György Kurtág: Three Interviews and Ligeti Homages 1580463282, 9781580463287

Gy�rgy Kurt�g (b. 1926) is widely regarded as one of the foremost composers in the second half of the twentieth century

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György Kurtág: Three Interviews and Ligeti Homages
 1580463282, 9781580463287

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György Kurtág

Eastman Studies in Music Ralph P. Locke, Senior Editor Eastman School of Music Additional Titles in Music Criticism Analyzing Atonal Music: Pitch-Class Set Theory and Its Contexts Michiel Schuijer The Ballet Collaborations of Richard Strauss Wayne Heisler Jr. CageTalk: Dialogues with and about John Cage Edited by Peter Dickinson Composing for Japanese Instruments (includes 2 CDs) Minoru Miki Translated by Marty Regan Edited by Philip Flavin Concert Music, Rock, and Jazz since 1945: Essays and Analytical Studies Edited by Elizabeth West Marvin and Richard Hermann Dane Rudhyar: His Music, Thought, and Art Deniz Ertan Elliott Carter: Collected Essays and Lectures, 1937–1995 Edited by Jonathan W. Bernard Maurice Duruflé: The Man and His Music James E. Frazier

The Music of Luigi Dallapiccola Raymond Fearn Music Theory and Mathematics: Chords, Collections, and Transformations Edited by Jack Douthett, Martha M. Hyde, and Charles J. Smith Othmar Schoeck: Life and Works Chris Walton The Pleasure of Modernist Music: Listening, Meaning, Intention, Ideology Edited by Arved Ashby Portrait of Percy Grainger Edited by Malcolm Gillies and David Pear The Sea on Fire: Jean Barraqué Paul Griffiths The Substance of Things Heard: Writings about Music Paul Griffiths Variations on the Canon: Essays on Music from Bach to Boulez in Honor of Charles Rosen on His Eightieth Birthday Edited by Robert Curry, David Gable, and Robert L. Marshall

A complete list of titles in the Eastman studies in Music Series, in order of publication, may be found at the end of this book.

György Kurtág Three Interviews and Ligeti Homages COMPILED AND EDITED BY BÁLINT ANDRÁS VARGA

Copyright © 2009 by Bálint András Varga All rights reserved. Except as permitted under current legislation, no part of this work may be photocopied, stored in a retrieval system, published, performed in public, adapted, broadcast, transmitted, recorded, or reproduced in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. First published 2009 University of Rochester Press 668 Mt. Hope Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620, USA and Boydell & Brewer Limited PO Box 9, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 3DF, UK ISBN-13: 978-1-58046-328-7 ISBN-10: 1-58046-328-2 ISSN: 1071-9989 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data György Kurtág : three interviews and Ligeti homages / compiled and edited by Bálint András Varga. p. cm. – (Eastman studies in music, ISSN 1071-9989 ; v.67) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN-13: 978-1-58046-328-7 (hardcover : alk. paper) ISBN-10: 1-58046-328-2 1. Kurtág, György–Interviews. 2. Composers–Hungary–Interviews. I. Varga, Bálint András. ML410.K9775G967 2009 780.92–dc22 2009028393 A catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library. This publication is printed on acid-free paper. Printed in the United States of America. Examples from the scores of György Kurtág are reproduced by kind permission of Editio Musica Budapest Music Publisher Ltd. The Sayings of Péter Bornemisza has been published by Universal Edition. A version of the interview from 1982–1985 was first published in English as “It’s Not My Ears That Do My Hearing,” Hungarian Quarterly 42 (Spring 2001): 126–34. A version of the interview from 1996 was first published in English as “Melody Pressed Like a Flower,” Hungarian Quarterly 47 (Spring 2006): 75–86.

For two friends in need Paul Griffiths and Stephen Walsh Two friends indeed

Contents Preface Note on Place Names

ix xiii

Introduction: A Portrait Sketch of György Kurtág in Three Sittings


1 Three Questions to György Kurtág (1982–1985)


2 The Three Questions Again (1996)


3 Key Words (2007–2008)


4 Mementos of a Friendship: György Kurtág on György Ligeti


5 A Brief Biography of György Kurtág




List of Works










Preface Having finished the manuscript of this book and tried to read it with a pair of fresh eyes, I realized that for readers outside Central Europe, an introduction would be helpful to put some of the events referred to in the interviews with György Kurtág into perspective. Indeed, the composer’s very birthplace—the town of Lugos—is difficult to find on the map. The more so since it is now called Lugoj and is in Romania. But the region where it is situated, along with the city of Temesvár (Timis¸oara), which also came up in our conversations, bears a name that only those specializing in the history or geography of this area would have come across: it is called the Bánát (Banat). If you glance through telephone directories in Budapest, Prague, or Vienna, you will see that the names are a motley mixture—in all of them you will find a great many entries of Hungarian, German, Czech, Serbian, and Romanian origin. The directories are a faithful mirror of Central European history, which was for centuries determined by that of the Holy Roman Empire, the Austrian Empire, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, respectively. It was a kind of United States of Central Europe that disappeared with World War I. By the time Kurtág or indeed György Ligeti were born (in 1926 and 1923, respectively), the Bánát (an area between the Hungarian Plain and Transylvania) had been ceded to Romania. For both of them, it was natural to grow up speaking three languages: Hungarian, Romanian, and German (spoken by descendants of settlers from Württemberg who had arrived in the eighteenth century and made up a sizable minority of the population). After World War II, in which Hungary fought on the side of Hitler’s Germany and shared its fate, the country—along with Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania—became part of the Soviet sphere of influence. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, when Hungary was in the throes of a major social upheaval (the establishment of a one-party system, the nationalization of private property, the elimination and rustication of the former ruling classes, the forced collectivization of agriculture, etc.), culture played an essential role in educating what was called at the time “the masses.” Writers may not have been free to express their views, composers may have worked in a stylistic straitjacket, but they were taken extremely seriously by the powers that be. Hungary may have been a poor country, but music education was a basic part of the curricu-

x ❧ preface

lum at primary and secondary schools, and the Academy of Music was an institution of considerable prestige. It had on its staff professors of rare distinction, so that it maintained the legendary quality it had acquired in the first half of the century. First of all, there was Zoltán Kodály, the representative personality of Hungarian cultural life whose authority helped introduce a high level music education at schools. He was of course also a revered professor of composition and an important ethnomusicologist. There was Leó Weiner, a genius at teaching chamber music (one of his pupils, Georg Solti, conducted a work of his teacher in Vienna shortly before Solti himself died—as a late but not belated tribute). Kurtág acknowledges his debt to Weiner to this day—as indeed to his professor of piano, Pál Kadosa as well as his (and Ligeti’s) professor of composition, Ferenc Farkas. From 1967 until his retirement in 1986, Kurtág taught first piano, then chamber music at the Academy of Music (Ligeti had joined the staff in 1950, teaching composition and counterpoint until he defected in the wake of the revolution in 1956). For Kurtág, teaching has been a way of life—in fact, he was first entrusted with teaching the piano while in his teens at Temesvár by Magda Kardos, apparently an exceptional pedagogue who made a lasting impression on her pupils. I hope Kurtág’s (and his wife’s) personality will emerge from the three interviews we conducted between 1982 and 2008. He is not articulate by any means—“stuttering is my mother tongue” as he once put it. He talks in a hesitant manner—and explains in one of the interviews that he has no time for people who are sure of themselves. Hesitation is a basic attitude for him and, in a way, some of his compositions are all about seeking after something and probably not finding it. As a result, he hardly ever talks in complete sentences, he leaves many of them unfinished or changes direction mid-course. His wife, Márta, was an invaluable interpreter in such cases—either explaining what he meant or reminding him that what he was getting at was unclear. My role as an interviewer was not an easy one: I was all too aware of the fact (or what I took to be a fact) that I was imposing on his privacy, that I was forcing him to talk against his will. On the other hand, there were times when words would come in a steady flow and gel into confessions of a most intimate kind. I was sitting there and looking anxiously at my equipment hoping it was functioning properly and recording it all for posterity. I am convinced that György Kurtág is one of the select few who will survive, whose message in his music will reach generation after generation when we are gone. I do hope that these interviews will help you understand his oneness with music. Kurtág is open to every aspect of life; the ivory tower is not for him. He absorbs natural phenomena, colors, shapes, sounds of all kinds, literature, architecture, music of every period and genre, and he responds to people, to ges-


❧ xi

tures, to a smile (looking at a photograph of the smiling John Cage ended a period of depression), to a tone of voice—to life. It is all there in his music, which speaks to the listener—to his very being—with a unique directness. I am grateful to György and Márta Kurtág for the time they accorded me not just for the interviews but for the many months (even years) of intensive work on the texts to make absolutely sure that every single word was a faithful mirror of what they had in mind. Bálint András Varga

Note on Place Names Many of the cities and towns that came up in our conversation are in the Romanian province Transylvania as well as in the Bánát region. Those two historical and geographical entities are inhabited by a multiethnic population: mainly Romanians as well as Hungarians and Germans. Most place names have accordingly three versions: in addition to the official Romanian names, there exist also Hungarian and in many cases German ones. The interviews were conducted in Hungarian and it was natural for Kurtág and myself to use place names accordingly. However, in the text I wrote as a kind of postlude, I reverted to the Romanian names, for those are the accepted forms in politics and geography. To avoid any confusion, here is a list of names in all three languages. Hungarian Csíkszereda Dicso˝szentmárton Herkulesfürdo˝ Kolozsvár Lugos Temesvár

Romanian Miercurea Ciuk Tîrna˘ veni Bâile Herculane Cluj-Napoca Lugoj Timis¸oara

German Szeklerburg Herkulesbad Klausenburg Lugosch Temeschwar

Introduction A Portrait Sketch of György Kurtág in Three Sittings Indeed, this book cannot aspire to be more than a portrait sketch. Experience with work on our interviews, once their texts had been securely saved on the computer, taught me that the guiding principle governing Kurtág’s life—penetrating below the surface, penetrating ever deeper—was also true of this genre. There was no subject, no scrap of memory, no experience that, once considered in a new context, did not conjure up further important details that demanded inclusion in the material. The range of associations cajoled from his subconscious was fascinating. That was one aspect of our encounters that rendered them so unique, thrilling, and frustrating: I never knew what other questions I should have posed to bring those hidden treasures to the surface. Every now and again, months after his first perusing the text, the correction of a word or of a particular phrase would produce a fact adding another trait to the outlines of his portrait. For instance, a basic feature of Kurtág’s personality has been his need to establish human relationships that last a lifetime—even after the death of a friend. They continue to influence his thinking, his work as a composer, and his private life, even posthumously. (“For me, Ligeti is more alive than ever,” he wrote in the introduction to his homage in memory of the composer.) Felician Brînzeu, Max Eisikovits, Magda Kardos, Stefan Romas¸canu, György Ligeti, Franz Sulyok, Robert Klein, Tamás Blum—and his professors at the Budapest Academy of Music (in addition to those listed in the Introduction), Lajos Bárdos and Pál Járdányi—as well as András Mihály and Albert Simon who taught him a lot even though he was not officially a student of theirs, or László Dobszay who plays an important role in Kurtág’s life to this day—all of them are part of the composer’s universe, of his private mythology. His loyalty to them is unshakable. And yet, thanks to a chance association in a telephone conversation, the name of András Hajdú (the Israeli composer André Hajdu) came up as an important contact during the year Kurtág spent in Paris in 1957–58. It was Hajdu who suggested that he enroll in Olivier Messiaen’s class and Hajdu’s piano piece Plasmas



(1957) was to exert an influence on the work Kurtág was composing at the time that would become the Eight Piano Pieces, Op. 3. During the course of our interviews, Kurtág paid tribute to those who had given him financial help or had been instrumental in his receiving the odd répétiteur job so that he could earn a few francs. Thanks to that chance association, a gesture of Hajdu’s was also recalled from oblivion: he had recommended to the ballet dancer Zizi Jeanmaire that Kurtág take his place at the piano while Hajdu was on holiday. Kurtág duly turned up at the rehearsal and was paid his fee even though the dancers eventually failed to appear. Kurtág and Zizi Jeanmaire—an unlikely partnership . . . The most authentic portrait of Kurtág is provided by the two texts he himself wrote about György Ligeti. Their sixty-year friendship is part of Hungarian and universal music history. He took as much pain to formulate them as to arrive at the final version of his compositions. I believe there could be no more cogent proof of their friendship than the generosity with which he gave Ligeti a commodity of which he himself had only a finite amount: his time. Perhaps those writings should also bear opus numbers. The exacting standards Kurtág applies to his own compositions were also heeded when it came to elaborating the definitive form of our three interviews. We worked on the first one for three years (1982 to 1985). There were, of course, intervals but we returned to the text again and again. That was probably the very first interview he had ever been able to persuade himself to give. Perhaps he was averse to the genre, perhaps he was put out by the ceaseless, inexorable revolving of the tape, which may have magnified for him the pauses he took between words or sentences. For many years, it was the Kurtág interview that one would refer to as an authentic source of information. Ten years later, I was confronted with far less reluctance when I approached him with the idea of discussing those three questions again, to see how he would tackle them in 1996. At that second sitting of the portrait sketch, Márta Kurtág would also contribute her comments. This time, the written form of the interview was almost identical with the live conversation. The third sitting took place at the request of the Hungarian publisher Holnap Kiadó, in November 2007 and April 2008. We had limited time at our disposal but a great many changes were made before György and Márta Kurtág were satisfied with the text. For instance, they took particular care that the figure of Robert Klein should be authentically rendered—another example of their idea of friendship, loyalty, and continued presence beyond the grave. Unavoidably, certain subjects or statements recur in all three interviews. I have not eliminated any of them merely to avoid repetitions. I feel that if a particular motif has retained its relevance over twenty-six years, that is in itself of documentary significance.



Finally, I joined the Hungarian music publisher Editio Musica Budapest (EMB) at the end of 1971 to promote contemporary Hungarian composers in the world. It would have been sometime at the beginning of 1972 that I first met György Kurtág. We have been talking regularly for close to thirty-seven years—initially, during the nearly twenty years I spent with EMB, in person, and since then mostly on the telephone, even though we have met a number of times since. The interviews were another form of our regular conversations. They were based on the intimacy that has developed between us over the decades but primarily on the admiration I feel for the art of György Kurtág.

The Three Questions In the late 1970s and early 1980s, I undertook a project that led to the book “3 Questions—82 Composers” published by Editio Musica Budapest in 1986. In that collection of interviews I put the same three questions to Hungarian composers and to some of their most distinguished colleagues in Europe, North and South America, and Japan. The first question occurred to me during the nine hours I had spent with Witold Lutosławski in Warsaw in 1973, recording an interview that was subsequently published in Hungarian as well as in German and English. The great Polish composer told me how his encounter with the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra of John Cage, which he had heard on the radio, had changed his whole musical thinking. It set in motion a process that resulted in Jeux vénitiens, a completely new departure in his oeuvre. I thought it would be fascinating to ask other composers as well if they had had a similar experience—whether listening to a piece of music had brought about a fundamental change in their musical thinking. Composers are surrounded by sounds, the raw material they work with. To what extent are these of any significance for their creativity? That was my second question. The trickiest or, let us say, most searching question was the third one: up to what point can one speak of a personal style, and where does self-repetition begin?


