The Végh Quartet was not only one of the finest string quartets from mid-twentieth century Europe, but its style was never subjected to radical change over the years from personnel changes because the four original players remained members for 38 of the 40 years of the ensemble's existence. Its style evolved in subtle ways, of course, but its essential character endured until 1978: the quartet was Central European in its sound, with a bit more prominence given to the cello in order to build tonal qualities from the bottom upward. The Végh Quartet was best known for its cycles -- two each -- of the Beethoven and Bartók quartets. It also performed and recorded many of the Haydn quartets, as well as numerous other staples of the repertory by Mozart, Schumann, Brahms, and Debussy. For a group that disbanded in 1980, its recordings are still quite popular, with major efforts available in varied reissues from Music & Arts, Archipel, Naïve, and Orfeo.
The Végh Quartet was founded in 1940 by its eponymic first violinist Sándor Végh. The other original members were Sándor Zöldy (second violin), Georges Janzer (viola), and Paul Szabó (cello). The war years were hardly productive for the group, but in 1946 the Végh players settled in France and launched their international career. Soon they were making regular concert tours across the globe with great critical acclaim, and their first major recordings appeared in the early '50s: six quartets by Mozart (K. 387, 421, 458, 464, 575, and 590) in 1951-1952 on the André Charlin label and the complete Beethoven quartets in 1952 on the Les Discophiles Français label. The complete Bartók quartets came in 1954 on EMI and met with the same critical success.
The ensemble's reputation flourished in the 1960s and '70s, even though Sándor Végh had developed a parallel conducting career and had always been active as a music teacher, first in Switzerland, then in Germany and Austria. The group continued making international tours and issued numerous successful recordings during this period, including remakes of the Beethoven quartets (1972-1974, on Auvidis/Valois) and the Bartók six (1972, on Astrée). In 1978 Zöldy and Janzer left the group and were replaced by violinist Philipp Naegele and violist Bruno Giuranna. Végh himself took up a conducting post that same year in Salzburg with the Salzburg Camerata Academica. The group disbanded two years later.