Sándor Vándor, composer: born today 1901; murdered by Nazis 1945


Material from The *OREL Foundation website

Thanks to the choir named after him, Vándor is not entirely unknown. He even merited twelve lines in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. But his work as a composer and educator is largely forgotten. From 1920 on, Vándor (originally Venetianer; Miskolc, July 28, 1901– Sopronbánfalva, January 14, 1945) studied in Berlin and then as Paul Graener’s composition student at the Leipzig Music Academy, from which he graduated. He worked as an opera répétiteur in Italy from 1924 until he returned to Hungary in 1932, after which he worked as an opera conductor and répétiteur and led several workers’ choirs without payment. He conducted the choir that eventually took his name from 1936 until November 1944, when he was taken to Sopronbánfalva by the Hungarian Nazis and died under torture.

As a conductor, Vándor consistently promoted works by Bartók and Kodály, and he published articles about Bartók, Kodály, Mussorgsky and Shostakovich. In addition to Hungarian, he was fluent in German, Russian, English, French, Italian and Spanish. In 1940, during his three-month Ruthenian forced labor period, he learned Ruthenian and collected Ruthenian folksongs. Although as a composer Vándor was best known for his choral works, he was prolific in many genres and was well received by audiences and critics alike. Distinguished artists, such as the pianist György Sándor and the singer Vera Rózsa, performed at concerts of Vándor’s compositions, which include instrumental, chamber, orchestral, vocal/choral and stage works. Only one of Vándor’s compositions was published during his lifetime: The Machine, for piano solo, won the silver medal at an international competition for piano compositions in Eastern Europe in 1934. His second opera was left unfinished at the time of his death.

Many of Vándor’s forty or more compositions were published posthumously, but they are not easy to come by. Many – perhaps all – of his manuscripts survive.

Molnár writes that some of Vándor’s songs are among the treasures of Hungarian Lieder, and Fejes (1967) analyzes the String Quartet, the Sonatina for solo viola, First Sonata for violin and piano, other instrumental and chamber works, several songs, choral works and Vándor’s only completed opera, which was written in the Brecht/Weill mode. Fejes emphasizes what he describes as Vándor’s revolutionary choral chansons, the best of which – “Mondd, mit érlel” (“What will become of him”) – combines Hungarian folksong elements with 20th-century workers’ songs à la Hanns Eisler. Vándor arranged folksongs of many nations; his most substantial Hungarian folksong arrangement was The Ballad of Anna Fehér for solo female voice, mixed choir and piano (1941).

Here’s an example of his music, Air for cello and piano, but performed here with harp.

The OREL Foundation

  • Founded by James Conlon, one of the world’s most important and successful advocates for the music of composers suppressed by the Nazis
  • Maintains the world’s most valued web site on the topic of music suppressed by the Nazis
  • Encourages the performance of this music by professional and pre-professional musicians
  • Serves as a major resource through its web site and through consultation for musicians and organizations seeking information and guidance in the preparation of programs featuring music by suppressed composers
  • Raises awareness in the academic community of the importance of these composers in the history of twentieth-century music
  • Provides lectures and multi-media programs, often with live music, for organizations and institutions
  • Constantly seeks new ways to bring greater attention to the music, lives and influence of composers suppressed by the Nazis

One thought on “Sándor Vándor, composer: born today 1901; murdered by Nazis 1945

  1. I heard Vandor’s “The Machine” on a recital CD almost 15 years ago and I’ve been trying to find sheet music for it ever since! I would love to play it. Does anyone know where I can find the score?

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