Three Questions to György Kurtág (1982–1985) Bálint András Varga (BAV): Has listening to a piece of music brought about a fundamental change in your musical thinking? György Kurtág (GYK): I was eleven or twelve years old when the experience that turned me into a musician occurred. Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony was playing on the radio, and when my parents told me what it was we were listening to, I was amazed that adults could recognize classical music! Sometime after that, I was alone at home and again listening to music on the radio. I realized that they were playing the “Unfinished” Symphony. I asked for and was given the score, and I learned the two-hand arrangement of the piece. That is what decided that music would become highly important in my life. Between the ages of five and seven I had piano lessons, and I was fond of serious music. At the age of seven I stopped the lessons and lost all interest in music. I sabotaged my piano lessons, practicing only five or ten minutes a week, because I derived no enjoyment at all from my own playing. The return to music was through dance music, tangos, waltzes, and marches. I must have been around ten when I started dancing lessons, and later, when I went with my parents on our summer holiday to Herkulesfürdo ˝, I danced every evening with my mother in the public rooms at the spa. She was very young and very pretty at that time . . . Dancing, then, was one of mother’s enticements in the summer months, in winter it was playing piano duets. We played brief, crude transcriptions of passages from operas. It was fun dancing with her (and for me every tango and every waltz had its own individual character), and it was also fun playing duets. Once, all of a sudden, we had a go at the first movement of the “Eroica.” This was far beyond me—perhaps both of us—but we read right through to the end of the symphony, then went on to the First and later the Fifth. (Mother was never willing to play the Funeral March. At the time that seemed superstitious, but it may have been a presentiment: she died at the age of forty.) Between the ages of five and six, incidentally, I also composed—two little piano pieces, I believe—and the Schubert symphony also led me back to composition. I wanted to write a Jewish symphony in E minor with the title “Eternal Hope.” But I also wrote a lot of other things too at that time.

three questions to györgy kurtág (1982–1985)


Music that was new to me had a big influence, though in general few compositions affected me at first hearing. For instance, I had read a lot about Beethoven’s Ninth, but I was hugely disappointed when I first heard it because my picture of it from what I had read had led me to expect something quite different. On that basis I had imagined a Ninth Symphony for myself, and the reality was so totally different in comparison that I was simply unable to find my bearings in it. Bartók’s Cantata Profana and Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta were elemental influences, though that does not mean that the influence came through in my own compositions. The Violin Concerto, which I heard once in a BBC broadcast from London during the war, had just as much of an impact on me. Mátyás Seiber gave the introductory talk and analyzed the piece, but even then I wasn’t really able to follow it. Having said that, the Violin Concerto was to become one of the decisive experiences in my life later on, in the second or third month after I got to Budapest [in 1946]. I sat through all the rehearsals held by Doráti and Menuhin, and later on learned the répétiteur part myself (for years I was perhaps the only one who knew it) and played it for years with Ede Zathureczky. Whichever other violinists learned the part, I had the chance to go through the piece with them. That had a direct influence on the composition of my Viola Concerto. I even incorporated some musical materials, though the influence of the Concerto and other Bartók compositions is more obvious. The process of getting to know a work gradually has proved more important than the first encounter. On the whole, I have rarely heard something and instantly realized its importance. One other piece of music that had a big impact on me: Az embernek halála (For each man his own death) section of The Sayings of Péter Bornemisza1 is a direct response to Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima [1959–60]. The memory of the performance of the Hiroshima piece directly influenced the structure of the piano part of that section. Even Webern did not influence me through listening but through study, the “interrogation” of small details. But with Bartók, too, the encounter was such that I began to practice. . . . The first piece—around the age of fourteen, when I was preparing to become a musician and studying at Temesvár—was the second of the Bagatelles [1908]. I didn’t make much sense of it. After that came Song from the Nine Little Pieces of 1926. I was boarding with the family of a grammar-school boy of my own age. He was a good musician; he played the classical repertoire on the piano and also, I think, sang in the choir when Kodály’s Psalmus Hungaricus was performed in Temesvár. My practicing so infuriated him that, as I recall, he even beat me up to stop me playing Bartók. Bartók didn’t appeal to me either; he was somehow so abominably good. Erich Kästner, in his children’s book The 35th of May, writes about a bachelor uncle who invites his nephew round to the house every Thursday, and they lunch together on meat salad with raspberry syrup and similarly absurd dishes.


three questions to györgy kurtág (1982–1985)

Meanwhile they keep on saying, “Abominably good, isn’t it?” To me, Bartók’s music was abominably good in that same way. Bluebeard was also distinctly ugly to my ears, but it still excited me—and the fact that it met with resistance from the people around me, of course, only added to its attraction. I somehow discovered a taste for Bartók’s music beyond my own taste and consciousness. The first of my compositions, to which I am now more willing to admit, was the Suite for Piano. I myself don’t know exactly when I wrote it, I must have been sixteen or seventeen. The first movement—Mintha valaki jönne (As If Someone Were Coming)—is a response to my composition teacher Max Eisikovits’s setting of a poem by Endre Ady. Its basic experience—I am waiting and they are not coming—was painfully familiar to me, and that became the first movement of the Suite. (I didn’t get quite as far as composition with Eisikovits; we only went through harmony and counterpoint, with much sweat and tears. In point of fact, I never was able to acquire a proper foundation in compositional technique. My instrumentalist fellow pupils, a cellist and the violinist Stefan Romas¸canu, completed our assignments much more adroitly.) Interestingly enough, it so happened that I gave programs to the first movement in some of my later works as well. That was the case with my String Quartet, Op. 1. I’m not sure whether I attributed a program to the work retrospectively or was already conscious of it during the composition process. I was living in Paris, in a crisis that made it impossible for me to compose: in 1956, the world had literally collapsed around me—not just the external world but my inner world too. Numerous moral questions had also arisen in relation to the work I was doing with Marianne Stein; my entire conduct as a human being had become highly questionable. I sank to terrible depths of despair. Previously I had shunted responsibility for many things onto others, but now, all at once, I was obliged to recognize that I had become disillusioned with my own self, my own character. I have only ever been able to compose when I was on fairly good terms with myself, when I was able to accept myself for what I am—when I was able to discern some sort of unity in my view of the world. In Paris I felt, to the point of desperation, that nothing in the world was true, that I had no grip on reality. I was living at the place of another of Marianne Stein’s pupils, an American actress, and in exchange for my room I would take her two children for walks in the park. That was the Parc Montsouris, a marvelous wilderness with fantastic trees. The experience of trees in winter was perhaps the first reality. That carried on almost until spring, when birds appeared as a second reality. Only later did I establish that the blackbird was the “fundamental bird,” but the argumentative chattering of sparrows makes an appearance in the quartet’s fourth movement, the “bird scherzo.” One night I was startled out of my sleep by birdsong I had never heard before. I later identified it as a nightingale. A very special marvel. . . . The year in Paris and the work with Marianne Stein virtually split my life in two. I lost twenty kilos in weight. I once accompanied the singer Pali Déry, who

three questions to györgy kurtág (1982–1985)


had heard during a visit to China that a person could get by on less than twenty grams of rice a day. From then on I, too, lived effectively on rice, half of it with a stock cube, the other half with something sweet, and I began to do regular physical training. I had always been terribly clumsy at gymnastics. At first I repeated some exercises that I had seen my mother do (she had been dead for more than ten years by then), but later on I developed the thing in my own way. I made angular movements, almost like playing a pantomime. I even tried to alter my handwriting to an angular, crabbed style. The next stage of that was my starting to make angular forms from matches. A whole symbolic world evolved. I perceived myself as in a worm-like state, totally diminished in humanity. The matchstick forms and balls of dust (I didn’t clean my room every day), along with black stubs (I also smoked) represented me. I gave this matchstick composition the title “The cockroach seeks a way to the light” (I stuck a lamp shape made from silver foil at the end of the composition). That was also supposed to become the program for the string quartet’s first movement. The overtone chord symbolized the light, and in between the dirt . . . I almost inscribed as an epigraph at the start of the movement two lines by Tudor Arghezi: Din mucegaiuri, bube s¸i noroi / Iscat-am frumuset¸i s¸i pret¸uri noi. (From mildew, suppurating wounds and ordure / I generated new beauties and values.)

That was already going through my head at the time I was making the matchstick composition. That quotation is associated with Felician Brînzeu, a teacher at the lycée in Lugos—the teacher in my life (Magda Kardos in Temesvár was later to signify for me that same primeval experience in music). During my second year at grammar school, in three months he taught Romanian grammar to a class of fifty children, mostly from peasant families, never handing out marks and making us continually discuss the material; the whole thing was almost a collective game. We had great fun, and for me it brought alive, once and for all, what the structure of a language was. Besides that, he was a very strict taskmaster with a mildly sadistic streak; he was quite capable of clouting you with all his strength. It’s with him that I associate that Arghezi quotation, though it’s quite possible that it stuck in my head much later, during the Romanian lessons at the Piarist Fathers’ lycée in Temesvár. I failed in drawing at school. I didn’t have any talent for it then and don’t now: I can’t draw the simplest of objects even today. But during my year in Paris (and again at the end of the period of paralysis, which preceded Játékok,2 roughly a year beforehand), for months on end I only drew, set down signs. In Paris I made drawings of the matches to start with: the room became simply full of matches; I had to get rid of them when I wanted to tidy up. As a reminder, I therefore tried to make drawings of them, but all that emerged from that was


three questions to györgy kurtág (1982–1985)

nonsensical jumbles. After that I drew something: there were stars at the edges and in the middle something wriggling. I still have it to the present day, and that’s what I attempted to set to music in the seventh of Eight Piano Pieces [Op. 3, 1960]. In my 1973 period I used notebooks, putting only a sign on each page by pressing the pencil or pen against the paper and shaking my hand. There wasn’t much difference between the signs, but it’s as if a bit of them passed over into Játékok. . . . Childhood again . . . Slow processes . . . During my time at Temesvár, when I was seriously learning the piano, I had a rather low opinion of my mother’s playing. In my childhood, however, those pieces of music had had a very special truth for some reason. She played quite a few of the Beethoven sonatas—the “Appassionata,” the “Pathétique,” the Sonata in A Flat, Op. 26, “Les adieux,” Op. 81a, no. 26 in E Flat, and the Sonata, Op. 2, no. 1 in F Minor. The last one is a particularly important memory. For me, the second subject in the first movement, or that in the last movement, stands for a primal musical comportment. Later on, in my teenage consciousness, music like that became indistinguishably uniform, but it seems that in my childhood I was good at identifying it. All in all, I had much better hearing when I was a child than I do now. Then I could mimic everything in singing, every external noise. I don’t remember when—it may have been when my voice broke, or perhaps even earlier—I was told at a chorus rehearsal to shut up because I was throwing everyone else off. Ever since then, and maybe it is related to that, my sense of absolute pitch for the singing voice has gone—right up to the present day. And my acuity for other sounds too has rather tended to deteriorate. When it comes down to it, I have the feeling that it’s not necessarily my ears that do my hearing, or my eyes that do my seeing. During my grammar-school years, the time when I was becoming conscious of myself, I read in Lützeler’s history of art3 that architecture, to all intents and purposes, was the experiencing of space—something that envelops a person, like music, which also envelops you. I experienced it again in the cathedrals of Rheims or Chartres. Chartres Cathedral, for instance, is wonderfully human in scale, of precisely the size that you can take in, and there I had the experience that when I was not looking I could sense the space with my skin, with my very back. For me, it’s very often like that with music too: it somehow comes across from sensibility to sensibility, I both hear and don’t hear the thing. I have also come across something of that kind with people who have an extraordinarily finely developed sense of hearing: in searching for a quality, they fail at times to notice even inaccuracies of intonation. In the recordings of rehearsals by Toscanini and Casals it is noticeable that if something was of paramount importance to them, they let other, quite significant errors go by. Toscanini runs through the second act of Traviata, for example, and he is so delighted to be able to sing even the part of Violetta that he isn’t in the least bothered by the fact that the orchestra is meanwhile all over the place.

three questions to györgy kurtág (1982–1985)


I had a similar experience once during the recording of my Viola Concerto. I considered that the strings were not airy enough. András Simor, the leader of the orchestra, told me afterwards that I was only satisfied with the recording when they weren’t playing at all. BAV: How important are the sounds of Nature to you? GYK: We’ve already talked about that: birdsong—blackbirds above all. In Berlin, a blackbird would regularly sing on the roof of the house where I was living—a truly great artist. I was living near the botanical gardens, and the neighborhood was simply full of birds. The blackbirds would wake up at dawn, getting on for three o’clock, and respond to one another in chorus from far and wide. I’ll never forget once, after a discussion with Péter Eötvös that had stretched long into the night, we went out into the garden to listen to this concert. Birds and trees—they both remained important for a long time. BAV: And forms? GYK: Forms—I have such an odd relationship to them, because I’m not at all sure that . . . I can’t see forms, or even recollect them, but I feel secure in their proximity. I can cling to the twists of gnarled boughs without being able to reproduce them. The twists also lend an inner need, a demand for structure in music. Yes, an inner need . . . That’s a recurrent motif in Thomas Mann’s work. In his short story about Schiller, “Schwere Stunde” (A Weary Hour) and in one of his letters to his wife Katia he writes that talent is little more than a demand, a striving for quality and that talent is a very heavy burden. That is what the density of twists in a bough means to me. For me, a line from Attila József is both reality and a program: Távol tar ágak szerkezetei / tartják az üres levego˝t (Far off, bare branches construct / delicate support for empty air).4

One of my elemental musical experiences was again not purely musical: László Vidovszky’s Autokoncert. From the very first moment, I experienced it as something of a Beckettian tragedy. I was deeply shaken by the tragedy and poetry of the objects that kept falling and emitting sounds every thirty seconds on the empty stage, and the extreme economy by which all that acquired strict musical form. The idiom of the New Music Studio that was emerging at the time played a major role at the start of Játékok: it gave me courage to work with even fewer notes. BAV: What about individual style and self-repetition? GYK: My fundamental reflection here is how, at any given moment, I experience Bach. With him one is in the presence of a brain that functions like a computer, which quite simply, starting from one and the same point, runs through, over and over again, the entire range of variation possibilities of the given piece of material. If we listen to Bach’s compositions in poor perform-


three questions to györgy kurtág (1982–1985)

ances, where the sound material is not perfectly articulated/interpreted, we may think that one piece is just like another. What I mean by all that is that one has to be very careful about saying of someone, fifty or even a hundred years later, that he was doing the same thing, or that he went down certain avenues in the same manner. There was a time when people were inclined to think that Stravinsky created a neo-Classical something or other and churned out pieces in that style. From today’s perspective it looks completely different. The intervening period has demonstrated that they are “uniform” only to a superficial listener: the pieces have acquired individuality. Even of Bartók, people sometimes tend to say that he repeated things that he had already made use of, and that in Contrasts, even at times in the Concerto, signs of a certain fatigue can be discerned—that they are not pristinely new. I myself am not so fond of Contrasts, but I’m not sure that I am right, because it may also depend on whether I have learned it thoroughly enough, whether I can judge it from inside. At the same time, the C major in Bartók’s Rondo may have a radiant glow to it, simply because I am listening to that particular C major and not the C major in the Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion or the one in For Children. BAV: How important is the problem of self-repetition for you in your own works? KGY: It’s important, important. I often forget about pieces that have already been written, and it does happen that I discover the same thing all over again. When I look back after a lapse of time, the moments of fatigue also stand out more; it is clear to me today which elements in my Viola Concerto have worn thinnest. Interestingly enough, those elements struck me at the time as specifically new or bold, perhaps because the pieces around them were even less fresh or had recourse to other sources. BAV: To stay with a recent experience: the Attila József Fragments have many new things to say even in juxtaposition to Messages of the Late R. V. Troussova.5 KGY: I am not sure if it is true. According to András Wilheim, for example, I am treading on well-trodden paths. That is something that I, at the present moment, am unable to experience; maybe I will later. Undoubtedly, there is a bunch of things that, one way or another, negotiate avenues with excessive regularity that were, indeed, familiar to me long ago. It’s terribly important for me, and that is how it had to be, but that might change in me. Nevertheless, the piece is full of gestures where I am simply uninterested in whether or not I am familiar with them. The Lesz lágy hús mellé ifjú kalarábé (There’ll be tender meat with young kohlrabi) section [no. 15 from Attila József Fragments] is the same do-re-mi material, note for note, as that of the penultimate song of S. K. Remembrance Noise,6 but it finds a new voice from the very fact that in the second half it emerges from a Gregorian or folk-song-like recitative (where the text too changes: De ez már a mi porunkból fakad [But all this grows from our dust now]).

three questions to györgy kurtág (1982–1985)


With the Attila József Fragments, what I somehow wanted was for something to exist that I can distribute like a pamphlet. For instance, Irgalom, édesanyám . . . (Mercy, mother . . . ) [No. 18]. One is always coming back to certain problems. Right now, for instance, I feel like returning to a major chord and repeating it over and over again. Like the F-major chord in the Twelve Microludes for string quartet, which is always played by the two violins on three different strings.7 It also thrills me what materials I find to contrast with this chord. Or there is the mouth-organ-like piece in Játékok (Hommage à Borsody). So one keeps on returning, from time to time, to an identical piece of material in order to map out new possibilities inherent in it. As to the point at which that wanders off into self-repetition . . . Certain major-chord pieces did not come off and have remained in the drawer; others I have released, but they are not among the works recommended for concert performance. We are innocent when something comes off, as we are when it doesn’t. I sometimes return home from Budaliget8 with the notion that I have found something quite marvelous—and it isn’t. At other times, something is born within two minutes that never needs altering: Mercy, mother . . . , for instance. I wrote that down in pencil, and not a note has been changed since then. There are numerous versions of the other pieces, and I had to return to them many times over. In other words, what is good I receive as a gift: I am innocent in the matter. When I am as if paralyzed for months or years on end, the very fact that I can write anything at all is, in itself, a great joy. That alone is a gift. I am also quite aware that the first couple of pieces are generally just a warming up, and they are discarded. Sometimes, I manage to make something good out of nothing quite by accident. But more often than not I don’t.


