Kodály, Zoltán

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Kodály, Zoltán

Kodály, Zoltán, renowned Hungarian composer, ethnomusicologist, and music educator; b. Kecskemet, Dec. 16, 1882; d. Budapest, March 6, 1967. He was brought up in a musical family; received his general education at the Archiépiscopal Grammar School in Nagyszombat; at the same time, he took lessons in piano, violin, viola, and cello. He soon began to compose, producing an overture when he was 15; it was performed in Nagyszombat in 1898. He then went to Budapest (1900), where he entered the Univ. as a student of Hungarian and German; also studied composition with Koessler at the Royal Academy of Music (diplomas in composition, 1904, and teaching, 1905; Ph.D., 1906, with a diss. on the stanzaic structure of Hungarian folk song). He became associated with Bartók, collecting, organizing, and editing the vast wealth of national folk songs; he made use of these melodies in his own compositions. In 1906 he went to Berlin, and in 1907 proceeded to Paris, where he took some lessons with Widor, but it was the music of Debussy that most profoundly influenced him in his subsequent development as a composer. He was appointed a prof. at the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest in 1907. In collaboration with Bartok, he prepared the detailed paper “Az uj egyetemes népdalgyujtemény tervezete” (A Project for a New Universal Collection of Folk Songs) in 1913. They continued their collecting expeditions until World War I intervened. Kodâly wrote music criticism in Budapest (1917–19). In 1919 he was appointed deputy director of the Budapest Academy of Music, but lost his position that same year for political reasons; however, he resumed his teaching there in 1922. In 1923 he was commissioned to write a commemorative work in celebration of the half-century anniversary of the union of Buda, Pest, and Obuda into Budapest. The resulting work, the oratorio Psalmus hungaricus (1923), brought him wide recognition. The initial performance in Budapest was followed by numerous productions all over Europe, and also in America. Another major success was his opera Hary Janos (1926); an orch. suite from this work became highly popular in Hungary and throughout the world. His orch. works Marosszéki tancok (Dances of Marosszék; 1930; based on a piano work) and Galantai tâncok (Dances of Galanta; for the 80th anniversary of the Budapest Phil. Soc, 1933) were also very successful. His reputation as one of the most significant national composers was firmly established with the repeated performances of these works. Among his most important subsequent works were the orch. pieces Variations on a Hungarian Folk Song “Felszâllott a păva” the Peacock Variations (for the 50th anniversary of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch., 1939), and the Concerto for Orchestra (for the 50th anniversary of the Chicago Sym. Orch., 1941). His great interest in music education is reflected in his numerous choral works, which he wrote for both adults and children during the last 30 years of his life. He also pursued his ethnomusicological studies; from 1940 he was associated with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, serving as its president (1946–49). He continued to teach at the Academy of Music until 1940, and then gave instruction in Hungarian folk music until 1942; even after his retirement, he taught the latter course there. He toured as a conductor of his own music in England, the U.S., and the Soviet Union (1946–47); then throughout Western Europe. In succeeding years, he held a foremost place in the musical life of his country, receiving many honors; was awarded 3 Kos-suth Prizes (1948, 1952, 1957). He also received foreign honors, being made an honorary member of the Moscow Cons. (1963) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1963); was also awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Phil. Soc. of London (1967). An International Kodâly Soc. was organized in Budapest in 1975.

As a composer, Kodâly’s musical style was not as radical as that of Bartok; he never departed from basic tonality, nor did his experiments in rhythm reach the primitivistic power of Bartok’s percussive idiom. He preferred a Romantic treatment of his melodic and harmonic materials, with an infusion of Impressionistic elements. All the same, he succeeded in producing a substantial body of music of notable distinction. He was married twice; his first wife, Emma, whom he married in 1910, died in 1958; on Dec. 18, 1959, he married Sarolta Péczely, a student (b. 1940).


With B. Bartók, Erdelyi magyarsag: Nepdalok (The Hungarians of Transylvania: Folk Songs; Budapest, 1923); A magyar népzene (Hungarian Folk Music; Budapest, 1937; 2nd ed., aug., 1943; 3rd ed., aug., 1952 by L. Vargyas; Eng. tr., 1960); with A. Gyulai, Arany Janos népdalgyujteménye (The Folk Song Collection of Janos Arany; Budapest, 1953); A. Szöllöy, ed., A zene mindenkie (Budapest, 1954; 2nd ed., 1975); F. Bonis, ed., Visszatekintés (In Retrospect: Budapest, 1964; 2nd ed., aug., 1974); The Selected Writings of Zoltân Kodâly (Budapest, 1974).


