Hungarian Conductor Jšnos F‹rst Dies at 71

Classic Arts News   Hungarian Conductor Jšnos F‹rst Dies at 71
Jšnos F‹rst, a Hungarian violinist and conductor, died on January 3 at 71 of cancer, reports the Associated Press.

The news was first announced by Sšndor Gy‹di, director of the Szeged Symphony Orchestra in southern Hungary, where F‹rst had been artistic director since 2002.

Born in Budapest in 1935, F‹rst studied violin in the Hungarian capital's Liszt Academy. He left Hungary in November 1956 after that year's anti-Soviet uprising and studied at the Brussels Conservatory, where he won the Premier Prix.

F‹rst moved to Dublin in 1958 to take up a post as violinist with the Radio ê_ireann Symphony Orchestra; in 1963 he founded the Irish Chamber Orchestra. He was appointed the Ulster Orchestra's first-ever conductor after the ensemble was founded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 1966. A few years later he became assistant conductor, before leaving Belfast in June 1971.

He was to have returned this week to conduct the Ulster Orchestra in concerts with pianist Barry Douglas in Dublin's National Concert Hall. In a statement on the orchestra's website, David Byers, the orchestra's chief executive said, "This is the orchestra's 40th birthday season and we had been particularly looking forward to welcoming Jšnos back because he was our first-ever Leader [concertmaster] and Assistant Conductor before his conducting career took off. I remember some of those concerts he directed and there was so often a real buzz of excitement and sheer vitality about them."

Following his London debut in 1972, when he replaced an indisposed Rudolf Kempe at the Royal Festival Hall, F‹rst conducted the London Symphony and the Royal Philharmonic. He held posts as chief conductor and music director of orchestras in Malm‹ (Sweden), Aalborg (Denmark) and Dublin; he was chief guest conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra for a number of years. In 1987 he succeeded Bryden Thomson as principal conductor of the RTê_ Symphony Orchestra in Dublin; from 1990 to 1994, he was principal conductor of the Musikkollegium Winterthur Orchestra in Switzerland.

F‹rst was no stranger to the opera house: he served as music director of the Marseilles Opera for nine years and was also a regular guest conductor at English National Opera, Scottish Opera and at the Royal Stockholm Opera. He also taught conducting at the National Conservatory of Music in Paris.

He frequently worked with numerous youth orchestras, including the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain; he was recently invited to become Head of Orchestral Conducting at the Royal College of Music in London.

Other orchestras with which F‹rst worked regularly with included the Helsinki Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Hall_ Orchestra, Prague Radio Symphony, BBC Philharmonic, RTL Orchestra (Luxembourg), Orchestre National de Lyon and Milwaukee Symphony; in Australia, he conducted the Melbourne and West Australian Symphony Orchestras.

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