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Table of contents What's This?
  • Access to Collection
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Biographical / Historical

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: Department of Special Collections and University Archives
    Title: Sandor Salgo Papers
    Creator: Salgo, Sandor.
    Identifier/Call Number: SC0870
    Identifier/Call Number: 16807
    Physical Description: 31.25 Linear Feet
    Date (inclusive): 1939-2005

    Access to Collection

    The materials are open for research use. Audio-visual materials are not available in original format, and must be reformatted to a digital use copy.

    Publication Rights

    All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, California 94305-6064. Consent is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission from the copyright owner. Such permission must be obtained from the copyright owner, heir(s) or assigns. See: http://library.stanford.edu/depts/spc/pubserv/permissions.html.
    Restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

    Preferred Citation

    [identification of item], Sandor Salgo Papers (SC0870). Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.

    Biographical / Historical

    Professor emeritus of Music, Sandor Salgo conducted the Marin Symphony for 33 years (1956-1989), the Carmel Bach Festival for 35 years (1956-1991), the San Jose Symphony for 19 years (1951-1970), and the Modesto Symphony for nine years (1951-1970). For 24 years during that period, as professor of music at Stanford University, he conducted its symphony and opera program (1949-1974).
    With the Marin Symphony, at Carmel and Stanford, he introduced more works to the Bay Area than any other conductor. These included in Marin the first West Coast performance of Britten's War Requiem, Honegger's Jeanne d'arc au bûcher, Dutilleux, Frank Martin, Szymanowski's and Milhaud's Second Violin Concertos, and Virgil Thomson's Mother of Us All.
    He developed the Carmel Bach Festival from a local event into a nationally recognized celebration of Bach's music, with three weeks of concerts and recitals, and performances of the cantatas and of one of the Passions or the B Minor Mass each year. Often an opera was featured, with memorable performances of Beethoven's Fidelio, Monteverdi's Orfeo, and Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, Il Clemenza di Tito, Magic Flute, and Don Giovanni. Performing an extraordinary span of the Baroque repertory and works from the Classical period, he pursued a middle road between the romantic and modern sensibility and the viewpoint of early music revivalists.
    Sandor Salgo was raised in Budapest, Hungary, where he graduated from the Liszt Academy in 1928, after which he studied music in Berlin with the great violin master Carl Flesch and in Dresden with the distinguished conductor Fritz Busch. The conducting teacher to whom he said he owed the most was George Szell, whom he studied with much later, in Princeton in the 1940s. In the 1930s, he played in several orchestras, including the Budapest Opera, where he played under Dohnányi, Richard Strauss, Erich Kleiber, Bruno Walter, and Hans Knappertsbusch, and, for three weeks, at Bayreuth under Toscanini. While Salgo returned to Europe later in his life, he refused ever to visit Hungary or even speak Hungarian, because of the repressive government during his youth, the anti-Semitism, and in the Nazi years, the holocaust.
    Sandor Salgo began his professional career as a violinist with the Roth String Quartet. In 1937, he came to the United States for the first time on a tour with the Quartet. Two years later, he was offered a job teaching music at the Westminster Choir College in Princeton, where he stayed 10 years, and met and married his wife, Priscilla. In Princeton, after attending one of Salgo's orchestra concerts in 1942, Albert Einstein expressed his written appreciation, "Mr. Sandor Salgo is a musician of high standing. The concert he gave ... has made a deep impression on me." Later, the two met to play violin duets by Vivaldi. Salgo recalled that Einstein was not a very good violinist, and that once, one of the musicians in a string quartet with which he was playing shouted at him, "What's the matter with you, Albert? Can't you count?"
    After three years of wartime service as a musician in the U.S. Army, he joined the Stanford University faculty and conducted the orchestra in an increasingly adventurous repertory that included works of Bartók, Kodaly, Copland, Dutilleux, Sessions, Carter, and Berg. Milhaud's Stanford Serenade was dedicated to the distinguished Los Angeles oboist Donald Leake, who had played at the Carmel Festival, as well as to Salgo and the Stanford Orchestra, who together gave its premiere in 1970. Salgo conducted the Stanford Opera in major company repertory that included Verdi's Falstaff and the West Coast premieres of Stravinsky's Rake's Progress and Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges, as well as operas by Mozart, Gluck, Dvorák, Poulenc, Foss, Moore, and Dallapiccola. He "discovered" Jess Thomas, then a graduate student there, and gave the tenor his first roles.
    The courses he taught were popular, in particular his Beethoven course, which he gave for some 10 years. One year it had the second-highest enrollment of any course at Stanford, second, he recalled with much amusement, to a course in sexual behavior. The impact of his teaching was once attributed to "a combination of his courtly, European manner and the force of his scholarship and knowledge" and a "gentle, down-to-earth quality to his lectures, which are designed to help listeners make more sense of classical music." "The only way to understand music is to see how it is put together," he said. "It is what is behind those notes. It is the poetry of it." One of his more celebrated students, the late Denis de Coteau, former music director of the San Francisco Ballet, who received the DMA degree under Salgo in 1964, recalled, "When I went to work with him at his home, I didn't feel like I was a student. I felt like a friend. He has a humanness about him."
    Following retirement in 1974, he continued to give lectures on the campus and for alumni, and wrote a book, Thomas Jefferson, Musician and Violinist, in 2000. It was Jefferson, and specifically the Declaration of Independence, that he devoured as a 16-year-old and who inspired his earliest dreams of America. Awards he received included the Dinkelspiel Award for Outstanding Service to Undergraduate Students and the French government's Chevalier des arts et lettres.
    Salgo was perfectly suited to the role he was to play, not only in musical gifts, training, and experience, but also in temperament and style, which was gracious and patiently insistent — ideal for dealing with the range of musicians he faced here and the patrons. As one of his leading former students, Mark Volkert, assistant concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony, was quoted as saying in Salgo's oral history about his B Minor Mass performances, "No one captures the drama of the piece like Mr. Salgo. He's always scholarly, never mannered, and he captures the emotions just precisely. ... It was a romantic style, but beyond that there were the emotions that were lacking in what is called the authentic style." As an interpreter above all, Salgo devoted himself to making the expressive or spiritual message utterly clear and involving.
    He died Jan 20, 2007. He was survived by his wife of 63 years, Priscilla, a daughter, Debra Danove, and grandsons Daniel and Michael, of Chicago.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Orchestral music, Arranged
    Musical performances
    Music -- Study and teaching