate. More and more people should get the opportunity to hear first-rate music. To this end, many smaller towns should organise their own music societies and thus enable their community to hear good concerts by visiting artists. Of course, the question of a good hall and a fine piano is important. It is not enough to have a “concert grand” piano. The size is of no importance, especially if the hall is small. More important is the sound, the touch, the playing quality of the instrument. In the larger number of cases we have found good pianos; there were a few, however, which were not suitable, in the strict sense of the word, for concert work.

We were extremely pleased to find many young people at our concerts. Perhaps the most pleasant memories are of the school concerts we gave in Auckland and Wellington. Yet I found that the young music students feel rather discouraged and without any solid footing. The reason for this can be found in the severe shortage of music teachers. I sincerely believe that New Zealand urgently needs a conservatory of music where the many fine talents could be intensively trained and developed. How can there be a real future for music in New Zealand if the country cannot develop its own material and has to rely only on imported artists? Also, the National Orchestra will depend in time on new players, and a conservatory would be the logical place to procure the new musicians. I do hope that the Government will seriously consider this problem, which is one of great importance.

We leave with happy memories and heartfelt thanks for the warm friendliness and kindness we were greeted with everywhere we played. Special mention should be given to the New Zealand Federation of Chamber Music Societies and to the many music societies in various cities and towns, whose officers so unselfishly devote their time and efforts to foster the cause of chamber music in this country. May their work be crowned with the achievement of making good music not just part of a selected few but part of everybody throughout the Dominion.