Born: June 7, 1933 - Budapest, Hungary
Died: May 14, 2010 - Victoria, BC, Canada
The Hungarian-born Canadian conductor, János Sándor, graduated with distinction from the “Franz Liszt” Academy of Music in Budapest. As a student at the Academy he won 3rd prize at the Besançon (France) International Conductors Competition.
From 1961 to 1975 János Sándor was Principal Conductor of the Györ Philharmonic Orchestra and Music Director of Opera Pecs, both in Hungary. In 1975 he was appointed Conductor of the Budapest State Opera and from 1986 to 1989 he was Head of the Music Department of the Academy of Drama and Film in Budapest.
János Sándor conducted Hungary’s top symphony orchestras and has appeared as a guest conductor with numerous other orchestras in more than twenty countries. His interest in young people led to his involvement with many youth orchestras, including the Festivals of Canadian Youth Orchestras in Banff, Alberta, where he conducted the Gala concert of the inaugural festival in 1974. A founding member of Jeunesses Musicales in Hungary, he regularly conducted the International Orchestra of the “Jeunesses” camp at Pecs, and was an invited guest conductor at International Youth Orchestra Festivals in Switzerland and Scotland.
Since coming to Canada in 1991, János Sándor was guest conductor with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, the CBC Vancouver Orchestra, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, the Victoria International Festival Orchestra, the Civic Orchestra of Victoria as well as the Sonor Ensemble of San Diego. His first appearance as Guest Conductor of the Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra was in spring 1995. In September 1995 he joined the University of Victoria as Artist-in-Residence, and Music Director and Conductor of the University of Victoria Orchestra and Chorus. He was appointed Music Director of the Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra in 1998. He was featured in the Gala concert celebrating the opening of CBC Victoria in October, 1998, and the following spring he was Special Guest Conductor for the Ontario Festival of Youth Orchestras. In April 2000 he directed the combined musical forces of the UVic Orchestra and the GVYO, together with the UVic Chorus and a specially auditioned children’s choir in the first-ever performances on Vancouver Island of Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony of a Thousand”.
János Sándor made more than 30 recordings. His recording for Hungaroton of Béla Bartók’s Miraculous Mandarin, Dance Suite and Hungarian Peasant Songs, in the complete edition of Béla Bartók's works, qualified as one of “the best five recordings of the year”, in Hi-Fi News, and it was awarded the Arthur Honegger Prize of the Grand Prix Nationale du Disque.
János Sándor lived in Victoria with his wife Maria (a violinist) and their two children. A recipient of the two awards of merit from his native Hungary, he retained his ties there as Permanent Guest Conductor of the Budapest State Opera and as Music Director Laureate and Honourary Life Member of the Györ Philharmonic Orchestra. János Sándor died on May 14, 2010 after a lengthy battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife, Maria, a professional violinist whom he met while conducting in Gyor, almost 37 years ago. They have two children, a daughter, Gabi and son, Zsolt.