The Three Questions Again (1996) More than twenty years after publishing the interviews with eighty-two composers, I thought it would be revealing to approach them again to see whether the views they had expressed were still valid. In response, Helmut Lachenmann completely reworked his replies, turning them into a veritable essay; Henri Dutilleux made several alterations to the text; Boulez toned down the edges of his critical remarks regarding the music of Morton Feldman; and Wolfgang Rihm, Hans Werner Henze, and many others saw no need for revision. I had hoped that a second edition of the book could be brought out, also including younger composers who had emerged in the course of those two decades. Sadly, nothing came of that idea. Kurtág received me in 1996 in the apartment he was renting in Grinzing, a picturesque suburb of Vienna: he was acting as the Konzerthaus’s first composerin-residence with weekly master classes in the Schoenberg Hall of that prestigious institution. In all those years, I was possessed by another idea as well. It had been triggered by a haphazard glance into the first volume of conversations between Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft. I had lighted on the page where the composer was asked if he could think of a graphic image that would represent his music. Craft drew a number of such images to show what he had in mind, representing the music of Bach, Webern, and others. In response, Stravinsky replied: “This is my music” and proceeded to draw what he considered to be its graphic representation. I thought it would be fascinating to present a comprehensive survey of contemporary music in the world today through images provided by the composers. A frantic correspondence ensued, which initially produced encouraging results. Wolfgang Rihm responded almost immediately and sent me three drawings, Kurtág sent three as well, Ligeti came to my office to draw the graphic representation of four of his creative periods. Dutilleux, Donatoni, Babbitt, Xenakis, Pärt, Furrer, and many others followed suit. Elliott Carter replied that while he could not draw, his music had a striking kinship to the art of Willem de Kooning. So instead of sending me a picture, he mailed a postcard with a reproduction of a painting by de Kooning.

the three questions again (1996)


Eventually, however, I had to admit defeat: some composers, such as Boulez or Lachenmann, questioned the very idea of music having a graphic equivalent, others regretted that they had no talent for drawing, and still others promised to send me one, but never did. Stockhausen and Steve Reich indicated that in their view, the graphic image of music was in fact the score itself. In the end, I had to drop my plan altogether. The following interview combines the two projects: I posed to Kurtág the three questions of old and also asked him to draw his music. Bálint András Varga (BAV): As I reread the conversation we conducted years ago, I was struck by certain details I had forgotten or overlooked at the time. One of these was the idea of “crampedness.” You have said in the past that you were fascinated by the fantastic trees and branches in the Parc Montsouris in Paris, the twists of gnarled boughs. You also mentioned that, back in the 1950s, you would grab a pencil, place it on a piece of paper and shake your hand, as it were. The gesture left a trace on the paper. You repeated this act several times, creating a whole series of images. In 1995, I asked you to contribute one to my collection that could be considered a graphic representation of your music. You sent me three drawings, two of which looked very much alike—they were both “cramped.” You said that the smaller one of these two was even closer to how you felt about your music than was the other. The third drawing was completely different: it was like a vision, perhaps representing, as you indicated, a group of dancers or puppets. The difference between the two kinds of drawings is astounding. It is as if one were the result of a conscious decision: this is how I see my music, and this is how I want others to see it. In order to achieve that, I need to grab a pencil, place it on a piece of paper and shake my hand, just as I did in the past. The third drawing—the dancers—is a dream: a manifestation of the unconscious, as it were, and that has nothing to do with “crampedness.” How would you explain the fundamental difference between the two kinds of images? György Kurtág (GYK): Good question—hard to answer. Look, crampedness or no, there is an element of concentration there.1 I look at one and say: this is what happened. Then I look at another and say: this happened, too. It could as well be a crow . . . BAV: . . . or an insect. GYK: Or an insect. There is in fact a difference, but I wouldn’t call the first two drawings conscious: they are, rather, an automatic communication that captures the emotion of a moment. The difference is, I would say, that the third drawing is the maximum that I can achieve in the way of representing a human being. It is not a rendering of a specific object, no more than are the other drawings. It is, rather, something of which I can say that it resembles something. BAV: This is very interesting, because it points to an essential feature of your music. Both in the abstract dots and the drawing, you are after something specific, and in each case, you find it. Everything has a human content and signifi-



the three questions again (1996)


3 Figures 1, 2, and 3: In response to my request for Kurtág to “draw his music,” he sent me three pictures. Two of them are almost identical, the only difference being one of size. According to the composer, the smaller one corresponds better to what he imagines his music to be like. In a note sent with the drawings, he commented, however: “Well, that’s what I can do, although Márta thinks it is no longer valid. Still, that is my ideal.” The third drawing came back with the following scribble: “A group of dancers like that—or puppet theater?—also came up sometimes.” Reproduced by kind permission of the Bálint András Varga Collection, Akademie der Künste, Berlin.

cance that can be defined. (Before sitting down to record this conversation, you and Márta rehearsed your new piano piece written for György Somlyó’s birthday, and you pointed out its question-and-answer character.) It is this emotional immediacy that grabs listeners and brings them closer to the nineteenth century—even to Mahler. In asking you to what extent these drawings reflect your music, I meant exactly that: the impulse behind both. GYK: They don’t really reflect my music; I’d prefer to say I would be happy if my music were like that.


the three questions again (1996)

BAV: You have always sought for simplicity . . . Márta Kurtág (MK): You really don’t mind if I say something? GYK: Not at all—it could help me move on. MK: This is what I’ve been thinking. First of all, the gesture of grabbing a pencil or pen and giving a signal has always been a conscious point of departure for you. Years on, it has lost none of its significance. Second, the goal is the same: total, physical involvement, which marks your teaching as well: If you are “dangling” from the music, that’s all wrong. If you are “on it,” that’s the real thing. GYK: At school, I could not draw at all. But Magda Kardos discovered that although I was very awkward on the piano, when I played Marcia delle bestie 2 or some other twentieth-century piece, I played it as though I could perform Liszt’s Sonata in B Minor immediately afterward. During the war, she organized musical evenings at home for her pupils and she had me participate as well. One day, Emil Stein showed up. He was two years ahead of me at the Piarist High School. His father belonged to the Galilei Circle3 and had just been deported to Transnistria—not because he was a Jew, but because he was a Social Democrat. (Unlike many others, he survived and was able to return home.) It was through Emil that I joined the underground movement, which was synonymous with culture itself at the time. We would get together at the Steins’ for New Year’s Eve. Márta was there too, in 1948. A reproduction of Dürer’s portrait of Hieronymus Holzschuher hung on the wall. The art historian Heinrich Lützeler drew special attention to the gnarled trees of Lucas Cranach. He even highlighted details of such paintings. This meant a lot to me in those days. One of Max Eisikovits’s Ady songs—Kipp-kopp, mintha valaki jönne (Clip-Clop, As If Someone Were Coming)—had a decisive influence on me. The motive of waiting in vain: as if someone were coming but nobody does. Irrespective of whether or not love was involved, the motif of waiting was extremely important for me. In 1942 or 1943, I wrote a Suite for Piano and I used this title for the first movement. This was really my first composition.4 The harmony is very much like Bartók and its obstinacy is also Bartókian: the same chord is being played over and over again. This is not a repeat by any means but a heartbeat and then another heartbeat. For me, harmony is melody pressed like a flower. Which puts me in mind of my collection of pressed flowers, which was very disorganized, but of which I was very fond, when I was eleven or twelve years old. BAV: Is all this related to your ideal of beauty? Do you prefer Cranach’s gnarledness to smooth lines and Botticelli’s beauty? GYK: This ideal of beauty is a tricky business. My ideal of beauty is the slow movement of Schubert’s Quintet in C or the “Unfinished” Symphony. My ideal of beauty is when something is simply—well, beautiful. If I say “beautiful,” I have very few points of reference in my own work, and if there are some, I feel ashamed because they seem so meagre. BAV: For instance, the movement from Twelve Microludes, which you reused in the last movement of . . . quasi una fantasia . . . is really beautiful.5

the three questions again (1996)


GYK: That is precisely what flashed through my mind just now. BAV: But there’s nothing to feel ashamed about there! GYK: I don’t really feel ashamed, but I do feel it is a little one-sided. MK: He means that it is meager compared with the Schubertian ideal of beauty. Of course, I disagree. BAV: Had you ever thought of the possibility that music could be represented graphically before I asked you? GYK: I don’t know whether I had thought of it or not. When I was producing my things in India ink, I was making signs. I felt like a worm squeezed in a tree— in my despair, I wanted to do something, just to kill time. Because I was no good for anything else. It is likely that these things had something to do with what came later.6 It is also likely that in producing the India ink images, I was hoping that in music I would sometime be able to do better than I was eventually capable of. I still think the same today when I look at the ink drawings . . . I don’t know . . . I wish . . . BAV: You wish you could write music like that? GYK: Uh-huh. BAV: What would that music sound like? GYK: I once wanted to write an orchestral piece: a single gesture, terribly virtuosic, terribly difficult, with everything superposed on top of each other, lasting not even a minute. This I couldn’t bring off either. Yet, had I been able to, then you wouldn’t have been able to hear a single note of it: now that would have been cause for despair. [At this point Márta Kurtág got up and fetched a folder from the next room.] I seem to have had something of a career as a visual artist. Together with the painter Sári Gerlóczy I used to consult the psychoanalyst Imre Hermann. I gave him some drawings—Sári called one “goats.” This one, here, looks like a goat, too, perhaps. Sári passed some of these on to Katalin S. Nagy, who gave lectures on them. The drawings were even shown at an exhibition in Caen. MK: I wanted to show these ink drawings because it bothered me that all we had been talking about were the little flies, “insects” as you put it. GYK: I don’t know how many notebooks I filled with those signs. It did not take more than ten minutes to fill one. They did evolve in some way—mostly in the wrong direction. The bigger they got, the less interesting they became. BAV: What was it that you really wanted to do? GYK: I didn’t want to do anything, I didn’t want to express anything. When I did, there was a problem. I kept on making these drawings for almost two years. The trigger may have been Péter Halász’s staging of King Kong. They set up a giant ape at Balatonboglár . . .7 MK: Our son Gyuri wrote the music for it. BAV: In recent years you have alluded several times to the fact that you dream quite often and that you take your dreams seriously. Do they have any musical aspects and if so, in what way?

4 Figures 4–13: The Kurtág Collection at the Paul Sacher Foundation in Basle houses some one thousand drawings in black ink (some in color), all dating from the early 1970s. They are the products of a long and painful period of creative paralysis when Kurtág was unable to compose. Instead, he resorted to channeling his emotions, his impulses into actions where the subconscious took the upper hand over volition. Nine pictures have been selected to give an idea of these ersatz-compositions. Reproduced by kind permission of the György Kurtág Collection, Paul Sacher Foundation, Basle.









the three questions again (1996)



GYK: Interestingly enough, I have been dreaming less and less recently. I dreamt a piece after the death of Annie Fischer, and a few notes of it ended up in Virág (Flower) written in memory of Zoltán Kocsis’s father. When I was awake, there was precious little to be done with it. But I did dream that I was writing a piece. MK: Colinda8 is another dream piece, is it not? GYK: It works like a dream, but it wasn’t born in a dream. I explain it by saying that it works like a dream. Márta was asleep at Budaliget while I was writing it! BAV: What I meant to ask was how important the unconscious and instinctive impulses are in your creative work. GYK: Nothing else is important! My brain never gets me very far. As I’ve told you before, when I know how to do something, when I know what the form will be like, what kind of variations or systems will be in the piece—then I normally don’t write it. BAV: Yet you do know how to analyze your work. I was there after a performance of the Four Capriccios,9 when you told Zoltán Kocsis, who conducted the piece, that you had never heard the Gigue sound so well. Was the inclusion of the Gigue in the piece an unconscious, instinctive act? GYK: It never occurred to me that I was actually writing a Gigue. But even if it had occurred to me, it would have been of secondary importance. I only felt that something was needed there.


the three questions again (1996)

BAV: In other words, you compose first and analyze later. GYK: Afterward I either understand it, or I don’t. Often I don’t. András Wilheim keeps telling me that by revising [The Sayings of Péter] Bornemisza I spoiled it. The last movement was, in a way, too long. I wanted to tighten it, and now I have the feeling that in doing so, I completely flattened the space. I am still not confident enough to say this is really the case, but it does seem rather likely. When I taught it the other day, I was proud that I had been able to make it tauter, less long-winded. But I now have the impression that perhaps a year later I could no longer understand what I had had in mind. MK: That’s not so sure. GYK: It’s not so sure, I wouldn’t swear to it, but something isn’t right there. It is certain that something was drawn out too long in the penultimate movement, the one for piano solo. To a certain extent I helped it by changing it. BAV: Back in 1982, my first question was whether you had had an experience similar to Lutosławski’s in that an encounter with a piece of music radically transformed your musical thinking. Over the years, it has become clear to me that you simply need to listen to music all the time; as if you absorbed some creative juices from listening. So I could rephrase my question and ask you why you listen to music; what is it that other composers’ music gives you? Unlike Lutosławski, you do not protect yourself against outside influences. GYK: Four days ago, we turned on the television. Márta wanted to see a thriller. All of a sudden, they announced a concert by a young singer, Erika Miklósa. We had never heard her name before. Let’s see how she is. The concert began with the overture to Les Vêpres siciliennes. János Kovács conducted. It had a completely overwhelming effect on me. First of all, he turned out to be exactly the kind of musician I like; if something new happens in the music, he immediately responds. I had rarely heard such precision in music-making except from great Italian conductors such as Toscanini and others of that caliber. I liked the singer, too: she and József Gregor performed Verdi, Donizetti, Bellini, Meyerbeer, Gounod. János Kovács conducted the overture to Don Pasquale, again fantastically. Meanwhile, Márta looked at me and said: “Now you’re composing.” MK: That’s not what I said. I looked at him and felt that he was learning. BAV: Would it be possible to say what exactly you were learning? GYK: These are awfully simple things. I’d say question and answer. He just puts some things there: a tremolo on the timpani and an E-minor chord. And what’s going to happen now? I’m talking of the overture to La forza del destino. In Don Pasquale, the crazy idea is that he throws into the potpourri all kinds of materials that don’t fit together, and lets them rot in that pot. BAV: In other words, you stand behind the composer’s back and watch him. GYK: Nothing of the sort! I feel it under my skin. I feel I ought to look this up, but I know I never will, I’d be too lazy to look for a score. Getting it out of the library is out of the question; it is too complicated to go there. Nor would I ask someone to get it for me from home—though it does interest me a lot. I shall

the three questions again (1996)


retain whatever I remember from listening to it this once. Even that I’m going to forget, but years later, it might come back to me again. MK: But when he teaches, he delves right inside the music and illuminates it from within. BAV: I know that you do get out a lot of scores. You were reading Mozart on the train from Vero˝ce to Budapest.10 Were you exploring the decisions he had made in particular contexts? GYK: Yes. Or, in Bartók’s Violin Concerto I was struck by the fantastic economy of his orchestration. I had heard Mátyás Seiber’s analysis of the piece on the BBC. I didn’t retain much of it. But then, in 1946, I sat through all the rehearsals of Doráti and Menuhin in Budapest; then I learned to play the piano reduction, and for years I was probably the only one able to accompany the piece. Later, when I heard the Doráti/Menuhin recording, I was terribly disappointed by how thin the sound was, after what I had become used to from playing it myself. Bartók’s piano reduction suggested a different orchestration from what he ended up choosing, in order to avoid covering the violin. BAV: So for you, composing is not at first an act of conscious shaping. Rather, you help with the birth of what wants to be born. But what about raising the child afterward—what about conscious work? GYK: Márta is the projection of my superego. She has a sense of proportion; she will say, for instance, that we need twice as much of this, or that’s too prolix, or it deviates somewhere and is not heading in the direction leading to freshness. Sometimes, chance plays some strange games. For instance, I was preparing the piano version of Beckett.11 When I was almost finished, I saw that I had inadvertently omitted two lines from the text. I had to restore them and had to explain why. I could very well have left them out, since there are lines I repeat and lines I don’t. Yet for some reason, I didn’t want to leave them out—even though the piece would have been better proportioned if I had. So I corrected Beckett. Correction in the Opus 18 choruses12 went like this: for over a period of fifteen years I had made sketches for the Lermontov piece and the others; in two of them, I composed a strophe from beginning to end and then, rather than continue with the piece, I started it all over again, the way I had wanted it to begin years before. I completed the strophe the second time; only then did the piece move on. I followed the same procedure for the Blok and Akhmatova settings as well. This, then, is conscious shaping, though it could also be conscious misshaping, I’m not sure. BAV: What is it that convinces you that a piece, or a line in a piece, is finally good? We can tell from the dates in the manuscripts that you keep returning to even a very short piece again and again, and sometimes over a very extended period. In the end, do you strike a compromise or are you fully convinced that it is good? GYK: I am always fully convinced that it’s good, but then it turns out that it isn’t good after all.


the three questions again (1996)

BAV: How do you know that? GYK: Normally, when a piece is performed. Just now, for instance, Judit Horváth played the solo viola pieces in Davos; she had played them in concert with us some years before, but by the time she had learned the pieces I had already made many new changes. Not a single one had remained unchanged! We studied and rehearsed them all over again in Davos—this meant that she had to learn some new notes. BAV: Do you mean that you modify a piece when a new performer plays it? GYK: Yes. It may come to that. I like it when I see that a certain solution sits particularly well with someone. BAV: And if the same solution doesn’t sit so well with someone else? GYK: Then I will propose a different version. MK: What do you mean by “sitting particularly well?” Nothing sits really well in the traditional sense of the word. What do you mean by that? GYK: During the rehearsals for the first performance of Bornemisza, I moved an entry down as much as a sixth, in order to make the singer’s job easier. Likewise, I transposed the Attila József Fragments down a third or more to make the performer feel better. When a student felt more comfortable a half-step lower, I said, yes, by all means. BAV: These changes don’t affect the essence of the piece: they are more like ossias. GYK: But I sometimes change characters, too. I will change bowings: the minute someone responds in a different way, I tell them to play more legato or separate the tones. BAV: I would never have thought that your pieces were so flexible; I thought they were all etched in stone. GYK: Sometimes I compose cadenzas anew, change notes, go from a continuous ending to one interrupted by rests. BAV: Why don’t you say there is no obligation to play these pieces? This is how I wrote them, if you can’t do it, someone else will. GYK: If we do something together, they should have the satisfaction of succeeding. MK: Somehow, I don’t think this is a decisive issue. One of your principal discoveries was that in instrumental performance, a resistance has to be fitted in, the easy solution is not the right one. GYK: Yes, but I put the resistance into works differently for different performers. My goal is exactly what Márta says, but for each person, the threshold is in a different place. BAV: But how can you change a piece in 250 ways? GYK: I have to try all sorts of things for the sake of the goal, which is that I have to enable the performer to have a rapport with the piece. If one of the exercises goes very well—for instance, I’ll say “let’s play this staccatissimo, so it can become

the three questions again (1996)


legatissimo later”—if one solution works very well for a given performer, I will find a way to make them get into the heart of the piece through that solution. MK: I may be wrong, but I think what you’re talking about now is how you work as a teacher and not as a composer. It is incidental that the piece in question is by you. BAV: The two are really one—you would not be able to treat another composer’s work so freely. GYK: Indeed I would. BAV: We have been talking about solo or chamber pieces. But what happens with an orchestral work? GYK: Let me see . . . What didn’t work: Stele had no ending.13 I tried to resolve this by having everyone repeat their notes at the last entry. I changed the orchestration here and indeed the whole character of the piece, but to no avail: the work still had no proper ending. There is no conclusion to be drawn from this, but that’s all I can think of right now. As I get older, I like to write the notes within the five lines of the staff. Even when writing for viola, I don’t like to use ledger lines. The viola likes to be on the staff lines . . . MK: You have a nerve to say that! GYK: I have indeed. MK: How can you say that after the Beckett songs?14 BAV: Recently, you’ve been using some wide octave leaps! GYK: But many of the Hölderlin Songs and the viola pieces have very restricted ranges.15 You can find both the wide and narrow ranges. MK: I wish to God you could! GYK: These games with the octaves . . . I don’t know. The choruses have something mysterious to them. The minute I start writing for chorus, all hell breaks loose. Then I have no consideration for anything. MK: You know why I didn’t bring up the choruses? I didn’t want to give you away. [They laugh.] GYK: It’s beyond me. Mind, none of my choruses was written on commission. I composed Omaggio à Luigi Nono16 when I should have been working on Troussova. I wrote the Tandori choruses17 in place of the Piano Concerto.18 BAV: Do you understand your own physiological processes that enable you to compose? Do you know when you are in a state in which work could go well and what is to be done when you are likely to get bogged down? GYK: This summer, for the first time, I felt that my Shakespeare songs were getting flatter and flatter, and I knew the only solution was to stop working. A little like Robert Craft telling the old Stravinsky not to compose any more. He did not survive for long . . . I felt I couldn’t go on, I mustn’t go on. And it was just as well, after Ton de Leeuw’s19 wonderful Shakespeare choruses it was a good thing not to take those weak Shakespeare songs to Amsterdam.


the three questions again (1996)

BAV: Now let’s get on to the second question I put to you in 1982: are you affected by the sounds that surround you? I sometimes try to follow Cage’s example: when walking in the woods, I will stop so as not to hear my own footsteps, and listen to whatever sounds are around me. Small noises, birds, the wind, an airplane in the distance—all this finally emerges from behind a veil, providing a memorable experience of sound. I think it was also Cage who said that all these sounds almost add up to a composition: the birdsong is the introduction, the wind is the development, and so on. GYK: This is closely linked to the question as to when do I deserve to listen with full concentration to Beethoven or Bartók, or to read a poem by Attila József. For years it was a tremendous experience for me to hear the first song of the blackbird in spring. Then that passed; I was in a state where I couldn’t really respond to it—either because I was totally absorbed in my work or because I didn’t deserve that sound. Maybe I will be able to listen to it this coming spring. Generally, I live on extremely brief impressions—three minutes or five at the seashore or on the cliffs of Prussia Cove.20 That was all I had before I had to go to teach. But those three minutes—those were real. BAV: So you do have a desire to listen to nature. GYK: I’d love to, but then I don’t have the opportunity. What I hate about traveling nowadays is that the cities become rehearsal rooms and concert halls, nothing else. BAV: For Paul Méfano even the rumbling of the underground can be an inspiration. GYK: Anything can be an inspiring experience if you are in the proper receptive state. As long as there is such an experience. The underground can make a strong impression, and even the really ugly outskirts of a city can be beautiful— if you are open. BAV: I can understand what it’s like when you’re open or when you’re not. But what do you mean by deserving something or not deserving it? I remember when you were awarded the Bartók-Pásztory Prize, Béla Bartók Jr. said something to the effect that this prize had to be earned. You couldn’t get that comment out of your head, you kept returning to it over and over again. GYK: That’s something else, something extraneous. That I didn’t take seriously. But deserving from within—that’s life itself. Life or apparent death. BAV: I have the impression that what you really mean is that you did something that prevents you from deserving something. GYK: That is now a recurrent phrase in my teaching: you have only deserved this decrescendo if you managed to carry the previous crescendo to a point where it could no longer be continued. Or, you’ve got to earn this sforzato. If you get it for nothing, if it only sounds like one because you just pounded the keys, that’s no sforzato. Whether you die for it or not—that’s what deserving really means. BAV: But this now is about you. Isn’t this business of not deserving a kind of self-torture, a self-flagellation, something like what medieval monks practiced?

the three questions again (1996)


GYK: It is, but not quite as intense. Gyuri Maros calls it “brain fog.” BAV: In other words, you only deserve to listen to Beethoven if you are in a receptive state that enables you to grasp the piece in its entirety. GYK: I can’t grasp anything in its entirety even if I am in a receptive state. My natural state is to sit and look at nothing in particular. Márta will ask me what I’m thinking of. Nothing. I’m not in the habit of thinking. I like to teach because it forces me to think, or rather, it sets off a mechanism and I learn some very interesting things about my own thoughts. I never think if I have free time. I will study or do something, but I can’t just think. I can, though, when I teach or when composing is going really well. That’s when that one point to focus on, the red apple on the stairs in Judit’s photo, becomes important.21 BAV: When I said “self-torture,” what I meant was that you listen to a quartet by Gubaidulina on the radio and you feel ashamed because it is so good—now this is self-torture, or monastic humility. GYK: All it means to me is that “it’s a shame I can’t do this.” It’s a shame my music-making isn’t that flexible. MK: You already had this self-flagellant streak when I first met you. GYK: Of course! MK: But this has become less marked, and I don’t think it’s characteristic anymore. He has shed it, partly by growing older and partly through psychoanalysis. I don’t see him as one given to self-torture anymore. BAV: There is a story that shows that you are very well aware of what you are worth. When Wilfried Brennecke put on the premiere of the Kafka Fragments,22 you were very upset about what you considered to be an unsuitable place on the program and said: “He doesn’t know what he’s getting.” GYK: I believed that then, I don’t anymore. MK: Come on, you still do. You heard it in Davos, and you said it’s really a great . . . GYK: Yes, when I hear it. But when I think of it, I don’t have the same feeling. BAV: You are past it. Which leads me to my third question, about individual style and self-repetition. How relevant is this question to you today? GYK: I’m just beginning to perceive it as a problem. This winter I’ve been doing some very good work on the Lichtenberg settings.23 On the Beckett songs, too. Márta thinks I shouldn’t allow the Beckett songs to be performed at all. I don’t want them to be performed either, I don’t miss hearing them. Husman performed the Lichtenbergs and it was a very bad feeling because the pieces don’t come across. Maybe they should just be shown in score. I would like to see them, even in the order I wrote them, but I don’t wish them to be performed. They are pieces to be read. Some of them are fresh, of course. I don’t think Einschläfriger Kirchstuhl (Fallasleepy Pew) has been completely resolved yet; I have now tried to compose it all over again at Vero˝ce. Columbus and Touropa, particularly where it plays on C major, are pretty good. The Hölderlin songs are a different case . . .


the three questions again (1996)

MK: . . . very different . . . GYK: Yet there, too, there are a few pieces that should only be read, not sung. There are a few where I said: it’s a good thing I’m forgetful. Since I no longer remember having written a certain passage, it stays fresh in spite of being literally repeated. But I’m not so sure anymore, even of this. Maybe it doesn’t stay fresh. I don’t know. BAV: To give a specific example: In Memory of a Winter Sunset24 begins the same way as Messages of the Late Miss R. V. Troussova. GYK: That’s a certain type of motion, a Gigue. In the string pieces, too, it often happens, that . . . What I see these days is that some pieces are almost good, which means they are not good. They start well, end beautifully, but there is something that’s not right. MK: In the memorable words of Rimma:25 “the trouble is that I’m not writing my selected poems, just poems as they come.” You write an occasional piece that is almost good and therefore not good, and then you write an occasional piece like the one for Zsigmondy, which is incredibly good.26 BAV: Perhaps composing is no longer a private affair. There are so many people waiting for the pieces, there are so many expectations . . . GYK: Composing is strictly a private affair. What matters is that Jutka Horváth went and played the piece for Józsa Blum. It’s a message . . . It has struck me that in the title of the piano version, even the Beckett has been turned into a message: Beckett Sends Word Through Ildikó Monyók.27 That is most important. The letters of Mme de Sévigné. It may have to do with old age: there is no impatience in me. Now I’m writing this. And then I shall see. The piece only counts the next day: if it still interests me, then at least it’s not bad. If there is too much doctoring to do, then it begins to look suspect. BAV: How can you tell whether the piece is any good? You look at what you’ve written, you hear it inside . . . GYK: I play it through for myself. BAV: In other words, you detach yourself from it. GYK: No. I also play it through when I am writing the piece. Playing them through varies a great deal, because there are a lot of works that were true the way I played them when I wrote them, but I can never recapture that quality in them again. It’s like a dream: I dream a beautiful piece, and when I write it down it’s not so beautiful anymore. But there are some pieces that endure. BAV: Most of your compositions render extraordinary emotional tension and shattering experiences in music. Thunder and lightning. You probably experience all this intensity at the time of writing. No wonder you need to unwind, to rest and take a break from “thinking.” The clouds must gather, and you have to wait until the electric tension is ready to discharge again. GYK: That sounds very beautiful. I don’t know. BAV: I hesitate to ask: are you someone blessed or cursed with emotional earthquakes? Perhaps those are what make you an artist?

the three questions again (1996)


GYK: I don’t know. When I am listening to good music, I feel ashamed that I may be moving in the same direction in my own work, but I can’t quite carry it through to the end. In the Wahrer Weg (The True Way) movement of the Kafka Fragments, I wrote “Persevere!” into the score for myself. And for once I succeeded. MK: Can’t it be that you feel your pieces are bad when you hear them badly played, but like them when the performance is good? GYK: I don’t think so, because we went over the Lichtenberg songs with Husman in Davos and decided they didn’t work. Perhaps seven or eight pieces out of twenty-two are worth keeping. BAV: To change the subject: sometimes I feel that you are suggestible. You told me about Péter Eötvös’s comment that it was time you wrote a longer, cohesive piece—and you decided to give it a try. And what if I said it would be a good thing if you composed a three-hour piece? GYK: I would love to write one. Rückblick was meant to be like that.28 I thought I would just get down to it and make it a single long work. This year I studied Bartók’s Fifth String Quartet on two occasions. Like the Third and the Fourth, it is made up of the same kind of microludes. It formulates something, and immediately there comes something completely different. All the while, something ensures the connection. This idea of sonata form—or form in general—is what I would like to experiment with. But I can’t bring it off. Perhaps someday it will let itself. Until that happens, I don’t know.


15 Figures 14 and 15: Two photographs of Márta and György Kurtág taken at rehearsals in Budapest in 2004 and 2006, respectively. Complete harmony in their approach to music, a smile of rapture on their faces in figure 14, a change of roles in figure 15: Kurtág is now teacher, his wife concentrating on putting his instructions into practice. A lifetime shared in creating, rehearsing, and performing music. Photograph by Andrea Felvégi.


Key Words (2007–2008) The title of this third interview, recorded in November 2007 and April 2008 in the Kurtágs’ Budapest apartment, has been chosen to serve as a hint to the method I used in formulating my questions. We did not have sufficient time at our disposal to discuss every single composition or indeed all the pivotal works. Instead, I decided to concentrate on just a few pieces written over the past years and to examine them through the means of key words, that is, characteristic features that apply to Kurtág’s music in general. Also, I thought it best to approach the compositions the way I listen to them: via the emotional impact they make on me rather than analytically (which, not being a musician myself, would have been inappropriate anyway). There is a curious kinship on this count between Kurtág and myself. If you read his tribute to his friend György Ligeti, you will come upon the passage where Kurtág describes, in an amusingly self-ironical manner, the way he responds to beauty in art: like a naive child rather than an adult with the keen analytical mind of Ligeti. I listen to music—certainly the kind of music Kurtág writes—with my guts, my stomach. Please bear this in mind (and please, bear with me) when you read comments like “The beginning of the second movement is quite frightening. It sounds like a headlong flight.” That is how I hear this music— but more important, that is also in a way how Kurtág himself experiences it and expects his listeners to experience it. It follows that you cannot really expect cool objectivity to have informed the interviewer’s questions. This portrait sketch of György Kurtág was inspired by the reporter’s avowed enthusiasm for the composer’s music, rooted in thirty-six years of exposure to new works as they have been emerging. I was grateful to Fate for the opportunity of telling him face to face (whether the tape recorder was running or switched off) just how deeply, on the level of instincts, his music affected me. “You are being very kind,” he replied, “but I cannot really grasp what you are saying. Usually, at the end of a session of teaching a piece of mine, I would say: ‘And now let’s listen to some music.’” During the course of the interview, my enthusiasm came up repeatedly against Kurtág’s selftormenting modesty, his relentless self-criticism. He has remained faithful to Thomas Mann’s maxim that he quoted in our 1982 conversation: “Talent is hardly more than being demanding toward oneself.” His consistent adherence to that principle has condemned works to destruction, abortion, or life in the drawer. That is what places over just-completed compositions a question mark, which floats above them as Damocles’ sword until they have passed muster at the world


key words (2007–2008)

premiere. The same principle applies to performers as well: they are supposed to know, to feel that each note in the score has a cosmos behind it; indeed, that each note was born in labor and musicians sounding them should relive the composer’s suffering. The very same principle inspires Kurtág’s teaching as well. Kurtág is a great composer who experiences his predecessors’ works with scorching intensity. He devotes weeks to studying their scores, even those he has taught in the past, in an effort to understand their message so that he can communicate it authentically to his pupils. You will find in the book recurring references to the Haffner Symphony. Each time he hummed the first bars (with forefinger stretched, a gesture shown on all the photographs taken at his classes), he experienced in mind as well as in body the switch from the energetic opening to the tender answer to it. He really means it when he says in the interview: those who choose to ignore that switch are his greatest enemies. What Kurtág said about the Haffner Symphony also provides a key to his own music. I hope our conversation will reach many instrumentalists and conductors who will ponder and take to heart references to particular compositions and will try to conjure up the blue sky over the wounded Prince Andrei in the battlefield . . . This brief interview will give you an inkling of the spiritual world that nourishes Kurtág’s musical thinking. Classical Greek authors, Tibetan music, Rimbaud and Attila József, Tolstoy and János Pilinszky, Bach and Hölderlin, Kafka and Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert, Brahms, Bartók, Webern, Stravinsky, Stockhausen, Ligeti, Vidovszky . . . Perhaps it is all about a highly refined sensitivity allied to a number of other traits, including a sponge-like thirst for impressions, new and old, worthy of being placed on the shelves of Kurtág’s own store of references. A sensitivity, beyond music, to shapes, space, colors, works of art. And sensitivity to people. First and above everybody else, his “projected self,” his companion for over sixty years: Márta. It is unforgettable the way they were sitting side by side at the desk in their Budapest apartment, Gyuri’s arm resting on Márta’s, and replying to my questions. It is unforgettable the way they demonstrated to me how clapping your hand could evoke an answer of the same kind. (They had last shown it to the public at Kolozsvár/Cluj in Transylvania at the end of March 2008, standing well apart in the concert hall.) It is unforgettable because I sensed how Gyuri’s hitting his palms together filled the air with electricity, with an invisible arch reaching out toward Márta and the resulting tension lasting until the moment Márta responded. The timing of her response was perfect to the fragment of a second. Those who have experienced the concerts of György and Márta Kurtág, have been able to sense their human and artistic oneness. For the past sixty years, they have shared every single external and internal event in their lives—to a certain extent the birth of new works as well. Our conversation is a document to that: Márta is the first listener of emerging pieces, her opinion is their very first echo. It serves as guidance but the decision lies with the composer. If Gyuri can identify himself with Márta’s suggestion, he acts on it. If he cannot, the piece or a particular aspect of it will remain, at least provisionally, in the form regarded by the composer as valid.

