21 Oct 2007

György Kurtag (b 1926)

From Composer of the Week, 9:00 am on 21 October 2007
Hungarian composer György Kurtág

Hungarian composer György Kurtág Photo: Wikimedia commons

The matter of heritage is important when trying to understand the music of Kurtág. Like his friend György Ligeti, he came from a Hungarian-speaking part of Romania, and they both travelled to Budapest hoping to study with Bartók, who was expected to return from America. They arrived in Budapest to find the black flag flying in his honour. Bartók’s legacy was huge. Hungarian composers were almost paralysed. No-one knew what to write after him.

In the 1950s Hungary was quite shut off from the rest of the world, and new music from the West was generally unavailable or actively banned. Besides a few scores of Stravinsky and Webern, and a handful of records in Ligeti’s collection, Kurtág was terribly isolated from new musical and artistic trends.

Kurtág is a composer for whom struggle is synonymous with artistic creation. He writes slowly and painstakingly, and at many times has been unable to write at all. The great effort required to communicate – the impossibility of communication - is captured rather disturbingly in the piece “What is the Word”. It’s a setting of Samuel Beckett’s last text, which is made up of hesitations and fragments of sentences, as if searching for a way to express meaning through words.

Music Details:

BACH       Trio Sonata BWV 525    ECM 1619

KURTÁG   Movement for Viola and Orchestra    ECM 1711

LIGETI      Artikulation    Teldec 88262

KURTÁG  Samuel Beckett - What is the Word?   DG 437 840

KURTÁG  Játákok: ‘Vírág az ember’ ECM 1619

KURTÁG  Perpetuum mobile ECM 1619

KURTÁG  Játékok: ‘Elbows’  BMC 123

KURTÁG  Játékok: ‘Hommage à Paganini’  BMC 123

KURTÁG   Játékok: ‘Little Chorale’  BMC 123

KURTÁG  Játékok: ‘Flowers we are...for Miyako’ BMC 123

KURTÁG  Signs, Games & Messages: ‘Flowers we are...for Miyako’   ECM 1731

KURTÁG  Messages of the late R.V. Trussova   HCD 31821

KURTÁG  Scenes from a Novel   HCD 31821

KURTÁG   Kafka-Fragmente  ECM 1965

KURTÁG  Kafka-Fragmente  ECM 1965

KURTÁG  Kafka-Fragmente ECM 1965

KURTÁG  Kafka-Fragmente ECM 1965

KURTÁG  Signs, Games & Messages: ‘János Pilinszky Gérard de Nerval’  Arte Nova 58142

KURTÁG  pas à pas - nulle part: ‘de pied Ferme’  ECM 1730

KURTÁG  pas à pas - nulle part: ‘Rêve’   ECM 1730

KURTÁG  Hölderlin Gesänge: ‘An Zimmern’  ECM 1730






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