dramatic:Notre Dame de Paris, incidental music for a parody (Budapest, Feb. 1902); Le Od, incidental music for a parody (Budapest, Feb. 1903); A nagybacsi (The Uncle), incidental music (Budapest, Feb. 1904); Pacsirtaszó (Lark Song), incidental music for Voice and Small Orch. (Budapest, Sept. 14, 1917); Hary Janos, Singspiel (Budapest, Oct. 16, 1926); Székely fonò (The Transylvanian Spinning Room), lyrical play (1924-32; Budapest, April 24, 1932); Czinka Panna, Singspiel (1946-48; Budapest, March 15, 1948). orch.: Overture in D minor (1897; Nagyszombat, Feb. 1898); Nyari este (Summer Evening; Budapest, Oct. 22, 1906; rev. 1929-30; N.Y., April 3, 1930); Régi magyar katonadalok (Old Hungarian Soldiers’ Songs; 1917; Vienna, Jan. 12, 1918; also arranged for Cello and Piano as Magyar Rondo); Ballet Music (1925; Budapest, Oct. 16, 1926; originally for Hary Janos); Hary Janos Suite (version for Brass Band, not by Kodâly, Barcelona, March 24, 1927; version for Orch., N.Y., Dec. 15, 1927); Szinhazi nyitany (Theater Overture; 1927; Budapest, Jan. 10, 1928; originally for Hăry Janos); Marosszéki tancok (Dances of Marosszék; Dresden, Nov. 28, 1930; based on a piano work; also arranged as a ballet); Galantai tancok (Dances of Galanta; Budapest, Oct. 23, 1933); Sym. in C major (1930s-1961; Lucerne, Aug. 16, 1961); Variations on a Hungarian Folk Song “Felszâllott a pava/’ the Peacock Variations (Amsterdam, Nov. 23, 1939); Concerto for Orchestra (1939-0; Chicago, Feb. 6, 1941); Honvéd Farad March for Brass Band (1948; from Hary Janos); Minuetto serio (1948-53; aug. from Czinka F anna). chamber:Romance lyrique for Cello and Piano (1898); Trio in E-flat major for 2 Violins and Viola (1899); Adagio for Violin, Viola or Cello, and Piano (1905); 2 string quartets (1908-9; 1916-18); Cello Sonata (1909–10); Duo for Violin and Cello (1914); Sonata for Solo Cello (1915); Capriccio for Cello (1915); Magyar Rondo for Cello and Piano (1917); Serenade for 2 Violins and Viola (1919–20); Cello Sonatina (1921–22); Hivogató tabortüzhöz (Calling to Camp Fire) for Clarinet (1930); Exercise for Violin (1942); Feigin for Violin and Piano (1958; arrangement of Kallai kettös); Wind Quartet (c. 1960).Piano: Valsette (1907); Méditation sur un motif de Claude Debussy (1907); Zongo-ramuzsika (Piano Music; 9 pieces; 1909); 7 pieces (1910–18); Ballet Music (1925; arrangement of orch. work); Marosszeki tancok (Dances of Marosszék; 1927; also arranged for orch. and as a ballet); Gyermektancok (Children’s Dances; 1945).vocal: chorus and orch.:Offertorium (Assumpta est) for Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (1901); Psalmus hungaricus for Tenor, Chorus, Organ, Orch., and Children’s Chorus ad libitum (Budapest, Nov. 19, 1923); Budavari Te Deum for 4 Soloists, Chorus, Organ, and Orch. (Budapest Cathedral, Sept. 12, 1936); Missa brevis for Chorus and Organ or 3 Sopranos, Alto, Tenor, Bass, Chorus, Orch., and Organ ad libitum (1942--4; Budapest, Feb. 11, 1945); Vértanuk sirjânâl (At the Martyr’s Grave) for Chorus and Orch. (1945); Kallai kettös (Kallo Double Dance) for Chorus and Small Orch. (1950; Budapest, April 4, 1951); The Music Makers: An Ode for Chorus and Orch., after A. O’Shaughnessy (1964).chorus and instrument ( s ): Mass for Chorus and Organ (c. 1896; unfinished); Ave Maria for Chorus and Organ (c. 1899); 5 Tantum ergo for Children’s Chorus and Organ (1928); Fange lingua for Chorus or Children’s Chorus and Organ (1929); Kantonadal (Soldier’s Song) for Men’s Chorus, Trumpet, and Side Drum (1934); Karacsonyi pasztortanc (Shepherds’ Christmas Dance) for Children’s Chorus and Recorder (1935); Ének Szent Istvan kirälyhoz (Hymn to St. Stephen) for Chorus and Organ (1938); Ve-jnemo’jnen muzsikal (Vejnemöjnen Makes Music) for High Voices and Harp or Piano (1944); A 114. genfi zsoltar (Geneva Psalm CXIV) for Chorus and Organ (1952); Intermezzo for Chorus and Piano (1956; from Hary Janos); Magyar mise (Hungarian Mass) for Unison Chorus and Organ (1966); Laudes organi for Chorus and Organ (1966). Also many choral works for mixed voices a cappella, children’s choruses, and songs.other: Organ music; numerous educational works; Bach arrangements.