key words (2007–2008)


Rarely, Kurtág would say something that was new for Márta as well. Very often it would be she whose memory proved more reliable. She could remember details Kurtág had forgotten or that failed to occur to him on the spur of the moment. Françoise, Iannis Xenakis’s wife (a popular writer and television personality in France) has written a book on the companions of some outstanding personalities: Zut, on a encore oublié Mme Freud.1 She wanted to remind her readers that the wives of Karl Marx, Victor Hugo, Sigmund Freud, and others played no negligible role in making it possible for their husbands to devote themselves to their calling. In the case of the Kurtágs, you simply cannot forget about Márta. This book is also a document of her contribution to György Kurtág’s lifework. I start work at ten o’clock in the morning at the latest and take a break at one. I then have lunch and take a nap. The afternoon stint lasts until a quarter to eight, in time for the television news. I then set to work again and compose until midnight. György Kurtág

Bálint András Varga (BAV): I would like to start with a quotation from Graham Greene’s Ways of Escape: “ Writing is a form of therapy. Sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint, can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear which is inherent in the human situation.”2 György Kurtág (GYK): Beautiful. BAV: Indeed, and I thought it would appeal to you, it would mean something for you. I have also found another quotation. It is supposed to be a statement by you about Játékok: “It is a kind of everyday mythology, an attempt to tame the diabolic power of everyday life.” Did you ever say that? GYK: No . . . I may have done. I have no idea. BAV: But the idea itself is not alien to you. GYK: No, it is not. BAV: I have picked those quotations to underpin my impression, which I repeat every time we do an interview, that for you, composition stems from a deep-seated desire to communicate rather than from the wish to realize a particular musical idea. GYK: This is difficult . . . How shall I put it? Very little of it is conscious in any way. I am not aware of any intention to communicate. Nowadays I do not seem to want anything. For some reason, I just do it—I must do it. Since December 2006, I have concentrated on the Colinda˘ -Balada˘ [Op. 46]. I have only written one or two smaller pieces on the side, by way of relaxation. Now I have come to the end of a fifty-seven-page score. It is far from finished; some sections have been completed, others have yet to be elaborated. BAV: Is it scored for chorus and orchestra? GYK: It is for chorus and instruments, similarly to the Russian choruses, but I am trying to use even fewer instruments.


key words (2007–2008)

BAV: The title itself is a means of communication, isn’t it? The genre of ballad has a variety of associations and since Bartók’s Cantata profana, so does the Colinda˘ , this Romanian Christmas song. GYK: Not so much the title as the story of the ballad. The mighty Sun sets out to find a wife. He wanders eighteen years long and wears out eighteen horses. Nine of them die, nine collapse under him, but he finds no one to his liking. There is just one: his sister, Ana the Fairy. The Sun goes up to her and says: Ana, prepare your dowry, spin and weave, make dresses of silk, we are going to marry. Ana replies: I shall only marry you if you make a ladder that reaches right up to the sky. Mount it and ask Father Adam and Mother Eve what they make of a brother meeting his sister, a sister meeting her brother in desire. (In the music, desire is expressed through a mock quotation from Tristan. It works very well but I wonder how many people will recognize it as such. Not that it matters.) The Sun obeys his sister and does everything she wants. He addresses Father Adam: I have come to ask you a question. What do you make of a brother meeting his sister, a sister meeting her brother in desire? The moment Adam and Eve hear this question, they grab the Sun and put him in Hell. What happens then? Hell is suffused with light and the world turns dark. There is nothing for it but to release the Sun. He goes back to Ana and says: prepare, Ana, spin and weave! Make some shirts for me and silk dresses for yourself: we are going to marry. Ana replies: Before we marry, make a big silver bridge arching over the Earth. In the middle of it erect a large monastery and put in it a priest of wax. He should marry us. The Sun does exactly as his sister demands. When he has finished, he takes his sister by the hand and they set out on the bridge. Touching the girl’s hand only makes the Sun glow even hotter and the priest melts. Deus ex machina: God puts them in the sky. When the Moon rises, the Sun sets. (They never meet.) BAV: There is nothing abstract about this story either. There is a message in it that will have made you want to set it to music. GYK: In any case, I am not aware of any conscious wish to want to communicate something. One thing is certain: composing it made me terribly happy, especially in the last section, the sketches of which I completed recently. There is still quite a lot of work to do on it. I had a memorable experience in this connection: I told Ligeti the story of the Colinda˘ . By then, he had stopped talking and it was impossible to judge whether he could grasp what was being said around him. Even though he gave no sign, it was an important sensation for me . . . Márta Kurtág (MK): It was just as important for Vera, too.3 She says it is her most cherished memory of that last phase in her husband’s life. GYK: In those weeks, Ligeti would listen to a great deal of Bach. From our CD, we played him the Actus tragicus but he did not respond. MK: Ask Vera.4 BAV: Did Bartók know this Colinda˘ ? GYK: Bartók collected it.

key words (2007–2008)


Example 1: The ninth of the 484 colinda melodies collected and notated by Bartók inspired Kurtág to compose the Colinda˘ -Balada˘ . Béla Bartók, Rumänische Weihnachtslieder. © 1918 by Universal Edition A.G., Wien/UE 5890. Reproduced by permission.

I make use of the folk song: the piece begins like an arrangement and I gradually move away from it. Later on, I use an entirely different material. When Ana the Fairy addresses her brother: Mighty Sun, my little brother (using the diminutive), the folk song returns and then the music continues on its way. For me, it is a study in harmony as well. Interestingly enough, I could never have composed it but for the Ligeti text.5 Work on it brought home to me the need not to make do with first versions. BAV: You never make do with first versions! GYK: Yes, but here I had the feeling as though I had to invent everything from scratch. Incidentally, while writing the homage to Ligeti, I forgot all about my music. I went on composing but all I was interested in was Ligeti. BAV: I remember you said at the time that writing it had taught you a great deal about form. GYK: Yes! With regard to the Colinda˘ -Balada˘ , I have my work cut out to bring its form in order. For instance, the section where the Sun is wandering and wearing out his horses has turned out terribly long. The same text is repeated far too much. I shall have to make sure it does not grow dull.6 In the meantime, I have also prepared a version of the same Colinda˘ for two violins. Originally, I meant to make the Colinda˘ the basis of the fourth movement of . . . concertante . . .7 I still have some material left over. BAV: Your works for chorus are notoriously difficult for the singers. How about this time? GYK: This time it is just as difficult. However, I do have someone to help me: the Romanian composer Adrian Pop. I have sent him a third of the score and he has provided splendid comments on it. He was also impressed by my mastery of the Romanian language. I owe my command of Romanian to my teacher at


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the Lugos Lycée, Felician Brînzeu, who made it easy for us to grasp the rules of grammar. Ferenc László has sent me some documents that have survived from those years, including Brînzeu’s study on the vocative. It is as thorough and as exact as any essay by Bartók or Ligeti. BAV: Let us get back to the wish to communicate, or rather, the lack of it. This must be something new—in the past, you used to say you would love to distribute your scores like leaflets among the people. If you have nothing to communicate, you do not need those leaflets either . . . Indeed, you once mentioned the idea of standing on a street corner and shouting, say, one of the Attila József fragments: “Mercy, mother, mama, look, oh woe, this poem too is done!”8 GYK: It may have to do with my age, but basically I have not changed. I am not aware of any desire to communicate. In everyday life, I am a boring person, Márta has a dull time with me. MK: We were friends with the poets Pilinszky and Weöres. They reserved their ideas for their poems and were not particularly eloquent in private. GYK: I remember telling you, in discussing a new work by a contemporary composer, that it was not worth getting up for. But the same is true with me: I am not sure that it is worth my while getting up . . . I just do my thing. To get back to the Colinda˘ -Balada˘ : interestingly enough, now that I have burrowed my way forward in the piece, every harmony is in place, even where the score consists of no more than a two-part chorus. I wanted to get to the end so as to have an overview. BAV: Do you have any personal experience with folk music or is it just a matter of studying it on paper? GYK: I only know it from paper. BAV: You never went on collecting tours? GYK: I did once. The Institute of Popular Education sent us young composers to collect folk music on a voluntary basis. I went to the village of Sárpilis in Tolna County. My actual assignment was to “patronize” (to use a phrase current at the time) the local amateur choir led by István Bogár. They had collected the local folk songs and fashioned an attractive program out of them. I also had time left to collect folk music myself. At first go, I only heard uninteresting, dull stuff; what I was after were old-style folk songs. I hummed a bagpipe strain to indicate what I had in mind—whereupon Auntie Éva Kurdi, an old peasant woman, embarked on singing one after the other, submerging me with an avalanche of vulgar rhymes. It was folklore of a kind, perhaps, but was certainly of no scientific interest. In any case, I gave the material to the Institute of Popular Education but never made it a subject of scholarly study. BAV: Can you put a date to it? GYK: It must have been in 1951, I think. Ligeti was about to divorce his first wife and was staying with us. He took a look at my collection and actually helped me notate it. MK: Where did we live then?

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GYK: In Rippl-Rónai Street. I have forgotten where Ligeti was sleeping—we must have had a folding bed. BAV: So basically, you knew folk music from paper. What is there in it that moves you? GYK: Márta was quite shocked to see that I was only using a single folk melody in the Colinda˘ -Balada˘ , because the same turn of phrase was recurring many times. My own feeling was that in harmonizing it, I had hit upon the folk song’s racy essence. Márta reminded me, however, that it would be impossible to bear so much repetition throughout a whole piece. Now that I have played it for her from beginning to end, it has turned out to have far too few ritornelli. In other words, a fragment would return like a refrain—either the beginning of the melody or a perceptible variation of it. Something between rondo and variation. It could have done with some more. Actually, I now remember another series of encounters with folk music, in 1973. It was in Kolozsvár in the apartment of the Hungarian singer, music teacher, and folk music collector Júlia Szego˝ that I heard field recordings of peasant instrumentalists and singers from various parts of Transylvania. The idea was for me to decide which regions to visit to hear the performers live. That is how I encountered the violinist Mihály Halmágyi—on hearing a recording of his, I sensed I had to go to Gyimes to meet him.9 I also met a recorder player who much impressed me. It was fascinating to hear him sing and then play the song “Szerelem, szerelem, játkozott gyötrelem” (Adoration, adoration, accursed desolation). I have used it in a piano piece of the same title in Book III of Játékok. Júlia Szego˝ also took me to visit the Szék area where I heard some more folk music live. In other respects, too, the year 1973 was an important one in my life. I received a telegram with the news that the Kossuth Prize had been conferred on me.10 It came at a time when I had for years been in the throes of creative paralysis, I was in a state of utter distress. When my son suggested that I should take my wife Márta to Italy from the prize money, I did not have the slightest inclination to do so: with my soul dirty from the idleness imposed on me, I did not deserve a visit to Italy. But my family persuaded me— and I received impulses that were to prove of utmost significance for my later work. Florence and Assisi in particular impressed me no end. And, in Bologna, Zoltán Peskó and I drank a cup of coffee that was to wake me up for a year and a half. The visit to Italy was followed by the one to Transylvania. The impact of those experiences must have played a decisive role in the liberation from my tormenting creative paralysis: I began to write Játékok. MK: Now on a completely different subject. It is a mystery to me how he settles on any particular piece from among his innumerable compositional ideas. Why that and not something else? For instance, he has been entertaining the idea of a Beckett opera for many years. Beckett is very close to him and he has found three short scenes he would like to set.11 GYK: The problem is that Beckett has provided too much information on the way the scenes are to be staged; indeed, he seemed to have had a clear idea also


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about the way they should be set to music. All I would have to do is fill in the gaps. BAV: But fill them in with music! I now remember what you once said about painting: if you know too much about a picture, it no longer holds any interest for you.12 Perhaps the same is true of the Beckett scenes: they have no secret left, too many details have been finalized in advance by the author. GYK: I don’t know. I don’t know. In any case, for the time being I shall have to keep away from them, whereas I have been stubbornly returning to the Colinda˘ -Balada˘ . There is another thing: the encounter with Brînzeu’s essay on the vocative has been something of an emotional shock and has brought back many memories. We had a rather peculiar relationship . . . BAV: In 1982, you said of him that “he was a taskmaster with a sadistic touch. For instance, he would slap us in the face with full force.” GYK: Slapping me is neither here nor there. He hit all of us without exception. He then forgot all about it, he held no grudge. Admittedly, as a true adolescent, I would provoke and annoy him quite a lot. He was a fantastic teacher. He would take the class on outings, to show us peasant looms, for instance. As a founding member of the Institut Français at Lugos, he got us to perform a play by Maeterlinck. He would program French chansons. He was friends with a lady pianist who played us Beethoven’s Sonata in A-flat Major, Op. 26, with Brînzeu commenting on it. BAV: A change of subject. Listening to your music, I have noted some key features and I wonder if I could ask you to comment on them. Here is the first one: rite. GYK: Yes, ritual. BAV: Would you agree that it often informs your music? Of course, ritual has from time immemorial been part of music and your works seem no exception. GYK: Yes. The beginning of, say, . . . quasi una fantasia . . . or its last movement. Our own concerts are also often described as rituals.13 BAV: In other words, even if you do not write music theater, your works are not devoid of a stage aspect. GYK: Not necessarily a stage aspect. Rather what Pilinszky said: for him, a Roman Catholic mass embodied the perfect dramatic genre. BAV: I think it was in your String Quartet, Op. 1 that I first came across the instruction “erstarren” (petrified). It is a stage effect.14 GYK: I stole that from the Darmstadt composers.15 It is also there in early pieces by Ligeti. BAV: It recurs quite a lot with you, too. I suppose you use it to call attention to a particular moment in the music. GYK: It is there in almost all of my compositions. I have two Russian songs to words by Daniil Kharms. One has yet to be completed (I intended it as a birthday present for Kagel). The story of the other one is extremely simple: a man goes out in the morning to buy some rolls. He meets another man who is doing the same. That is just about it. I wrote it for the birthday of Anatol Vieru. It ends with

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the words: “And that is all.” It is accompanied by this instruction “erstarren” (in Romanian, of course). Vieru had studied with Khatchaturian in Moscow and had a Russian wife. That is why I referred to the silent scene in The Inspector General.16 It has a fantastic, revolutionary idea: the real Inspector General turns up and every one stops as if petrified in the pose he or she happens to be in. In my song, I make a direct reference to that scene. BAV: Another key word: pause. In other words: silence. You have developed a set of signs to denote caesuras of differing lengths. They are of quite basic significance in your music. Recently, I have noticed something new: it is as if all the musicians were simultaneously taking breath only to continue playing with undiminished drive. GYK: In the last quartet,17 this has consciously taken the form of a sign of phrasing above the bar line. It does not necessarily mean that you have to wait. Dobszay’s wonderful definition of the caesura comes to mind: you do not necessarily have to stop. Caesura means that you take measure of the next unit. If necessary, you stop. This is where something has come to an end. I would add that the phrase has exhausted itself by the end and makes place for the next one. Just as in speech: you inflect the sentence downward toward the full stop. You let it drop and then you take stock of what you want to say next. The idea and practice of caesura seem to be disappearing from the world. Dobszay keeps it alive, in the most admirable fashion. MK: As he puts it, “It is the performer’s responsibility to highlight identities and to keep cadences clean.” GYK: This is a subject that needs detailed discussion. Another time. BAV: You said once that one has to deserve silence or caesura. GYK: That is always present with me. Indeed, each tone needs to be deserved! I usually illustrate this point by asking Márta in class or in the concert hall to stand well away from me. I clap my hands together [with Kurtág, it has the power of electric discharge] and she responds by doing the same. I clap fortissimo and she replies pianissimo or indeed the other way around. The two can also have identical intensity. The Haffner Symphony begins exactly in the same way [hums it]. If you cannot sense the smile inherent in the switch from one mood to the other, you just carry on conducting. “Oh yes, it is now piano.” That is what I mean by saying: he who plays the next bar, the next unit without deserving it, is my greatest enemy. I usually say “suffer for it,” but you do not necessarily have to suffer—a smile is free from suffering. It happens. On my clapping, a pupil asked me: Is it angry?—No, I replied. This is energy. Energy can be serene. BAV: I believe you have now pointed to a fundamental feature of your musicmaking: the contrast between forte and piano, the immediate succession of the energetic and the tender. GYK: From this point of view, it is completely traditional. Without there being eight-measure periods, periodic thinking continues to function. BAV: To approach it from a different angle: question and answer in music are a basic concept of yours.

Example 2: Opening measures of Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 in D Major (“Haffner”), K. 385.

