The Budapest String Quartet existed from 1917 until 1967, spanning two world wars. Their beautifully described history reads like a veritable who’s who of musicians of the time. They were founded in inspiration of famous violinist Hubay and cellist Popper (both nowadays better known as composers). These were members of an earlier Budapest String Quartet from which this one took its name.
They started with three Hungarians and a Dutchman, in then Hungarian Kolozsvár (now Cluj-Napoca in Rumania). In 1967 they consisted of four Russians in America. They had strict rules, but that didn’t stop them from bickering and arguing. During their existence they went through no less than seven second violinists.
The last founding member, Ipolyi, left in 1936. I mention him specifically, because he was also the last ‘Spitzen’ player. He was never able to play spiccato (in German: Springbogen), a technique where the bow is bouncing on the strings. He substituted that with a similar technique called Spitzen, where kind of the same sound is made by playing staccato at the tip of the bow. This substitution was gave them both fame and was the target of ridicule everywhere they went.
The height of their international fame was in the Sixties, when they finally were able have decent lives off their income from playing. Around that time three of the players formed a new quartet, the Guarneri Quartet. After fifty years the quartet was disbanded.