A. Molnâr, K. Z. (Budapest, 1936); B. Szabolcsi and D. Bartha, eds., Emlékkò’nyv K. Z. 70. szù’letésnapjara (Budapest, 1953); L. Eôsze, K. Z. élete és munkassaga (Z. K.’s Life and Work; Budapest, 1956; Eng. tr., 1962); idem, K. Z. élete képekben (Z. K.’s Life in Pictures; Budapest, 1957; 2nd ed., 1958; Eng. tr., 1971); P. Young, Z. K.: A Hungarian Musician (London, 1964); H. Szabó, The K. Concept of Music Education (London, 1969); E. Hegyi, Solfège According to the K. Concept (Kecskemet, 1975); L. Eôsze, K. Z. életének krónikàja (Z. K.: Chronicle of His Life; Budapest, 1977); J. Breuer, K.-kalauz (Budapest, 1982; Eng. tr., 1990, as A Guide to K.); E. Lendvai, The Workshop of Bartók and K. (Budapest, 1983); E. Szönyi, K. Z. nevelési eszméi (Budapest, 1984); I. Kecskeméti, K., the Composer: Brief Studies on the First Half of K/s Oeuvre (Kecskemet, 1986); G. Rânki, Bartók and K. Revisited (Budapest, 1987); B. Reuer, Z. K.s Bühnenwerk “Hary Janos”: Beiträge zu seinen volksmusikalischen und literarischen Quellen (Munich, 1991); M. Houlahan and P. Tacka, Z. K.: A Guide to Research (N.Y., 1998).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

Kodály, Zoltán

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Kodály, Zoltán (b Kecskemét, 1882; d Budapest, 1967). Hung. composer and teacher. He was born and had his early education in Galánta. His father, a state railways employee, played the vn., his mother the pf., and he grew up in a mus. atmosphere. He attended the Nagyszombat Gymnasium 1892–1900, during which period his first orch. work was played by the school orch. In 1900 he entered Budapest Univ. and the Franz Liszt Acad. of Mus., where his teacher was Hans (János) Koessler, who also taught Bartók and Dohnányi. He met Bartók after his graduation, in 1905, and embarked on his first foray as a folk-song collector in Galánta. In 1906 his symphonic poem, Summer Evening, had its f.p. Kodály continued his folk-song collecting between 1907 and 1914. Although he was insistent on folk mus. as a basis of nat. culture, he had a wider view of the mus. scene and travelled to Bayreuth, Salzburg, Berlin, and Paris. He taught theory at the Liszt Acad. in 1907, and took over the comp. classes from Koessler in 1908 (prof. from 1911). From that time, too, he was closely involved with the mus. curriculum in Hung. schs., and with Bartók he formed an organization for the perf. of contemporary mus. Alongside these activities he produced a steady flow of comps.

In 1923, for the 50th anniversary of the unification of Buda and Pest as the capital, he comp. Psalmus Hungaricus, which was soon perf. throughout Europe and America under leading conds. such as Toscanini, Mengelberg, and Furtwängler.

In 1926 he completed his opera Háry János, firmly rooted in folklore. Another opera, The Spinning Room, followed in 1932, and the orch. Dances of Galánta in 1933. In the same year Kodály and Bartók were requested by the Hung. Acad. of Sciences to prepare for publication all available folk mus. material. After Bartók went to the USA, Kodály took over sole editorial control. The first vol. appeared in 1951. Two important commissions were for the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch.'s 50th anniv., 1939 (Variations on a Hungarian Folk Song, The Peacock) and the 50th anniv. of the Chicago SO, 1941 (Concerto for Orchestra). These were in contrast to the dozens of works for children's vv. which occupied him for the last 30 years of his life. He retired from the Liszt Acad. in 1942. After World War II he travelled to Fr., Eng., the USA, and USSR to cond. his own works. A 3rd opera, Czinka Panna, was prod. in 1948. His sym., in memory of Toscanini, was prod. at Lucerne in 1961. He visited the USA again in 1965 and 1966.