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Example 2: (concluded)

GYK: Those are what I mean by periods. It is the most traditional possible way of thinking. BAV: At this point I must ask you: what is the difference between your music and that of the classics from Haydn to Bartók? GYK: It is not different in any way. It is not different but I am less talented than they were. I do what I can. I wish it could be as good. BAV: You have different means of expression. I have something of an idée fixe. If you read Marcus Aurelius or, let’s say, The Birds by Aristophanes, you realize that thousands of years ago, people thought exactly the same way as we do today. There is no difference, except that they did not use the telephone, they had no television or car. You compose music the same way as your predecessors. The starting point, the human content are identical but the means of expression are different. GYK: I do not know. I was being absolutely sincere about what I said. To deserve a dolce . . . I have now approached that from a thousand different angles. In the Colinda˘ -Balada˘ , the Sun keeps saying “Ana! Ana!” He just utters the name and his mouth waters. I say, it is a berceuse.18 I had a go at it many times—then, at the end of the second tenor aria, it worked. BAV: Tenderness is very much part of your music. GYK: Yes, but I have this fear all the time that clichés will take the upper hand. I always have to fight against the danger of . . . BAV: . . . the well-trodden path.

Example 3: Kurtág, . . . quasi una fantasia . . . , Op. 27, no. 1, beginning of the second movement “Presto minaccioso e lamentoso (Wie ein Traumeswirren).” © Editio Musica Budapest. Reproduced by permission.

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GYK: Not so much the well-trodden path. I am acutely aware of the imperative need to safeguard freshness. Yes, I know what makes something work but very often it fails to work precisely because I know. Something extra must come to it. Recently, the piece gave me immense joy when I realized how the music halts again and again, quite unexpectedly for me. Márta also praised that section where it stumbles—and then finds itself again. BAV: That reminds me: you often want the music to be played esitando. Why? GYK: I do not like people to be dead sure of what they want. I should like to teach them (not necessarily with esitando) to wait before they decide they know. They should learn to think before making a decision. This is also the description of a compositional process: I look for a note and, perhaps, I will eventually find it. I may fail. Perhaps the piece is nothing more than the attempt to find it. BAV: Next key word: disperato. GYK: Disperato and its counterpole, doloroso. With disperato one is ready to tear one’s hair out, whereas doloroso denotes inner pain. Of course, it is terribly pathetic if it does not go beyond that. One has to be able to deepen both characters. The penultimate movement of Scenes from a Novel19 (which is also the basis of the entire second movement of Stele) is quite simply this [hums]. It has a disperato and a doloroso section where the harmonies are tamed to beauty (while aching within). BAV: The beginning of the second movement of Stele is quite frightening. For me, it sounds like a headlong flight.20 In this connection, I would like to mention yet another recurring feature—or state—of your music: chaos and madness. GYK: Both are there . . . There is deliberate chaos and there is chaos that comes about by mistake. In the second movement of . . . quasi una fantasia . . . I was out to place chaos in space, in the hope that it would sound clearer. I called (or rather stole) it: “Traumeswirren.”21 BAV: You have similarly nightmarish music in other pieces as well. GYK: Such is the first movement of Troussova without my having wanted it. That is what I tried to set right in . . . quasi una fantasia. . . . In Troussova I was not yet quite able to notate my ideas clearly. As a result, I never hear the piece properly. So many things have been placed on top of one another that the vocal line has been pushed into the background. Each small unit is heaped on the last. It appears as though this kind of form first emerged in Troussova. MK: In 1981, at the premiere, Gyuri said in answer to a question by Sylvain Cambreling, that he was trying to put a hundred thousand angels on to the tip of a needle. (He also said another thing worth noting: that he was a citizen of the first half of the twentieth century.) GYK: In the Middle Ages, that was the subject of much serious and even bloody scholarly debate: how many angels can you get on the tip of a needle. I write something and then compose another layer on top of it, and then another one and another one. That is what the second movement of Quasi is about. I was not concerned about how much of it would actually be audible. As I said just


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now, it started with Troussova but there may well be traces of it in Bornemisza as well. I would need to check.22 BAV: I am reminded of what you said in our 1996 interview: “I once wanted to write an orchestral piece: a single gesture, terribly virtuosic, terribly difficult, with everything superposed on everything else, lasting not even a minute. This I could not bring off either. Yet, had I been able to, you would not have been able to hear a single note of it: now that would be a cause for despair.” GYK: When Abbado asked for Stele, I did seriously consider writing an orchestral work that would consist of only a single chord. Another idea that occurred to me was to write nine symphonies, each lasting a few seconds. BAV: In brackets: [Darius] Milhaud did write six symphonies, for small ensemble; each has a duration of a few minutes. Stele begins with a Beethoven sonority in unison . . . GYK: Yes, a unison G from the beginning of the Third Leonora Overture. BAV: To return to chaos: as you said, sometimes it is what you aim at, and other times it comes about without your will. GYK: There are superposed layers in the double concerto for piano and cello as well.23 MK: Where? GYK: For instance, the chorale imitations placed on top of one another [laughs]. BAV: For the readers’ sake: Márta is smiling and waving her hand. MK: I was not smiling; I meant to express my displeasure. I used not to like that piece. Oddly enough, it keeps getting better as the years go by. GYK: When Ligeti first heard it, he said it was the best Soviet music (in the pejorative sense, of course). Years later, he rang me to say that he had just heard it with Reinbert de Leeuw conducting and was fascinated. Ligeti’s horn concerto featured on the same program.24 I was quite certain in my mind that the double concerto was a flawed piece. BAV: You have works that it would be more appropriate to describe as mad rather than chaotic. One example would be the fourth, Presto, movement of the Twelve Microludes where the listener loses his head. Or rather, the music loses its head . . . GYK: I would rather take movement No. 10. Once again, the structure lacks the clarity I had in mind. BAV: I shall never forget the letter you wrote to members of the Berlin Philharmonic prior to the world premiere of Grabstein für Stefan.25 You asked them not to be misled by the great simplicity of the notation. If they grasped what was behind the notes, they would have a harrowing experience. You have since used the phrase “harrowing experience” for other works of yours as well. GYK: Looking back, I see that it was indeed what I wanted to achieve. And that is why I am so upset when the actual interpretation falls short of what I had in mind.

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BAV: Why do musicians have so much difficulty understanding your music, even though your intentions seem to me so clear? GYK: It is not my music they cannot fathom—it is music as such. It is not because of me that I am desperate. It is all about music! Music! MK: Perhaps when it comes to Kurtág, conductors may think that the composer ought to be happy that they conduct his music at all. The same is true of violinists, even major ones. Apparently, they say to themselves that those few notes should be easy to play, they cannot see what all the fuss is about. If they lack dedication, the determination to understand what is behind the notes . . . GYK: . . . if they cannot channel their impulses . . . MK: . . . then nothing will come out of it. GYK: If a work has nothing to say to a performer, the sine qua non of interpretation is missing. I can easily accept it if my music has nothing to say to someone. BAV: Yes, but in that case, he ought to stay away from it. MK: Pierre-Laurent Aimard has taken the trouble . . . GYK: Pierre-Laurent was very good. He fought his battle for Ligeti and also for my music (for all I know, he may have spontaneously found the key to it). The same is true of Leif Ove Andsnes. One evening when I turned on the television, one of his recitals was being televised. He played, very beautifully, a Haydn Sonata and then got started on Játékok. I was desperate that he should have selected the least interesting pieces. But it turned out to be wonderful. And he has since played many, always superbly, I am told. Also the Hommage à R. Sch.26 MK: They have never met! BAV: He has an antenna for it. GYK: I keep sending word that I would like to meet him but my messages do not seem to get across. Or perhaps he is not keen to see me. BAV: Next key words: memory and farewell. In Book II of Játékok,27 I noted a beautiful sentence illustrating the role memory can play: “ . . . the piano is covered with ivy and the wall of the childhood home disintegrates in the sunset.”28 GYK: It is not a bad piece. I did a better version of it in a later book. BAV: The notion of memory as a way of thinking. It appears to have special significance for you. GYK: Yes. It is very important. BAV: In other words, the past lives on in you and you conjure it up again and again. GYK: What gave rise to the Colinda˘ chorus was partly the encounter with Brînzeu’s study of the vocative, but also the fact that I was put forward for the freedom of the city of Lugos on the occasion of my eightieth birthday. The city council voted against it. By the second round, which came out in my favor, I was already fully engrossed in composition. My rejection in the first round gave me that much more resolve to set to work. You see, I associate the Colinda˘ with being beaten up. Right after the opening ceremony of the new school year, I went


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straight to the classroom (I was in the first class of secondary school) and heard that there would be Colinda˘ singing at three in the afternoon.29 I thought it was compulsory, so I went. “What do you want, Jew?” They started beating me and never stopped until four years later. BAV: Did they beat you for being Jewish? GYK: That was never quite clear. One of my classmates was the present head of the Jewish community at Lugos. Even as a child, he looked like the caricature Jew as published in Nazi papers. They never touched him, but for some reason they beat me. Perhaps because I was fat? Or there may have been something taunting in my behavior. Something I forgot to tell you about Brînzeu: at a class outing, I was sitting in the bus behind his back and I started fooling around. The provocation worked: eventually he turned around and told me to stop it. I sensed utter contempt in his voice. However, when my parents saw him about my progress at school, he told them that I had considerable talent as a writer. BAV: He meant your school essays in Romanian? GYK: Yes. BAV: And how about farewell? In your recent pieces, you seem to be reaching out toward something. GYK: With regard to farewell, my first memory is how I learned of my mother’s death. We were liberated in August 1944 and as soon as she could, she enrolled at a course for nursery school mistresses at Temesvár. She then found employment at a Montessori kindergarten—it was later selected as the model kindergarten of the National Aid. At the time, I credited myself for her decision to give up the shop she used to keep, to contribute to the family budget. The National Aid ran a hospital in the same street and my father was given a job there as a clerk. He therefore had contact with the doctors, several of them Hungarian survivors of the Bor concentration camp. My mother took the children on holiday for the summer and contracted jaundice. My father wrote me as much in a letter. It was in 1946—by then, I had been staying with my aunt’s family in Budapest for three months and had not sent a single letter home in all that time. It pains me to this day. In his message, my father had also written that my mother had been unconscious for two days. The letter was delivered to me by a repatriated Hungarian doctor. Shyly, I asked him if she would stay in that condition much longer. His brutal reply came as a shock: No. She died two weeks ago. That is how I learned of her death . . . (Although both Romania and Hungary were occupied by the same—Soviet—army, telegrams were prohibited and letters traveled for weeks to reach their destinations. One had to fall back on messengers.) Márta appeared in my life that very week. As if she had been sent by my mother, in her place. BAV: So that is what comes to your mind with the notion of “farewell.” But the farewell motif is often present in your music. And, as I said, so is that of reaching out . . . GYK: Yes, but that comes from Beethoven. Think of the introduction to Les Adieux with those gestures of interruption.

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Example 4: Beethoven, Piano Sonata No. 26 in E flat, Op. 81a (“Das Lebewohl, Abwesenheit und Wiedersehn,” also known as “Les Adieux”), mm. 15–17.

I played that piece quite well; if anything, the introduction was beautiful, wasn’t it? [he turns to Márta who nods in agreement]. I studied it in my first year with Kadosa. MK: There is a Beethoven movement that no one can play like him: the D-minor slow movement of the Sonata in D Major, Op. 10. GYK: I learned that with Magda Kardos. Largo e mesto. Mesto tells you that the music is sad but conveys little of the basic tragic mood of the movement. It has the range of expression inherent in disperato-doloroso with its screams. That is very important for me. Playing the Beethoven role—no, it was not just playing. I lived in Beethoven. And then I lived in Bartók. Basically, in both. BAV: To the notion of memory and farewell also belongs, I think, that of message. GYK: Yes, by all means. But message also goes with what you referred to earlier on: placing a singer on a street corner and getting him to put the message across. We experienced something like that in a play. It was a production of the Hungarian Electra30 in Budapest . . . MK: . . . no, it was Sophocles’s Electra in the cultural center of the Gas Factory, somewhere in the outskirts of Budapest. The public was waiting in the buffet for the performance to begin. You could buy salami rolls and drinks and things like that for a few cents. The actors were there with us. They were also eating and drinking and talking—and then, one of the actors suddenly smashed his glass to the ground, assumed the voice of Aigisthos and the performance started. The public and the actors stayed close to one another: we walked to wherever one of the scenes was taking place. For instance, there was a metal tub where Agamemnon was slain, elsewhere there were ladders and so on. It was an unforgettable evening. BAV: To get back to messages. For me, they are also a kind of reaching out, a kind of communication. You mentioned earlier on how you had made What Is the Word a message.31 The notion, the gesture of message plays a major role in your work. Is there anything else you would like to say about it? GYK: I cannot think of anything else at the moment. MK: Well, didn’t you say you had no desire to communicate anything?


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BAV: That is precisely why I feel, all the time, that you do. Of course, you do not sit at your desk saying to yourself: now I am going to send a message. But that is what happens. It appears to be an urge that is seated deep within you. GYK: It appears so. In any case: away from the desk, I am rather dull. BAV: We talked about that in 1996: it is through composing that all that you have to say finds a vent, so to speak. GYK: And it does not happen by itself, I have to wait until it comes. BAV: Unless something occurs that acts as a shortcut for the music to burst to the surface. Just one example: news of the death of the conductor David Shallon led within hours to the birth of a solo viola piece for his widow. That was your “message” to Tabea Zimmermann. GYK: But it had not yet found for itself the poignant silence of the duo, the trio, and the quartet (the fifth movement of Six Moments Musicaux) versions. BAV: To begin with, a diamond is formed and later you cut it to make a brilliant. Still on reaching out . . . GYK: . . . it is very much present in Beethoven. There is the Arioso in Opus 110, or the Cavatina . . . Bence Szabolcsi explained to us that Beethoven ought to have written “beklommen” in grammatically correct German; instead, he wrote, perhaps in dialect, “beklemmt.” It may not have been quite right, but he does say “anguished.” In my own private translation: “stuttering.” I have once said of myself: “My mother tongue is stuttering.”32 That is how . . . concertante . . . was written, but I still find it represents something of a compromise compared with what I was trying to do. BAV: What do you mean “that is how it was written?” GYK: That is what I had in mind: the stuttering dialogue of two solo instruments. At the beginning, it is a dialogue within a G octave, at a long stretch. That is, the lowest octave on the violin, not on the viola. It gives rise to a development of sorts but the piece as a whole fails to remain faithful to this idea. BAV: With regard to the gesture of reaching out, I sometimes have the feeling as if you were linking the earthly with the otherworldly. Your music reaches out into the Beyond. MK: Rattle said something like that in Paris. BAV: So I am not the only one to have this impression. Your music swings into another sphere. A unique experience. GYK: The ending of Aus der Ferne V that I wrote after Schlee’s death is rather like that. It is anguished music with a great deal of sul ponticello. And then, very softly, something scales itself upward . . . At the time, I put it down to old age. This idea also appeared in Játékok, but funnily enough I cannot find it there anymore. BAV: One hears the same music differently each time one listens to it. MK: Gyuri’s seven-note piano piece, Flowers We Are, comes to my mind. There you have two notes answered by three notes. The last two are the Coda. Whenever he teaches it, he points out that the music could be continued beyond the two ends of the keyboard. It also seems to seek contact with the infinite . . .

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Barenboim tells his pupils something similar that is related to Gyuri’s idea: music does not begin when you start playing it and it continues to sound after you have stopped. Gyuri does find it extremely important that something should begin. This is a Zen-Buddhist aspect of his thinking: he says it does not begin there but also that it should begin. The harmony of diametrically opposed ideas. For both are true. BAV: To my mind, fragment is related to message. There is a text that you have turned into a fragment, for that way you felt closer to it. Boulez says: “In my latest, as yet unpublished, texts for the Collège de France, I have written about the necessity of the incomplete. I find that the incomplete is sometimes more interesting than the complete.” GYK: There is indeed a text by Hölderlin that I have turned into a fragment but I cannot remember at the moment which one. I have, however, set a fragmentary poem of his in Hölderlin: An . . . 33 It is a characteristic poem of elision; I have to divine what was left out and turn it into music. Elysium Dort find ich ja Zu euch, ihr Todesgötter Dort Diotima


Singen möcht ich von dir Aber nur Tränen. Und in der Nacht, in der ich wandle, erlöscht nur dein Klares Auge! himmlischer Geist. I often work with melismas. In Scraps of a colinda melody—faintly recollected in the third book of Játékok, each line is a phrase. (That is why I call it my “symphony.”) The first two lines have the beginning of the phrase, followed by a pause. Later you have the middle of the phrase, with the end missing. Or the first notes are given, with no middle and no ending. Toward the end, the interval of a fourth represents the whole melody. BAV: What is it about fragment that inspires you? GYK: That it is the exact opposite of “spick and span.” That either I know precisely what I want or I have no idea, to the extent that I cannot even find the word to describe it. It gives me the freedom I need to set it to music: I can try and find it or add to it.


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MK: It puts me in mind of Botticelli’s sketchy illustrations of Dante. One loves them because they let your imagination wander freely. GYK: That is also what attracted me about the Attila József Fragments. A completed poem often does not give you any leeway. But it is also a challenge, I have had a go at it in the past. BAV: Echo is a recurring feature of your music. I think it could be a form of question and answer but I also sense a depth to it, in the relationship between foreground and background. GYK: Absolutely. That is how the music’s many layers are manifested. I was very proud yesterday evening when a former student of mine played Brahms’s Four Ballads. He conveyed beautifully how in the first, Scottish Ballad the motif is sung and then followed by an echo as if it were coming from a different space. BAV: This happens in your music too. GYK: Yes, this is important. The echo can come literally from a different point in space but it can also be achieved on a single piano. I say: bring the music from somewhere else. It is not coming from here. You can play with both solutions. Music can do so much . . . BAV: Two further fundamental concepts: heartbeat and pulsation. GYK: I can hardly tell the difference. BAV: A heartbeat can be a single event, pulsation denotes a series of pulses. GYK: We are back to Beethoven or Bartók or even Brahms. MK: Or Mozart. GYK: Or Mozart. It is there in Zerlina’s C-major aria or in the duettino of Dorabella and Guglielmo. MK: It is also there in Belmonte’s aria. GYK: It is the same throbbing. In other words: I cannot invent anything new. BAV: Throbbing in your music pervades one’s whole being. A heartbeat has tremendous dramatic power. The question is whether it is the listener’s subjective reaction or the composer’s intention. GYK: Sometimes it is a matter of conscious decision, and at others it is not. With regard to pulsation in the Viola Concerto, I realized much later that it is to be found not only in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto but also at the beginning of Brahms’s Symphony No 1. Very little is my own invention. BAV: Anyone can pulsate but not the way you do. These are actually very simple means that gain incredible power through the manner in which you make use of them. Let us now discuss the various roles you assign to repetition. I have listened to the beginning of Opus 27, no. 234 many times with its raindrops (Il pleut sur la ville).35 I wanted to find out what it is that makes it sound like a Kurtág piece; at what point does it turn into genuine Kurtág? The first measures do not yet bear your imprint.36 The moment other instruments join in and the rhythm stumbles, one recognizes you. And then, where the musical material expands, spreads out— it is vintage Kurtág. The regular beat of the piano reminded me of Stravinsky. GYK: That was quite conscious. It is indeed the second movement of Sacre.

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BAV: You might have written “Hommage à Stravinsky” above those bars. GYK: Yes. I needed help to get going with that movement but then something gets copied onto it. It has a very interesting melody that ought to come about through the hocket in the brass, but neither conductors nor orchestral soloists have made it happen. BAV: In some of your pieces—such as the third movement of the first string quartet or the seventh of Officium breve you use a jagged line to call attention to the hocket.37 Here you don’t. GYK: I think it was not possible, I forget why. In any case, I always ask performers to take note of it but they never do. BAV: I would like to return to caesura, if I may. The Hommage à Vidovszky38 is your only piece that I know where you determine its duration: 5” to 10”. GYK: Even that is no longer true. I used to hate the metronome, now I have come to use it more and more. And yet, as soon as I have determined tempos, I change my mind by the next day. Hommage à Vidovszky was brand new when I recorded it for Cologne Radio. Brennecke warned me: You are deviating from the score! I had ignored it, it was no longer valid for me. I put totally absurd metronome marks in the first string quartet: I have an absurd desire for the players to carry on fast . . . MK: But we are talking about caesuras, not metronome markings. I think you must have seen Darmstadt scores where caesuras were defined to the second— the Hommage à Vidovszky could be a result. GYK: In any case, it is not organic. ❦❦❦ BAV: While we are on Darmstadt: what did you think of the music that reached you from there? GYK: I did my best to like it. I studied the second Mallarmé Improvisation.39 I was particularly impressed by the beginning (it is a play with question and answer) and I discovered that that music was not quite alien to me. Gruppen is important for me to this day.40 That and Ligeti’s Artikulation were closest to me when I was composing the String Quartet, Op. 1—even before that.41 BAV: You did your best to like music from Darmstadt. Was it a kind of selfhypnosis—that is the music of the future, that is how one should compose? GYK: I knew I was too stupid in that respect. Ligeti said that I should read Stockhausen’s essay “ . . . wie die Zeit vergeht . . . ”42 I got lost in the writings of Boulez and Stockhausen within seconds. I could not fathom what they meant. BAV: Some composers at the time wrote music the way they thought they were expected to. One needed courage to stick to one’s own ideals. GYK: That kind of moral pressure was certainly there. BAV: Cage told me that it was the white pictures of Rauschenberg that had given him the courage to release 4’33”. Did you experience anything similar?


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GYK: From that point of view, Játékok became for me something of a new Opus 1. Suddenly, there is no system, there is no chromaticism, only a C in the middle of the keyboard. One can try to find notes around it. That provided a path toward many things and also helped me to draw conclusions from the practice of Gregorian chant. I learned from it, for instance, how melody came about through the slightly heightened recitation of a single tone. BAV: Do you keep to any particular system, an organizing principle, in other works of yours? GYK: There is no system. Not only do my compositions have none—I have to invent them anew each time. Even if in the end, one might prove to have traveled along a much too well-trodden path. I had a terrible experience recently: Gábor Csalog has recorded the seven books of Játékok. By the last book, I was nearly out of my mind: I write the same piece, over and over again. I sometimes think: Keller has proved to me that Kafka43 is a work of genius, whereas Csalog made me realize that Játékok was utter nonsense. It may well be that Csalog did me a better service. BAV: Játékok is of course anything but utter nonsense. You never meant it to be played or listened to from beginning to end nonstop. It is an extremely rich collection of extremely varied piano pieces. MK: In our program with the upright piano, we play a work that was written in 1947. The Six moments musicaux includes one from 1943 or 1942, further developed, of course. GYK: The first piece of the Suite dates from that year. MK: Interestingly enough, all those pieces constitute a unity, you cannot say that one was written in one style and another in a different style. GYK: Yes, that is interesting. BAV: I remember you said recently that more and more you had the impression that your whole life constituted a unity. GYK: When did I say that? BAV: In 2004 in Wiesbaden, at the Rheingau Music Festival.44 Let us return to Darmstadt. You have said that having the performers “petrify” in the pose they happen to be in was taken from Darmstadt composers. I remember that Bornemisza was actually performed there in 1968. GYK: The composers in Darmstadt did not appreciate it at all. They never invited me back for thirty years. BAV: Would you have liked to belong among them? GYK: I thought I did. Now I no longer would. BAV: Did you look up at the time to the prominent representatives of the Summer Courses, such as Boulez, Stockhausen, Nono, Pousseur, and the others? GYK: Of course, very much so. BAV: Why? One reason could have been that Webern meant as much to them as he did to you. GYK: Yes, and Ligeti kept on sending me stuff through Schlee—issues of the Reihe, programs from Donaueschingen, and the like.

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BAV: Did you feel excluded? GYK: I did not feel excluded but would have been happy to be able to attend. BAV: What kept you from traveling to Darmstadt? GYK: It was not possible to do so. Márta, let us tell the story of the first string quartet with Mrs. Barna. It’s worth it! ❦❦❦ MK: Well, Gyuri received a state commission to write a symphony. That was before 1956. He then changed it to a violin concerto, which he wanted to write for his friend Stefan Romas¸canu. Then, when he returned from Paris [in 1958], his whole life, his whole outlook had changed. GYK: I came home convinced that I was not needed. As a result, I did not accept any advance on copyright income. I did not want to live off dividends. If they want my music, they should buy it from me. I wrote my first quartet and gave it to them . . . MK: . . . instead of the symphony or the violin concerto. GYK: But in the meantime I was paying back the advance they had given me on the symphony. MK: We were desperately poor. During the revolution,45 we had neither money nor food at home. Our neighbors helped us. Later we were kept afloat on whatever I was making as a piano teacher. And indeed, when Gyuri handed in the string quartet, he was calling the Ministry’s bluff: here is a completed work. It may not be the symphony or the violin concerto, but it is ready—will they accept it as a state commission? GYK: And then, the score was submitted to a jury. Kadosa was on it, Viski and Sárai. Viski ran headlong to the Ministry with news of an antidemocratic piece of music and asked for instructions about what to do. Kadosa, diplomatic as he was, said the quartet could be performed but would require a hundred rehearsals. MK: It goes without saying that Sárai was against it. It looked like a clear case of rejection. Eventually, they decided to vote again, if and when the piece had been played. GYK: The twenty-fifth anniversary of Farkas’s pedagogical career was celebrated around 1962–63. A concert was organized in his honor and he invited me, along with other former pupils, to participate. In fact, he asked that this notorious string quartet be included. MK: That was an act of genuine courage. GYK: Even though he was not particularly brave. It was against his nature to take a stand on disputed issues. And, he never liked me much. MK: As a teacher, however, he was fair—and he was an outstanding professor.


key words (2007–2008)

GYK: Also on the program were Petrovics’s string quartet and the Lorca Songs by Szokolay. Importantly, I had a recording of my quartet, for Rudi Maros had recorded the general rehearsal. That recording was being passed around from hand to hand. There was even a poem written about it. MK: Mihály was infuriated by Kadosa: what on earth did he mean by a hundred rehearsals? “I am going to teach the piece to my pupils!” he vowed. Eventually, it was an adult ensemble, the Várkonyi Quartet, who played the premiere—they did a very good job, too. GYK: I did not hear the first rehearsals, so I did not know how Mihály had arrived at such impressive results. MK: Mihály did wonders. And then another jury was set up—with himself, Kadosa and Sárai. BAV: It is interesting that Farkas was not invited. MK: Perhaps because he was not in the Party’s good books. In any case, the piece was passed by two to one . . . GYK: . . . Sárai protested. MK: And then Mrs. Barna . . . GYK: . . . rejected the piece, ignoring the jury’s decision, in my own best interest. For my salvation, so to speak, just like an inquisitor. In other words, she did not want me to come under a negative influence from the West. MK: And we repaid our debt. GYK: Not just that. I had sent the score to Ligeti who was then in Cologne and asked him to forward it to Marianne Stein. The quartet was invited to Darmstadt. Mrs. Barna, however, decided (once again for my salvation) to forbid any performance at the Summer Courses. But there was something else, too: I was called up for two months, because I had never been conscripted before. BAV: When was that? MK: In 1961. Our son Gyuri started that year at primary school. BAV: You joined the army at thirty-five. GYK: It was because of my age that they called me up for such a short time. MK: We were on very good terms with Mrs. Barna. She was fond of Gyuri but she did not want him to “go astray.” ❦❦❦ BAV: It is a fact of music history that on returning home from Paris, you wrote a string quartet. You were aware at the time that it marked a new phase in your work: that is why you denoted it your Opus 1. What is not known is why you settled on a quartet in the first place? GYK: As you know, my closest friends were György Ligeti and Franz Sulyok. Franz “walked” out of the country in 1948 and headed for Paris. In his letters, he gave us regular accounts of his life and his impressions. He reported, for instance, on the classes of Nadia Boulanger and Milhaud he was attending; he

key words (2007–2008)


also shared with us his views on Hungarian music as it appeared to him from afar. He admitted that he could find less and less substance in the pieces we used to admire at home. He found them overly cliché ridden. On the other hand, he thought that our impression of Western music was too one-sided. During my stay in Paris, I initially received financial help from two of my friends: Franz and Romas¸canu—it was for the latter that I meant to compose a violin concerto.46 Later on, with considerable difficulty, Márta and I were able to repay my debt. Now is the time to talk of Robert Klein (he was to become a world famous art historian), who played a decisive role in my life ever since my adolescence. My attachment to Robi was something extraordinary, something very special. He was my spiritual guide, like Ligeti later on, but I received from him something wholly different. Robi took me under his wing at Temesvár. For instance, he was anxious for me to become acquainted with certain authors, certain books. He introduced me to Paul Valéry (he made me read his two Socratic dialogues, L’âme et la danse and Eupalinos ou l’architecte, and other books), to Rimbaud’s Les Illuminations (I copied it for myself) or to Mallarmé. When he realized I had never heard Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, he went out of his way to find a good recording for me. MK: He also got you to write an essay. GYK: Yes, that had also happened in Romania. I called it “Influence in Art.” I had been impressed by The History of the Development of Modern Drama by the young [György] Lukács but also by vulgar Marxism. I read my essay at a meeting of the philosophy society in 1943, in the seventh or eighth class of the Piarist secondary school. At Temesvár, I also attended Robi’s literature and art courses. When decades later I was a guest of the Wissenschaftskolleg [Science College] in Berlin, all the American aestheticians were familiar with his name, even though he had not achieved his goal: writing his great aesthetics. Instead, he had become a respected expert on the Renaissance. For instance, he prepared an annotated edition of the Savonarola trial in French. He wrote the following inscription in the book: Für Kurtag Gyuri. Moral: wer nicht genug heiliges Feuer hat, wird verbrannt! (For Gyuri Kurtag. The moral of the story: he who lacks sufficient sacred fire will be burned.) The friendly, ironic tone of the inscription may well have been a pedagogical and moral exhortation as well. Savonarola did not hesitate to defy the Church authorities and to challenge the pope. When Alexander VI excommunicated him, he declared it null and void. The pope thereupon put him on trial and Savonarola volunteered to face ordeal by fire, to demonstrate his innocence. However, he balked, he just could not summon the courage. That proved a handy pretext for the Church to burn him at the stake. BAV: Why did Klein write you in German? GYK: It was his mother tongue. They spoke German at home. MK: He was an intellectual of fragile build who had received a bourgeois upbringing. Out of conviction, he turned himself into a militant communist.


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GYK: On Romania’s liberation, he joined the Tudor Vladimirescu Battalion as a volunteer to fight against German fascism. He did not hesitate to put his life at risk. In the event, he was lucky: he only lost one or two fingers. MK: Marrying Gyuri meant that I had become a Romanian citizen. In 1947, we went to Temesvár for the summer and it turned out that we could not go back to Hungary. We traveled to Bucharest in an attempt to put our papers in order. By then, Robi had been appointed to an important position in the Ministry of Culture. GYK: We were rather apprehensive about meeting up with him: he seemed to have changed and appeared to be toeing the party line. We took exception to the highly critical article he had written on Thomas Mann. With the Robi of old on our minds, we could not believe it represented his own opinion. MK: When we met, he told us that he was about to leave for Paris. That was still possible at the time, but it was already something of a miracle and he probably owed it to his high position. He bade us farewell by analyzing one or two poems of the West-östlicher Divan.47 For us this showed that he was still the Robi of old. As soon as he reached Paris, he asked for political asylum. We next met him there. GYK: One reason for his defection could have been that he had fallen in love with a married woman. She remained adamantly faithful to her husband and kept finding excuses for rejecting him. Robi followed the couple to North America where the object of his love looked after her terminally ill husband. Robi had hoped that the husband’s death would at long last make a union possible. However, it was not to be: the woman committed suicide. That in turn may have hastened his own death. Subsequently, Robi, as a Renaissance expert of international standing, received a scholarship to work in Florence. That was at the time of the flood there. When it had subsided, he invited his students and friends for the last time. They were to be his guests for two weeks and received a present from him—which in retrospect turned out to have been a farewell gift—in that he showed them the artistic treasures of the town, treasures that few tourists ever get to see. It was an unforgettable experience to hear him analyze the works of art, put them in historical context and point out their significance in the history of art. Then he committed suicide in a park and, so as not to be a burden on anyone, put a letter in his pocket where he explained that his death was of his own free will. He was fifty years old. He may have inherited the proclivity from his mother, who had also taken her own life. To return to the year in Paris: on Sundays, I would be Robi’s guest. He would invite me for lunch (mostly to self-service restaurants) but what counted were the visits to the Louvre and a number of other museums. He took us (Márta spent a month in Paris with me) to see the most precious works of art, as he would later on in Florence, and analyzed them. Those museum visits were a fantastic experience. BAV: We started out from the string quartet and arrived via Sulyok and Romas¸canu at Klein.

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GYK: To begin with, my stay in Paris was made possible financially by Franz. Slowly, I managed to get some jobs as répétiteur and whatever I earned, I asked that much less money from Franz. I was also helped by János Gergely, director of the Hungarian Cultural Institute in Paris. He organized some appearances and recommended me as an accompanist. In this way, I could pay my rent to the American actress who was also a pupil of Marianne Stein’s. When the year was up, I made a vow (for myself as much as for Franz) that I would write a string quartet and a wind quintet within a year. That was what first came to my mind. I dedicated the wind quintet to him and the string quartet to Marianne. Franz had many friends all over the world but basically he lived by himself. He died in 2001, at the age of seventy-five. Márta, our son Gyuri, and I attended his funeral. Also present were a neighbor of his as well as his cleaning lady and her husband. BAV: Was he a composer? MK: Yes. When we arrived in Paris and asked him if his pieces were performed (he was still composing), he replied that they were not good enough and he did not want them to be played. Back home, we had never come across that sort of self-criticism and moral stature before. GYK: Franz was a composer who came to realize that he had better stop, it made no sense to carry on. He worked on a symphony for more than twenty years and then gave it up. We looked high and low for his sketches but could not find them. Perhaps they had been placed in a safe in Switzerland. He did not need to earn a living, but he worked nonstop nevertheless. For instance, he learned Braille. Later he was sent by Radio France to Burundi. When he arrived there, it was paradise on earth, but he stayed on even when the paradise was turning into hell with the outbreak of the civil war and the massacre of the Hutus. ❦❦❦ BAV: After this long detour, let us return to the key words. Your music often reflects a state of being driven. GYK: Driven from within . . . Obsession and being driven or pursued has been present since the first movement of Bornemisza. In French, I would say hanté, hantise—something drives me to compulsive actions, obsessively . . . BAV: That is part of your personality. GYK: If it is true what I have said a number of times in the past that I am always composing my autobiography, then these obsessive aspects are also part of it. MK: You have mentioned madness—it happens deep down, never on the surface. GYK: I play-acted that. Madness rather appealed to me. It seemed to be so refined.


