Erkel, Franz (actually, Ferenc)

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Erkel, Franz (actually, Ferenc)

Erkel, Franz (actually, Ferenc), distinguished Hungarian pianist, conductor, composer, and pedagogue; b. Gyula, Nov. 7, 1810; d. Budapest, June 15, 1893. He studied in Pozsony at the Benedictine Gymnasium (1822–25) and with Heinrich Klein. He then went to Koloszvar, where he began his career as a pianist and became conductor of the Kaschau opera troupe (1834), with which he traveled to Buda (1835). He became conductor of the German Municipal Theater in Pest in 1836. In 1838 he was made music director of the newly founded National Theater, an influential post he held until 1874, was conductor at the Opera House from 1884, and also founded the Phil, concerts (1853), which he conducted until 1871. He was the first prof, of piano and instrumentation at the Academy of Music, and was its director from 1875 to 1888. He gave his farewell performance as a pianist in 1890 and as a conductor in 1892. Erkel was one of the most significant Hungarian musicians of his era. After the premiere of his opera Bdthory Maria (1840), he gained lasting fame in his homeland with the opera Hunyady Làszló (1844), which is recognized as the first truly national Hungarian work for the theater. He composed the Hungarian national anthem in 1844. He later achieved extraordinary success with the opera Bànk- Bàn (1861), written in collaboration with his sons Gyula (b. Pest, July 4, 1842; d. Ujpest, March 22, 1909) and Sandor (b. Pest, Jan. 2, 1846; d. Bekescsaba, Oct. 14, 1900). He also collaborated with his other sons, Elek (b. Pest, Nov. 2, 1843; d. Budapest, June 10, 1893) and Làszló (b. Pest, April 9, 1844; d. Pozsonyi, Dec. 3, 1896), who were successful musicians. A catalog of the works of Franz Erkel was publ. by E. Major (Budapest, 1947; 2nd ed., rev., 1967).


DRAMATIC Opera : Bdthon/ Maria (Pest, Aug. 8, 1840); Hunyady Ldszlo (Pest, Jan. 27, 1844); Erzsebet (Pest, May 6, 1857; in collaboration with Franz and Karl Doppler); Bank-Ban (Pest, March 9, 1861; orchestrated with Gyula and Sandor Erkel); Sarolta, comic opera (Pest, June 26, 1862; mainly orchestrated by Gyula Erkel); Dozsa Gyorgy (Pest, April 6, 1867; in collaboration with Gyula and Sandor Erkel); Brankovics Gyorgy (Budapest, May 20, 1874; in collaboration with Gyula and Sandor Erkel); Nevtelen hosok (Budapest, Nov. 30, 1880; in collaboration with Gyula, Sandor, Elek, and Laszlo Erkel); Istvdn kirdly (Budapest, March 14, 1885; generally believed to be principally the work of Gyula Erkel). B a l l e t : Sakk-jdtek (Pest, Feb. 2, 1853; not extant). OTHER DRAMATIC: Incidental music. OTHER: Choral music; chamber works; piano pieces; songs. The Festival Overture for Orch. (1887) may be mainly the work of Gyula Erkel.


K. Abranyi, Erkel Franz (Budapest, 1895); F. Scherer, Erkel Franz (Gyula, 1944); A. Nemeth, Erkel Ferenc (Budapest, 1967); D. Legany, Erkel Ferenc miivei (Works of Ferenc E.; Budapest, 1974).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire