One afternoon this spring, I found myself in a small practice room at the Royal Academy of Music in London, photographing a private masterclass led by György Pauk, Violin Professor at the Royal Academy and one of the greatest violinists of our time.
During the masterclass, I was hugely impressed by the performances of his students Kristine Balanas and Chieri Tomii, as they responded to the skill and guidance of the maestro.
Kristine Balanas from Latvia plays Beethoven’s violin sonata in G Major
Light catches the violin.
Chieri Tomii from Japan plays the Saint-Saëns Rondo Capriccioso.
It all began in Bangkok in May 2010 on a family day out in search of Sunday dim sum. We were in the car enjoying the sounds of home in the form of the Desert Island Discs podcast: Kirsty Young’s gentle brogue mixing with the rich Hungarian tones of György Pauk. His story transported me to my childhood and memories of my late father, Emil Rado, and his narrow escape from the terrible fate suffered by so many Hungarian Jews during the Second World War.
The coincidence did not end there however. I distantly remembered that György Pauk had stayed with my family when I was a small child, during one of his Scottish tours with pianist Peter Frankl. They were performing in Glasgow, and we had the extraordinary honour of hearing them rehearse for the concert in our home – the two filling our humble living room with sounds straight from heaven.
As I listened to the Kirsty Young interview, the similarities of Pauk’s and my father’s experiences in Hungary, both the charming and the tragic, became sharply apparent to me.
A year later we returned to the UK and during that time I had thought often of what a pleasure it would be to meet György again after so many years and to tell him how much I’d enjoyed the interview. This led to another set of coincidences: unable to find his contact details, I wrote to my Hungarian aunt Marika Somogyi in California on the remote off-chance she might know him – and discovered that she and György are great friends!
And so, after many decades, two years of daydreaming and some family assistance, I came to meet György Pauk once more. He and his wife Zsuzsi invited me for lunch and we spoke of the many things that brought our families together. Finding a little courage before I left, I asked if I could photograph him at some point. I was delighted when he invited me to take photographs at one of his private masterclasses.
And so I had the privilege of spending a most beautiful afternoon at the Royal Academy of Music.
György Pauk will hold his next public masterclass this Friday 11 May in the David Josefowitz Recital Hall, Royal Academy of Music, London. I greatly look forward to being there – do come along if you can make it!