Tribute to a flautist extraordinaire

Éva Tamássy

Éva Tamássy, who passed away last week from a heart attack at the age of 82, had lectured in flute at the Department of Music, Stellenbosch University, from 1960 until her retirement in 1998.

Up until her passing she played the flute regularly, and gave flute lessons to a handful of pupils in her studio at her home in Bo-Dalsig in Stellenbosch.

She is remembered fondly by her family, friends, and she is honoured, in particular, by the numerous flute players whom she trained and mentored during her almost 60 years of teaching.

During her concert-playing years, Éva presented solo and chamber concerts throughout the Western Cape and further afield, with a curiosity that included the preparation of contemporary music such as Berio’s Sequenza, and arrangements for flute.

She gave master classes in Stellenbosch, Cape Town and Pécs, Hungary. She also premièred numerous local composer’s compositions that were written for her, including composers Roelof Temmingh, Paul Loeb van Zuilenburg, and Hubert du Plessis. Arnold van Wyk’s only composition for flute, Poerpasledam for flute and piano, was also written for her, with him accompanying her on the performance in 1981.

Compositions by Temmingh, for Éva, include Façade for flute and piano (1971 revised 1973), Nude for flute and piano (1973), Sonatine for flute and guitar (1977), Moedverloor op A mol for 12 flutists (premièred by 24 players in 1974), Flute Quartet (four flutes, (1975), Psalm 42, verse 1, 2 and 3 for five flutes and bassoon (1976), Quartet for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, Last Pieces no 2 for unaccompanied flute solo (subtitled by Éva as Nostalgia) (1987), and the Flute Concerto (premièred by Éva and the USSO in 1989, with two performances on both sides of the interval, and with Temmingh conducting).

Éva was born in Budapest, Hungary, and received her music education at the Ferenc Erkel Conservatorium and Franz Liszt Music Academy, Budapest, and later with French flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal.

She obtained the Unisa Performers’ Licentiate in Flute with distinction in 1965.

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 player with South African symphony orchestras.

She recorded for radio and performed in concert halls with various musicians, including numerous Baroque compositions for flute and harpsichord/ organ.

Éva has played and broadcasted with the ensembles Musica Antiqua, Serenade Ensemble, Pro Arte Wind Ensemble, Tamassy-Fortescue Duo, Concerts 4 x 2, The Tamassy Flute Quartet.

She compiled and presented a 13-part series for radio called From Shepherd to Symphony in the early 1990s. Illustrated radio programmes also focused on French flute virtuoso and pedagogue Marcel Moyse, and on Theobald Boehm, composer and inventor of the modern flute.

Éva traveled to Europe regularly to keep abreast of the newest 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.

The Tamassy-Fortescue Duo gave public recitals in Vienna, Budapest, Scotland and France between 1990 and 1996, and was invited for a recital on Radio Budapest.

Éva was also an editor of scores, and arranged Hungarian music such as folk songs for flute and piano.

Her former students will honour her legacy in several ways. Under direction of Gabriele von Dürckheim, a flute music concert in her tribute is planned to be held at the music department, University of Stellenbosch, in 2019.

Under my administration, Éva’s sheet music will be set up as a public library at the Johnman Music Centre, 8 Herte Street.

Her students, including myself, Mariëtte Schumann and Linda de Villiers, have instituted “The Tamássy Hour”, open to all flutists, for regular sight reading sessions, also playing music from the collection of music that Éva Tamássy built up.

A memorial service for Éva is to be held at the Dove’s Chapel, 334 Main Street, Somerset West, today, Wednesday December 12, at 2pm. Her former students, Gabriele von Dürckheim and Liesl Stoltz, will play music by CPE Bach and Massenet during the service.

Dr Marietjie Pauw is a former pupil of Éva Tamássy, a friend, and she wrote this article based on interviews with her in 1998, as well as biographies compiled for tribute concerts, such as the 75th birthday concert given to her in 2011.

Dr Pauw is also a Mellon postdoctoral researcher musician at Africa Open Music Institute, Stellenbosch University, and a flute coach at Johnman Music Centre.