The recent passing away of the Stellenbosch flautist Éva Tamássy on 30 November 2018 was lamented by all music lovers. A memorial service took place at the Dove’s Chapel, Somerset West, during which Gabriele von Dürckheim and Liesl Stoltz, with guitarist Michael Hoole, performed music by CPE Bach and Jules Massenet.
Tamássy was a well-known personality in especially music circles of the Western Cape. As gifted instrumentalist she played a significant role in the promotion of music for the flute, and appeared as member of a variety of ensembles. She was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1936, and received her music education at the Ferenc Erkel Conservatorium and Franz Liszt Music Academy, Budapest, and studied later with French flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal. Escaping from Hungary with her parents after the 1956 uprising, she settled in Johannesburg and soon established herself as broadcaster, recitalist, chamber musician and concerto soloist. She obtained the Unisa Performers’ Licentiate in Flute with distinction in 1965, and made many recordings for the SABC radio.
Since her appointment as flute lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch (1960) she was lauded for her chamber music concerts of Baroque music together with artists such as Shirley Gie (organ), Dalena Roux (cello) and Boudewijn Scholten (harpsichord). She played and broadcast regularly in concerts with ensembles such as Musica Antiqua, Serenade Ensemble, Pro Arte Wind Ensemble, Tamássy-Fortescue Duo, Concerts 4 x 2, and the Tamássy Flute Quartet. In the early 1990s she compiled and presented a 13-part series for radio called From Shepherd to Symphony. Illustrated radio programmes also focused on the French flute virtuoso and pedagogue Marcel Moyse, and on Theobald Boehm, composer and inventor of the modern flute. Besides teaching she also presented masterclasses – in Stellenbosch, Cape Town and Pecs (Hungary).
During her professional career she never backed away from the challenges of contemporary music, as is testified by her performance of Berio’s Sequenza. Several local composers dedicated works to her, including Arnold van Wyk’s only composition for flute, Poerpasledam (a corruption of the French Pour passer le temps) for flute and piano. At the first performance of the work in 1981 Tamássy was accompanied by the composer. Other composers include Paul Loeb van Zuilenburg, Hubert du Plessis and Roelof Temmingh.
Flute compositions Temmingh wrote for her include his Façade for flute and piano (1971, revised 1973), Nude for flute and piano (1973), a Sonatine for flute and guitar (1977), Moedverloor op A-mol for 12 flautists (premièred by 24 players in 1974), a Flute Quartet (1975), Psalm 42 for five flutes and bassoon (1976), a Quartet for flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon, Last Pieces no 2 for unaccompanied flute solo (subtitled by Tamássy as Nostalgia) (1987) and a Flute Concerto (premièred by Tamássy and the USSO in 1989).
Tamássy made regular visits to Europe to keep abreast of the latest flute teaching methods, and to pave the way for her students to study in Europe in the music schools in Germany, France, England and Hungary. In collaboration with pianist Virginia Fortescue the duo gave public recitals in Vienna, Budapest, Scotland and France between 1990 and 1996 and a recital on Radio Budapest. She was also an editor of scores, and arranged Hungarian music such as folk songs for flute and piano.
After retirement in 1998 until shortly before her death Tamássy still played regularly, and maintained the tutoring of a handful of pupils at her house. She is remembered fondly by her family and friends, and she is honoured, in particular, by the numerous flute players whom she trained and mentored during almost sixty years of teaching.
Her former students will honour her legacy in several ways. As a tribute to her, a concert dedicated to the flute, directed by Gabriele von Dürckheim, is planned for 2019 at the Music Department, Stellenbosch University. Tamássy’s valuable collection of sheet music will find a permanent home in the library of the Johnman Music Centre in Herte Street. Some of her ex-students, Marietjie Pauw, Mariëtte Schumann and Linda de Villiers, have established ‘The Tamássy Hour’, open to all flautists, for regular sight reading sessions, and playing music from the Tamássy Collection.
Written by Prof Izak Grové & Marietjie Pauw