My Road to Radio and The Vocal Scene

Memoir of an Opera Commentator


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About the Book

Born in Ujpest, Hungary, in 1919, George Jellinek began his musical career playing violin with gypsies in the family’s garden restaurant. He spent his adolescence doing much the same, honing his talent and enriching his own musical education with frequent trips to the Hungarian Royal Opera House. But when Hitler and Chamberlain signed the Munich Pact in 1938, Jellinek’s quiet life was shattered. How the exiled teenager survived World War II, worked his way up from a poor Hungarian immigrant in Cuba and became one of the most important and influential musical administrators in New York is an unconventional but truly American success story.
This memoir documents the inspiring life of George Jellinek, beginning with his childhood in his beloved Hungary. The crisis of World War II soon invaded his life and, leaving behind his family and homeland, he fled west. Having been finally allowed to enter the United States, he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942, obligated to bear arms against the country of his birth. This ironic turn of events culminated in his firsthand role in the capture of Ferenc Szálasi, the leader of Hungary’s Hitlerite faction.
The latter half of the book reveals how music helped Jellinek piece back together his broken life in America. After rising to the post of musical director for radio station WQXR, he went on to become the producer and host of The Vocal Scene. His 36 years with that program established it as a revered fixture of New York’s opera life.
The epilogue documents the day on which Hungary’s president bestowed upon Jellinek the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary.

About the Author(s)

George Jellinek is music director emeritus of Radio Station WQXR, owned by The New York Times. He lives in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

Bibliographic Details

George Jellinek
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 251
Bibliographic Info: 37 photos, index
Copyright Date: 2007
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2823-6
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8053-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      v

1. Prologue      1
2. Childhood      3
3. School Years      7
4. Hastened Maturity      11
5. The Royal Hungarian Opera House      16
6. Farewell to Europe      23
7. At Sea      28
8. Havana (1939–1941)      34
9. First Year in the USA      40
10. The U.S. Army—Stateside      46
11. Camp Ritchie and Fort Benning: Two Important Landmarks      52
12. England, France—And Some Opera      59
13. The End of the Third Reich      65
14. Salzburg, and My Moment in History      72
15. Back to Hungary      77
16. Homecoming      84
17. Civilian Life and Musical Beginnings      88
18. Copyrights, Country Music—and Callas      98
19. Music in the Background      115
20. Early Radio Days      126
21. Beginnings of The Vocal Scene      133
22. The Workaholic Years      141
23. Matters of the Heart      158
24. A Pseudo-retirement      170
25. Years of Travel      183
26. Writing a Book—Slowly      194
27. Memorable Vocal Scene Moments      204
28. Closing the Cycle      213

Epilogue      230
Index      237

Book Reviews & Awards

“George Jellinek’s knowledge about music and especially about singing is so vast, it leaves one open-mouthed with amazement”—Samuel Ramey, bass-baritone; “what a great book…[Jellinek] gave us some of the greatest vocal listening on radio for so many years”—Marilyn Horne, mezzosoprano; “one of the great treasures of radio broadcasting. Jellinek wonderfully dealt with the lives of the great vocal artists who appeared on his program in rare recordings”—Janet Malcolm, The New Yorker; “gives us a glimpse into the life of this extraordinary man”—Renée Fleming, soprano.