Sandor Salgo arrives at Stanford

The Hungarian-born American conductor, violinist and scholar, Sandor Salgo, was born into a Jewish family in Budapest. He attended the Franz Liszt academy of Music in Budapest where he studied violin; his teachers included Imre Waldbauer, Leó Weiner, Zoltán Kodály, and Béla Bartók. He graduated in 1928. Further violin studies followed with the great violin master Carl Flesch in Dresden (1928) and with the distinguished conductor Fritz Busch in Berlin (1929). The conducting teacher to whom he said he owed the most was George Szell, with whom he studied much later, in Princeton in the 1940’s.

Sandor Salgo began his professional career as a violinist with the Roth String Quartet. In the 1930’s, he played in several European orchestras. He was concertmaster of the Kings Theater Orchestra, Budapest (Budapest Opera), where he played under Dohnányi, Richard Strauss, Erich Kleiber, Bruno Walter, and Hans Knappertsbusch. For three weeks he played violin under Wilhelm Furtwängler and Arturo Toscanini at Bayreuth. He also studied conducting with Richard Strauss in Switzerland in the summer of 1935.

In 1949 at the instigation of Loran Crosten – the first chairman of Stanford University’s two-year-old Music Department – and the invitation of President J.E. Wallace Sterling, Sandor Salgo came to Stanford and was warmly received by student musicians who were fascinated by the brilliance of his musicianship and conducting. At Stanford, Salgo taught courses on the literature of the symphony, the concerto and the education of conductors. He was equally successful in his courses for non-music students, in particular his L.v. Beethoven course, which he gave for some 10 years. One year it had the second-highest enrollment of any course at Stanford, second, he recalled with much amusement, to a course in sexual behavior.

Although the orchestra was the hub of instrumental music, Salgo carefully organized chamber music ensembles under his own supervision and that of student assistants, because he believed that the foundation of good ensemble in the orchestra was to be learned in playing chamber music; three or four concerts were scheduled every quarter played by quartets, duos or trios with piano, or wind ensembles. Musicians from other departments, faculty and townspeople – many with considerable skill and devotion to music – took part in performances. Distinguished physicists, medical doctors, mathematicians, poets, all combined in harmony with student musicians.

Awards accumulated: the German Order of Merit First Class for furthering German music (1972), the Dinkelspiel Award for Outstanding Service to Undergraduate Education from Stanford’s President, Richard Lyman (1974), then Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French government for furthering French music (1981).