Szönyi, Erzsebet (1924—)

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Szönyi, Erzsebet (1924—)

Hungarian composer, choral conductor, pianist, and lecturer known throughout the world for her work in music education. Name variations: Szoenyi. Born in Budapest, Hungary, on April 25, 1924; studied with Nadia Boulanger.

Erzsebet Szönyi was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1924. From 1942 to 1947, she studied at the Liszt Academy with Janos Viski and Ernö Szegedi. Upon graduation, she won a scholarship to the Paris Conservatoire to study with Nadia Boulanger , Tony Aubin, and Olivier Messiaen. Szönyi won the conservatoire's prix de composition in 1948, then returned to Budapest where she taught at the Ferenc Liszt Academy, becoming director of the academy's school of music in 1960. She also won the Liszt (1947) and Erkel (1959) prizes. Around 1950, Szönyi began composing opera, beginning with Dalma in 1952. She also composed works for children, such as the ballets Garden Tale (1949) and The Cricket and the Ants (1953). This interest in works for children led her to collaborate closely with Zoltan Kodaly, the great Hungarian composer, in order to successfully implement his ideas for music education in Hungary's schools. Szönyi was soon known as an international expert on musical education for children. She became supervisor of Hungarian music conservatories in 1951 and served on the board of directors of the International Society for Music Education. Szönyi was a prolific composer with over 100 works for orchestra, voice, piano, and theater. She also wrote several volumes translated into English, German, and Japanese about teaching music to young children.


Cohen, Aaron I. International Encyclopedia of Women Composers. 2 vols. NY: Books & Music (USA), 1987.

Sadie, Stanley, ed. New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 20 vols. NY: Macmillan, 1980.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia