It has been a sad year for the Hunt Family with the deaths of Melbourne cello icon Marianne in June, aged 93, and her daughter, Canadian-based cellist Tanya Prochazka (née Hunt) in May, aged 63.
Both Marianne and Tanya were closely associated with AYO: Marianne and her husband Kenneth were dormitory hosts at National Music Camps in the late 1960s, and Marianne was also a cello tutor; Tanya was a veteran of many Camps and AYO seasons and was soloist on the 1970 Japan tour.
Still teaching at 89, Marianne was a dearly loved Melbourne cello teacher and made an inestimable contribution to Melbourne cellists and cello culture. Of her hundreds of students (at her peak she taught 60 per week), dozens have made cello their career. She owes the introduction of cello into her life to an imaginative father who, after seeing Pavlova dance to The Swan in Melbourne in about 1930, thought it would be a good idea to buy a cello, just in case one of his children wanted to take it up! When Marianne’s brother tried it and gave up, it was Marianne’s turn… Her first teacher was Gwen Prockter, then of the Melbourne Symphony.
She entered the University of Melbourne Conservatorium of Music as a first study pianist, but Henri Touzeau, her cello teacher, persuaded her to switch to cello first study, saying she would get straight into the MSO at the end of her course. Henri, who had studied with Paul Bazelaire in Paris, helped Marianne unstintingly toward this goal and she joined the Symphony in 1946.
But Henri’s description of Bazelaire inspired Marianne to get to Paris, where she studied from 1949 to 1952. A signed photo of Bazelaire stood permanently on the piano in Marianne’s teaching studio, testament to his enormous influence on her musical life. She kept devotedly in touch with his widow Monique, last seeing her in Paris in 2008.
After a failed wartime marriage to poet and artist Frank Kellaway, in 1955 Marianne married British born Kenneth Hunt, founding Dean of Engineering at Monash University, but also a fine clarinettist who played professionally in Melbourne. In marrying Kenneth, also a divorcé, Marianne became stepmother to Kenneth’s 2-year-old twin daughters, Tanya and Elizabeth. For the sake of family life (three more children were to follow) Marianne resigned from the MSO and focussed on teaching.
She held a part time position at the Conservatorium for over 40 years (appointed by Sir Bernard Heinz in 1954) and was a founding teacher at the Victorian College of the Arts (appointed by John Hopkins in 1972). Much of her experience was also gained at secondary schools, at her private studio in the dining room of the family’s home, and as an AMEB examiner. In 1994, together with Miriam Morris, she undertook an extensive revision of the AMEB cello syllabus.
She was an adjudicator at festivals and eisteddfods and was on the council of the Musical Society of Victoria and adjudicated the Society’s Hephzibah Menuhin awards. Joining the VMTA in 1974, she was appointed a director in 1975, and received a VMTA Distinguished Teacher’s Award in 2008. (She and Kenneth hosted the annual VMTA garden party in the beautiful surroundings of their large back yard year after year). An Australian Strings Association State Award for services to the string community came her way in 2009.
She attended two World Cello Congresses and two American Cello Congresses and came away swept off her feet by players like Carter Brey and teachers like Irene Sharp. She hosted Irene in Melbourne, and, in earlier years, cellists Rostropovich, Navarra and Anner Bylsma all found their way to Ken and Marianne’s dinner table. She also loved lieder and travelled to a dozen Schubertiade Festivals in Austria, never tiring of her favourite artists: Christophe Prégardien and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.
Three of Marianne’s five children, Tanya and Rosanne (also a cellist), and violinist Elizabeth Wallfisch, were all deeply nurtured in their music by Marianne and owe their careers to her. But she gave fully to all of her students – she never “fired” one! In the words of Michael Dahlenburg, cellist and conductor: “Mrs Hunt helped me shape my future. She was my first true teacher and mentor. She did far more than teach me the cello – she was always generous, gracious, and never let me lose sight of the bigger picture – to love and respect music and the people around me”. Siobhan O’Shaughnessy, formerly of the Melbourne Symphony, says: “What makes a teacher like Mrs Hunt so great is the almost maternal love, care and respect that she gave us over so many years. Her patience, kindness and understanding through our adolescence was always outstanding. When we were inspired she increased our inspiration by feeding us the right music and technical work; when we reached a temporary plateau, she showed eternal patience. With this combination of love and inspiration, we developed aspiration. It is this aspiration that carried me, and many others on to our professional careers.”
Marianne was, naturally, the first cello teacher of Tanya (whose birth mother was British oboist Tamara Coates, daughter of Albert Coates, past conductor of the St Petersburg Kirov Theatre and the London Symphony Orchestra). Later, Tanya, like Marianne, studied with Henri Touzeau, and as a teenager won the ABC Concerto and Vocal Competition (now the Young Performers Award). She went on to study at the Paris Conservatoire with André Navarra, then moved to Vienna as a chamber musician before further study in at Indiana University with Janos Starker. Among many prizes and awards, she won the Suggia Prize in London in 1971, the Brahms Prize at the “Gaspar Cassado” International Cello Competition in 1975, and was a semi-finalist at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1978. She then moved to London where she met her husband Arthur and established herself as a distinguished soloist, chamber and orchestral musician, and also taught at the Royal Academy and the Guildhall. (One of her most memorable London performances was a live BBC broadcast toward the end of her first pregnancy, when she repeatedly felt her twins kicking inside her, especially when she played long low notes!)
In 1986, she moved with Arthur and their three children to Edmonton, Alberta, where she quickly became one of Canada’s leading cellists. In 1998 she was appointed Professor of Cello and Chamber Music, and Conductor of the University Symphony, at the University of Alberta.
Four times, Tanya joined a quartet on a musical paddling tour down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon on a raft, her cello in a waterproof case. The group set up in natural rocky amphitheatres to play their concerts. Afterwards Tanya liked to hike through the cliffs in the heat, then shed her clothes and jump into cold pools – this typified her adventurous spirit and bold love of life.
In 2006 Tanya was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. Despite repeated treatments and bouts of recurrence of the disease, Tanya continued her performance and teaching career, including a cello and piano recital at Weill Hall, (Carnegie Hall, New York) and a complete cycle of the Beethoven Cello sonatas in Edmonton. In 2009 she was inducted into the Edmonton Cultural Hall of Fame for her contributions to the musical life of the city.
Like Marianne, Tanya was a devoted and tireless teacher who guided many students to careers in cello. And as a cellist, Tanya was known for her musical passion and her insistence that every performance should be of the highest integrity and quality. “Each one of us is a maestro”, she believed. She inspired her students and colleagues to engage with the freedom of the human spirit, be bold and do anything.
Both Marianne and Tanya influenced countless cellists in Australia, the UK and Canada.