Lajos Szamosi’s Life

Lajos Szamosi was born in 1894 in Csenger, Northeast Hungary, in the house of his grandfather, who was a tenant farmer. He spent his early years in this orthodox Jewish household. Later, his parents moved to Nagyvárad (now Oradea, Romania) where, besides going to primary school, the young Lajos also went to a Yeshiva. Even as a child, he wanted to learn music, but his parents were against it. Nonetheless, he did learn the basics of music from the local Cantor. Everything else he learned later from private teachers.
During these years, Nagyvárad was a cultural and artistic center often called the ‘little Paris’. A number of young writers, poets, and future public figures of great promise were flocking around Endre Ady, the celebrated Hungarian poet of the age. Musical life was thriving, and touring musicians who came to Budapest all visited Nagyvárad as well. So the young and curious Lajos had the good fortune early in life to get a taste of this atmosphere. Later, he started writing music criticism for Nagyváradi Napló (The Nagyváradi Journal). He experimented quite successfully with writing poetry as well but soon realized that his true calling was music.

When Nagyvárad was annexed to Romania as Oradea after World War I, Lajos moved to Budapest where he found accommodations with one of his father’s friends, a well-known Cantor. Szamosi learned a lot from him about music and singing. – Now he had the chance to make his long-held dream of studying singing come true. He started to take lessons from a famous voice teacher of the day, Emil Makai, and he also began serious studies in other fields of music to make up for time lost during the previous years. – When, after a while, he felt that his teacher could not solve the vocal problem that blocked his development, he tried taking lessons from other teachers, but again to no effect. Then he decided to search for a teacher abroad. First, he went to Vienna, then he moved on to Berlin, where he spent more than two years. He took lessons for shorter or longer periods from several famous teachers and audited lessons taught by others, but he had the same experience there as in his own lessons: teachers could not solve vocal problems. In his search, he made contact with the famous soprano, Lilly Lehmann (Meine Gesangskunst), who was a great artist and an associate of Wagner. He learned a great deal from her about art.

Berlin, which in the 1920’s was enjoying a golden age, offered Szamosi a great opportunity for development. He had a chance to listen to concerts and go to opera performances led by the greatest conductors (eg. Bruno Walter, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Erich Kleiber, Otto Klemperer) and sung by outstanding singers (eg. Sigrid Onegin, Maria Ivogün, Friedrich Schorr, etc.) He regularly visited the rehearsals of the famous oratorio conductor, Siegfried Ochs. His artistic standards and requirements were developed through his exposure to these examples.