Kodály's mus. is not as advanced in its harmonic idiom as Bartók's and is less cosmopolitan. But it has the merits of complete conviction, finished craftsmanship, and melodic inspiration. Prin. works are:OPERAS: Háry János (1925–6); The Spinning Room (1924–32); Czinka Panna (1946–8).ORCH.: Summer Evening (1906, rev. 1929–30); Suite, Háry János (1927); Dances of Marosszék (1930, arr. of work for pf. 1927); Dances of Galánta (1933); Variations on a Hungarian Folk Song, The Peacock (1938–9); Concerto for Orchestra (1939–40); sym. (1930s–61).CHORUS & ORCH.: Psalmus Hungaricus, ten., ch., and orch. (1923); Te Deum of Budavár (1936); Missa brevis (1944); At the Grave of the Martyr (1945); The Music Makers, vv., orch. (1964).CHORUS AND ORGAN, PIANO, etc: Pange lingua (1929); Hymn to King St Stephen (1938); Laudes Organi (1966).UNACC. CHORAL: Evening (1904); Birthday Greeting (1931); Jesus and the Traders (1934); Ode to Ferenc Liszt (1936); Molnár Anna (1936); The Peacock (1937); Forgotten Song of Bálint Balassi (1942); Lament (1947); Hymn of Zrinyi (1954); Mohács (1965).CHAMBER MUSIC: str. qts., No.1 (1908–09), No.2 (1916–18); sonata for vc. and pf. (1909–10); Duo, vn., vc. (1914); Solo vc. sonata (1915); Capriccio, solo vc. (1915); Serenade, 2 vn. and va. (1919–20).

Also many folk-song arrs., children's chs., singing exercises, and transcrs. (Bach, etc.).

Zoltán Kodály

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Zoltán Kodály

Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) was a Hungarian composer, collector of folk songs, and music educator. He developed a technique for teaching young children to read music through folk material.

Zoltán Kodály was born in Kecskemét, where his father was a railroad stationmaster. When Kodály was 18, he enrolled at both the Budapest Conservatory and University. Béla Bartók was a classmate, and the two students became interested in Hungarian folk music. This interest was part of a larger movement in Hungary at the time, the desire to discover the country's true culture, which had been under German domination for over 100 years.

Kodály and Bartók knew that what was thought to be Hungarian folk music was actually gypsy music, a kind of commercial popular music played by gypsies in cafes and theaters. About 1905 they started to collect folk songs systematically by going to rural areas and recording the music on their crude phonograph. Their fieldtrips broadened to include other central European countries, and by 1913 they had collected over 3,000 folk songs. This collection, and their transcriptions and analyses, was important in establishing the techniques of ethnomusicology, which was to become an important 20th-century discipline.

Kodály's interest in folk songs continued throughout his life, but his main activity in the period between World War I and II was composing and serving as teacher at, and later director of, the Budapest Conservatory. His first composition to achieve world fame was Psalmus Hungaricus (1923), a large choral and instrumental work, commissioned to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the joining of Buda and Pest. It is based on Hungarian melodies, but the setting is completely of the 20th century. His music has certain resemblances to Bartók's, but it is never as violent in its use of dissonance.

Another important composition by Kodály is Hary Janos (1932), a folk-based opera. He also composed an orchestral suite based on this opera, other orchestral and chamber works, and large and small choral works.

Throughout his life Kodály was interested in bringing music to the people, and he was active in reforming the way in which music was taught in Hungarian schools. He introduced a method of teaching sightsinging to young children based on folk songs, using a combination of syllables (do re mi) with hand gestures. The approach was highly successful, and the "Kodály method" became known outside Hungary after World War II and was used in some schools in England and the United States, where Kodály "workshops" were established to instruct teachers.

Kodály's last years were a series of triumphs for the octogenarian. He was treated as a national hero in his own country, and he received the highest honors when he traveled abroad, not only for his compositions but for his philosophy that music should play an important role in every child's life.

Further Reading

Percy M. Young, Zoltán Kodály: A Hungarian Musician (1964), is a sympathetic study of the life and works of the composer by an English musician who introduced Kodály's teaching ideas into England. Lászlio Eösze, Zoltán Kodály: His Life and Work (1956; trans. 1962), stresses the ethnomusicological achievements as well as the compositions and has good illustrations.

Additional Sources

Young, Percy M. (Percy Marshall), Zoltán Kodá ly: a Hungarian musician, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1976, 1964. □

Kodály, Zoltán

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Kodály, Zoltán (1882–1967) Hungarian composer. With Bartók he collected and systematized Hungarian folk music, which was the principal influence on his work. Among his best-known compositions are the Psalmus Hungaricus (1923), and the comic opera Háry János (1927).

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