Saturday, 8 October 2011


From the late, great Péter Popper 
Anyway, I thought that the place [Pető's Institute] was Pető's harem. I think that everybody was in love with him, each in their own way and style. There were lots of grotesque and embarrassing situations.
Ili Székely was in charge iof the conductors there. After Mária Hári she was the second most important person there. She was a great storyteller, and would tell very humorous stories about Pető. She told me a great story about a disastrous visit to the theatre to see the play The journal of Anne Frank. According to her. Pető, who went to the theatre maybe four times a century, heard that it was an excellent play, and bought tickets for all three of them. She told me drolly that great preparations were made.
Mária Hári was told to put on her nicest blouse and was forbidden to come in her belted Loden coat, which she always wore, and she was also asked to leave her briefcases at home. She always carried two enormous briefcases with her wherever she went. What did she carry around in them? All sorts of things. As you'll hear, some very strange things. And lots of books, exercise books that she considered important, and many other things.
But as it turned out, nothing went according to plan. Mária forgot to wear the elegant blouse she had been asked to, and Pető decided that she would have to keep her belted Loden coat on throughout the performance, and so they didn't leave it in the cloakroom. But the ticket collector didn't want to let her in with her coat on, until Pető suddenly shouted 'She's rheumatic, she can't take it off!' and shoved her aside.

The briefcases were put down beside their seats and in the middle of the performance, naturally during one of the lyric bits, an alarm clock suddenly went off in one of them!
It was a big alarm clock, the kind one normally sees in kitchens, she had it because she didn't wear a watch, and so put it on the lectern when she was lecturing students.
So, this alarm clock went off in the dark theatre, and she started frantically searching through the briefcase for it, while the performance practically came to a standstill. Finally, she found the alarm clock and stopped it. The performance resumed, and for at least five minutes Pető didn't say anything, but that was only because he was speechless with rage. At last he recovered his breath and bellowed –
'Out, get out of here.'
Naturally this caused another scandal, because he shouted in the middle of the performance.
An historical point

I myself heard this story several times from Mária personally, as I am sure did many others, and she still giggled at the memory as she told it, but Ili Székely and Péter Popper were far better story-tellers than Mária and I.

I would make only one slight amendment. When I knew her, only from 1984, her most apparent fashion accessory was not a briefcase but a scruffy old shopping bag – still stuffed with all sorts to do with her work (she did not do much 'shopping') – and it was such a bag that featured in the story when she herself told it to me.

A petty point, but illustrative of a fundamental problem in assessing retrospective oral history (personal recollections shared, in conversation perhaps, many years later), seeing 'then' in terms of what we and others see now.

There is a lot of this in Conductive Education, some of it relating topoints that are not so petty. 


Forrai, J. (1999) Professor Péter Popper, Memoirs of the beginnings of conductive pedagogy and András Pető, Budapest and Birmingham, Új Aranyhíd and Foundation for Conductive Education, pp. 103-117

1 comment:

  1. ... and the Nobel Peace Prize 2011 goes to ....