Seiber, Mátyás György

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SEIBER, MÁTYÁS GYÖRGY (1905–1960), composer. Seiber was born in Budapest and from 1919 to 1924 studied music at the academy there, mainly with Kodály. He was the most prominent of a group of young composers hailed by Kodály in an influential article as the new hope of Hungarian music. In 1926, after a period of traveling, he became a teacher at the Hoch conservatory in Frankfurt on the Main, where he stayed until 1933. Among his pedagogical innovations was the establishment, against strong objection, of a class for the study of jazz. From 1933 to 1935 he taught in Budapest and then settled in London. In 1960 he was killed in a car accident in South Africa. Kodály dedicated the choral work Media vita in morte sumus to his memory.

Seiber's early works rank among the most important of the Hungarian school, and his later ones, with their utilization of both pre-classic and 12-tone techniques, made contributions to the contemporary European musical achievement. They include several stage works, Transylvanian Rhapsody for orchestra (1941), three string quartets, songs, study works for jazz percussion and the accordion, incidental music for some 25 films and many plays (including Buechner's Wozzeck, and the music for the BBC's bicentenary production of Goethe's Faust in its entirety), works for solo instruments and orchestra, and choral works, including the cantata Ulysses, based on James Joyce's novel (1948).


Grove, Dict; mgg, s.v.; Riemann-Gurlitt; Baker, Biog Dict.

[Bathja Bayer]