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The music of Zoltán Kodály

Joshua Iyer

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Published: February 16, 2015 at 9:11 PM [UTC]

Yesterday, I decided to use Pandora Radio again, since I barely use it anymore; I used to listen to Tchaikovsky Radio all the time (if you've used the site, you know you can create a "station" based on a composer you like and you'll get similar music by other composers). So I was listening away to the beautiful sunrise section from Ravel's "Daphnis et Chloe" with a new piece, "Variations on a Hungarian Folk Song", came up, by a Hungarian composer named Zoltán Kodály.

kodalyHe lived very near Ravel's life from 1882 - 1967 and learned to play the violin as a child. With Bartók, whom I've studied on piano and hope to get on with listening to some of his orchestra stuff, Koldály studied and collected several folk songs that he used in his music, which was a Romantic style all to himself. His orchestral writing is somewhat similar to Ravel's Impressionalistic style, yet it has a distinct separate quality that is much more Romantic. His string and brass writing is very well done, his solo violin sections especially. Additionally, his flute and piccolo writing, I've heard in several of his works, his flowing with fast notes, in a very similar manner to what Ravel did in his "Daphnis et Chloe". He's written a large number of orchestral works, a symphony, a couple string quartets, a duet for violin and cello, and even a couple cello sonatas. I've heard three separate pieces by him now, and I think he's a composer I will begin blending in inspiration from with my own music.

String Quartet No. 1 (1908)

Variations on a Hungarian Folk Song (My favorite part (Var. XII - Var. XIV) of the piece:

Concerto for Orchestra. Contrast this with Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra, which both have similar finales to the finale of Ravel's Pictures at an Exhibition".

What's cool is that both composers were influenced by Debussy and these French composers, they were both Hungarian, and they continued to drive their unique style of music into the 20th Century. All types of music that have really influenced me within this past year! Must be why I automatically connected with him.

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From Joshua Iyer
Posted on February 17, 2015 at 12:56 AM
Thanks for making my article all fancy. :) Him, Bartók, Ravel, and Stravinsky are my four biggest musical influences right now I think I'll use in my composing.
From Scott Cole
Posted on February 17, 2015 at 3:28 AM
The Duo for violin and cello is a great piece (I played it for a doctoral recital). I'd also put in a plug for the Janacek violin sonata, which is a fantastic work.
From John Rokos
Posted on February 17, 2015 at 12:17 PM
I've played in Dances of Galanta - I'm surprised Kodaly was as unfamiliar to you as you seem to suggest. Even better known than the Dances is the Harry Janos Suite (The opera from which it is extracted is not nearly as well known).
Posted on February 17, 2015 at 12:42 PM
I love his String Quartets. Pity that the article links to a pretty terrible performance, shockingly off-key etc. It could easily put people off Kodaly. What a difference with the excellent recording of both quartets by the Kodaly String Quartet. Enjoy that one!

From Trevor Jennings
Posted on February 17, 2015 at 6:27 PM
We must not forget Kodaly's magnificent sonata in B minor Op 8 for solo cello, a piece I know very well. It is a work that is surely among the greatest sonatas ever composed for a solo string instrument, but is a little unusual in that it requires scordatura tuning - C and G are tuned down a half tone which gives a very effective B Minor resonance for the cello.

My favorite performances of the sonata are by Janos Starker (he has recorded it several times during his career), and here he is playing it live in a recital in Japan:

Mvt 1:
Mvt 2:
Mvt 3: (last 5 minutes only)

The YouTube recording of the whole of 3rd movement in this performance has been mysteriously partially blocked by someone for some strange copyright reason, permitting only a video of the last 5 minutes to be shown, but here is an audio-only recording of Starker performing the 3rd movement in its entirety:
Mvt 3: (complete, audio only)

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