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.
May 10, 2012 - 8:27 am Claire - Fabulous pictures Jackie. As usual you bring out the character of your subjects so clearly. Great story of how you got to be involved too! Claire
May 10, 2012 - 3:50 pm Gyorgy Pauk - Dearest Jackie, Wonderful work, many thanks for your lovely photos and all the effort you have put in to produce this Blog. Gyorgy X
May 10, 2012 - 9:18 pm Chris Bidde - Fascinating Story & wonderful photos!
May 11, 2012 - 1:49 am Ali Evans - Wow! These photos are simply stunning, Jackie! As a musician myself, I love the way you've caught his expressions whilst playing and teaching, angles you've caught of the instruments, and the character of the wonderful man himself. What a beautiful face he has, and captured so lovingly in these black and white portraits. Moving stuff. I cannot wait to see him give his masterclass at the RAM tomorrow night!
May 11, 2012 - 3:25 am jackierado - Thank you György, I’m so happy to have met you again after all these years! And what a joy to spend time with you and your students in your masterclass – thank you for a beautiful afternoon. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.
May 11, 2012 - 4:13 am jackierado - Great to hear from you all, thank you for your lovely comments! Can’t wait to see you at the masterclass tomorrow, Ali, what a treat that you will be there.
May 11, 2012 - 7:37 am JJ Beattie - What a wonderful story, Jackie. I wish I could've heard it over a cup of coffee in Bangkok! jxxx
May 15, 2012 - 3:33 am laura - Really lively and fresh pictures Jackie. It looks like you had great fun photographing him. Laura
May 18, 2012 - 4:16 am Mike English - Another great portfolio. You were right to present in monochrome it adds to the drama of the occasion. I can almost feel the fun and humour in the session coupled with a serious focus on the music.
May 19, 2012 - 4:56 am James - Wonderful pictures, Jackie! What fantastic expressions you've captured on his lively face! I also remember the time György and Peter stayed with you, and I too had the honour of meeting them both. How lovely that you've been able to meet again after all these years, and what a great set of photos has come out of it! Sorry I couldn't make the masterclass.
May 19, 2012 - 3:20 pm jackierado - How wonderful you remember, James, so many years ago but so memorable. Would have been great to see you at the masterclass - truly inspiring, maybe next time! Laura, thanks for your lovely comments, you may remember meeting György..? Coffee in Bangkok sounds fab, Jenny! Let's catch up in London when you're next over. Lovely to hear from you, Mike, hope our paths cross again when we next make it to Oundle!