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BAV: When was that? GYK: In my adolescence. Later on, too. In Jean Renoir’s film La bête humaine [1938], Jean Gabin sets about strangling a woman in a compulsive fashion (at the end, he has good reason to kill his lover). I took over that pose, that morbidity. That motive was present in my youth. The motivation to kill, too. Those were largely poses, I forget how much of it was genuine. For a very long time, Márta hated me touching her neck . . . BAV: All that we have been talking about so far: drivenness, despair, compulsiveness, but also memory and farewell, reflect a heightened emotional state. Perhaps lability as well? GYK: That for sure. MK: Is memory a heightened emotional state? BAV: Conjuring up a memory and reliving it certainly are. Conjuring up certain memories can have a devastating effect, I can tell you that from personal experience. One must try to keep them at bay. GYK: [to Márta] I see something important is on your mind. What is it? MK: I am still thinking of what I said earlier on about great violinists. It is their duty not to rest until they have arrived at the sound quality that makes interpretation unique. They do not seem to grasp that this is their duty. They have no time, they have no inclination. The production of this sound quality takes us back to our first subject, the ritual. At a church service, the chalice is not smashed against the altar—there is a choreography to it, there is a solemn and sacred air about it. However, if I were to explain this to somebody, he would distort it in the most atrocious possible fashion. It would make you sick and you would say, figuratively: all right, let him smash the chalice against the altar. What is the solution? Perhaps having a sense of humor? If a Catholic priest is over the top in his choreography, if he finds no adequate means to reflect the sacred character of the service but thinks he has to add something to it . . . BAV: . . . then he had better change his profession and become an actor. MK: Yes, and that is the end of it. The reason why I used not to like the last movement of the piano-cello double concerto was that I thought it was too beautiful. BAV: Proshchai is a lovely, lovely melody!48 MK: Yes, but if it is played in a sugary way . . . that is worse than death. GYK: There are, sadly, quite a few cellists who play it in a sugary way. MK: That is an extremely important question—people in Hungary keep telling Gyuri that his music will disappear because when he is gone performers will not find the key to it. Leif Ove Andsnes is an example to the contrary. The reason why Gyuri works with particular musicians is because—although they may not be major international stars—they accept the imperative need for them to devote sufficient time to grasping and mastering the compositions. BAV: I am rather afraid of false prophets who will claim to be in possession of the ultimate truth about your oeuvre. Procession is a further characteristic feature

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of your music. Moving at a slow pace, which could be construed as a funeral march. GYK: Yes, the cortège. It is also part of the ritual. BAV: Now on a completely different subject. Your music was played at Sermoneta in Italy in June 1986. The Budapest New Music Studio was also present and I remember discussing your music with László Sáry. He made a single critical remark: he could not see why you needed to round off each of your pieces, why couldn’t you leave them open? I have been meaning to ask you this question ever since. GYK: At the premiere of Officium breve in Witten, Péter Eötvös more or less commissioned me to write a piece where I do not draw the double bar. MK: What Eötvös meant was that any work of yours made up of several brief pieces is in fact one composition. He asked you to write one where you do not draw the double bar after each constituent piece. GYK: Yes, it has become a project for the future; I have not quite managed to realize it. MK: You did, in . . . concertante . . . GYK: For me, . . . concertante . . . is still not organic enough, compared to Colinda˘ -Balada˘ in any case. There I seem to have hit upon something. I hope so anyway . . . I am not sure, I don’t know yet. But I now have faith in it. BAV: Your music often moves in a jerky fashion. GYK: That’s right. It reminds me once again of stuttering. I noticed this when composing the Viola Concerto: I was bogged down in the first movement, I could not put a single note on paper for a whole year. All I could do was play the piano and compose the piece in my head, to the end. The second movement, on the other hand, was completed within two months. That’s what it sounds like, too. The music moves along on its own impulse, in a motoric manner. BAV: The text of What Is the Word with its spasmodic, fragmented character, proved ideal for you, I think—in its effort to find the right word. GYK: That’s right. During the course of my life, I have found many texts that I regard as ars poetica. Such is, for instance, a haiku by Kobayashi Issa: Climb carefully and slow, snail steady as you go, up the slope of Mount Fuji.49 There was a cartoon in Ludas Matyi 50 that showed a snail equipped with a speedometer. I kept it for a long time: it is an apt description of the way I work. Another ars poetica is the Hommage à Pilinszky in Kafka: I cannot tell a story.51 I cannot speak, and basically, I cannot tell a story. Like a child who tries to learn to walk. That is a state that I actually seek. As if I did not want to know my mate-


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rial. That is what I was looking for in the Colinda˘ : to find paths I was not familiar with. Not to find “good” harmonies but ones that would surprise me. To make sure that they remain fresh even after I have played them many times. There are quite a few places like that in the piece. BAV: Bringing the subconscious to the surface, or rather, giving birth to it, is surely the most fascinating aspect of composition (indeed, of any creative process): to come upon something that you never knew you had. GYK: The Colinda˘ has now been giving me much pleasure that way. Especially in the last phase: I was so happy every single day . . . Of course, much of it has yet to be worked out, several pages of the score are only a two-part or even a one-part choral line, but the harmony has been clarified throughout the piece so that I can continue working on it. BAV: In other pieces, too, you have some wonderful inventions in the way of instrumentation. Just one example: pairing the harp with the cimbalom. GYK: I thought I had stolen it. Bartók has it, for example. BAV: Did Bartók use the cimbalom? GYK: No, but he mixed the harp with the celesta. From there, it is just one step to the cimbalom. In Troussova, the harp and the cimbalom sound together with the marimba and the percussion. I remember calling that sonority “gamelan” at a rehearsal of the piece with Péter Eötvös. BAV: You are a master of instrumentation, you produce wonderful timbres. GYK: I am inept. MK: What you hear on the CD of . . . concertante . . . sounds differently from the way it sounded at the concert. BAV: I know, I was there and I have talked to your son. He told me how thoroughly he had learned the score, note by note, and how much he had deliberated before making a decision about amplifying a particular part. By being inept, you mean that important details tend to get lost during a live performance? GYK: I am always uncertain. I am afraid of over-articulating, over-amplifying something. I double and triple parts. But every now and again I do need to mix timbres. BAV: Mahler regularly revised the instrumentation of his symphonies; he returned to them again and again. He may have been inept as well . . . The next key word would be sigh. It appears as early as the Suite of 1943. Of course, the classics draw on the sigh motif a great deal, but with you it appears to have quite a special significance. GYK: It is indeed a commonplace feature in the whole of music literature, from Wagner back to Monteverdi and forward to Wozzeck and on. BAV: Always as a sigh? GYK: It rarely changes. No Bach Passion can do without it. Nowadays, when clichés are looming large, I do my best to keep way from semitone sighs. If anything, I move them upward, or use a larger interval. It was the large intervals in the Szervánszky Serenade that induced me to quote from it in Officium breve.52

Example 5: Kurtág, Officium breve in memoriam Andreae Szervánszky, Op. 28, last movement. © Editio Musica Budapest. Reproduced by permission.


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Examples 6a and b: Sources of what Kurtág calls the “devil’s visiting card” in Webern’s Variationen for piano, Op. 27, III, mm. 35–36 in the right hand and m. 40 in the left hand. © 1937, 1979 by Universal Edition A.G., Wien/UE 16845. Reproduced by permission.

BAV: Do you have a special relationship to particular intervals? GYK: Under Webern’s influence I used to stick rather rigidly to the minor ninth and major seventh. That lasted quite a long time, right up to Troussova. It was while working on that piece that I succeeded in breaking away from them. I always have intervals I prefer but what I am aiming at now is for each interval to have a specific character. It goes without saying that Bornemisza was not devoid of the supremacy of the major seventh. It was in the third movement of Webern’s Variations, Op. 27 that I came upon this swift movement from the one-line F to the two-line E and back, which I transplanted into the Bornemisza as the devil’s visiting card. It had cropped up in the fifth movement of the String Quartet, Op. 1; it also appears in the piano piece Devil’s Jump in the second book of Játékok and a great many other places. Recently I have come to use it in octaves, but also in any other interval. (Actually, I had been under the impression that it was my invention until I hit upon it in Webern’s Variations.) The motif itself may not originate with Webern, it may have come from Schoenberg or Bartók. Or perhaps Schoenberg took it from Webern. The fifth is another preferred interval: it is a symbol of purity if it occurs in a context

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Examples 7a and b: The “devil’s visiting card” in two excerpts from the piano part of Kurtág’s The Sayings of Péter Bornemisza, Op. 7. © 1973 by Universal Edition A.G., Wien/UE 14493. Reproduced by permission.

where it appears as a novelty. Such are the fifths of renewal at the end of the last movement of Bornemisza. Actually, they come from the Rákosi Oratorio, which I never composed. Under Bartók’s influence, they are always present on the open strings as well, but there they are of less significance. They have a different meaning also at the beginning of Scenes from a Novel. They make an appearance on the open strings of the violin. I love open strings; I can’t help it. I use them whenever I can, perhaps because, to a certain extent, they stand for the zeropoint. BAV: Earlier today, you played the Lament on the piano.53 It is built on minor seconds. Does this interval have any special significance for you? GYK: Those are not seconds actually, but false octaves. The lower part repeats the upper one at one remove. I do use minor seconds a great deal; I now want to lose the habit. BAV: There must have been a reason for using them so much.


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GYK: I needed a neutralizing medium. BAV: For me, minor seconds have a plaintive air about them. GYK: It depends on the context. Minor seconds are not necessarily plaintive but it is also part of their character. [He turns to Márta] Can you think of anything else? MK: It makes me think of the second movement of Kafka, the one you dedicated to Boulez. If it were possible to play quartertones on the piano, they would have been used in Lament. GYK: Yes, I agree. BAV: Then, when the second becomes a third, then a fourth, and so on, one feels that the music opens up as the interval expands. GYK: Those processes—opening up, closing—are certainly there. Very much so. BAV: What is it that leads to large interval jumps? GYK: In the Hölderlin Songs there are jumps well beyond two octaves. I doubt whether there are many singers apart from Widmer who can take them in their stride. In the piece that I sent to Boulez on his birthday, the singer has to jump two octaves right at the start. I did not mean it as a provocation but was of course aware that at one time Boulez used to dislike octaves. Perhaps there is no other piece where I use such wide jumps; in Kafka there are a thousand different intervals and combinations. Just as in the Beckett cycle on which I started working in the same month, almost simultaneously with the Hölderlin Songs. In that respect the two cycles grow closer together; in the last pieces you only find small movements in seconds. BAV: Very rarely, you also use quartertones. GYK: I use them very cautiously, mainly because I cannot hear them. Ligeti did not hesitate to use them, but he could hear them very well—with absolute clarity. I always tell performers that it is the character of the sound they have to strive for. As if they were hearing an interval on an out-of-tune upright piano. Ligeti was always complimentary about Lebenslauf,54 which I wrote for Sándor Veress; I am not so sure if it is that good. There, I experimented with imitation that gained me space: there can be two entries within a minor second. You can create two levels, one a quartertone higher and another a quartertone higher still. They also occur in Kafka and very rarely in the string pieces (Signs, Games and Messages55). In other words, only in contexts where I can hear them properly. Two composers have impressed on me that I should write only music that I can hear. One was Sándor Balassa, who criticized Stockhausen’s Gruppen because, in his view, you could not hear each detail distinctly enough. Schnittke also cited the example of Gruppen. Initially, he was impressed by it but later he was disturbed by its lack of control. Apparently, the demand for clear thinking that Farkas instilled in us was something he had inherited from Respighi. It may also be a leftover of academic education. I cannot bluff. I simply can’t. For I want to teach things with precision.

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BAV: If the sigh motif crops up in all of music literature, I do believe that sign is your invention. GYK: I took the notion of sign from Paul Klee’s picture Zeichen in Gelb. In a private conversation, Sattler explained that for him, Hölderlin was different from all other German poets in that he saw himself as a sign. Perhaps he used a different word for that. BAV: How did that picture by Klee affect you? GYK: I realized that I was also giving signs—that is how I thought of the title of the viola piece.56 But the drawings in my notebook in Paris were also signs. BAV: Those preceded your encounter with Klee by many years. GYK: They did, but it was Klee who gave them a name. In Paris, all I wanted was to express myself directly through a movement. Even my hand holding the pencil was not to intervene between me and the drawing. That was what counted. BAV: Sign means coded information, doesn’t it? A hint that needs to be interpreted. GYK: The sign may also have originated in my life as a boy scout. We go and leave a sign on a tree. That we have been there. The composer does exactly the same: I leave this sign for you. If you want it, use it; if you don’t, discard it. BAV: In one of your works, I forget which one, I had the feeling as though the wind instruments were giving signals. Whether there is a difference between signs and signals . . . GYK: The fanfares answering one another in Verdi’s Requiem are signals. They are always present with Wagner. Lohengrin is full of them; then there are those receding horns in the second act of Tristan . . . In Beethoven’s Leonora overtures you have definitely to do with signals. It is the best example, because they signify liberation, the deus ex machina. BAV: And with you? GYK: I think those fanfares answering one another also have to do with distance. BAV: A number of composers, including Ligeti, Reich, and Cerha, have found inspiration in African rhythms. Does non-European culture have a significance for you? GYK: It certainly does but I am rather afraid of it; I use even Bulgarian rhythms with caution; you cannot use them all the time. It is exactly what I said about the second movement of the Viola Concerto. Touchstone’s parody of Orlando,57 of the love poems he hangs on the branches of trees, is fascinating. For instance: If a hart do lack a hind, Let him seek out Rosalind. If the cat will after kind,


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So be sure, will Rosalind. Wint’red garments must be lin’d, So must slender Rosalind. They that reap must sheaf and bind, Then to cart with Rosalind. Sweetest nut hath sourest rind, Such a nut is Rosalind. He that sweetest rose will find, Must find love’s prick and Rosalind” (As You Like It, act 3, scene 2). You can churn out easy rhymes and easy rhythms one after the other, with no effort at all. If it is too easy, if it is carried just by the rhythm and the material offers no resistance, you are in great danger. BAV: Of course, it is not just rhythm: scales and instrumentation also play an important role. In Messages, Op. 34, in the movement you dedicated to the memory of Zoltán Kocsis’ father,58 I hear an Oriental ritual. GYK: You hear it correctly. BAV: Is there an explanation? GYK: Tibetan recordings have exerted a decisive influence on me. I still listen to them happily again and again, but I never forget the danger that lies in overexposing any means of expression. I am best served by being surrounded with all manner of points of reference, by way of material. And then, as you said, I could write an hommage à this or that in many places. A reference can help me to get started. I may be afraid of beginning with a fast movement and it is easier if I can fall back on one. To have quoted two measures from the second movement of Bartók’s Violin Concerto in one part of What Is the Word came as something of a divine spark for me. Then it occurred to me to base the arioso of the vocal ensemble on the introduction to the same movement—another good idea that proved itself. Considerably slowed down, the ensemble repeats the notes of the melody and so do the upright piano and the others. Nothing else happens. Twenty-seven musicians are playing the same thing. There are hardly any other notes than those sung by the solo singer or the vocal ensemble. BAV: Perhaps that is why I had the impression not only that the soloist had a shadow (the upright piano), but everything in the piece had been given one. And that is probably also why you wrote in the double-bass part “ombra dell’ombra.” GYK: Yes, that is beautiful. But Ligeti may nevertheless have been right that the version with piano is the best. Because it is wholly puritanical. BAV: Puritanism is not necessarily a virtue. The instrumentation of the original version enriches it no end. GYK: If I had had more time to work on it, I would have made the music for the vocal ensemble richer too. I find it rather poor as it is. Time was limited, because I had to take the score to Abbado in Switzerland. That was in 1990.

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BAV: This is how we know and love the piece. GYK: What can I do . . . BAV: Let me return to opera. You once said that Farkas was not getting anywhere with you and the first time that something at last stirred in you was when he began to analyze Il Tabarro and Rigoletto. GYK: Rigoletto came first; Il Tabarro came much later. BAV: In any case, it was music theater that you immediately responded to. GYK: It is also interesting that the first time Farkas liked a piece of mine, it was the Korean Cantata,59 that is, the first work to draw on the lessons I had learned from those analyses. I composed the cantata from beginning to end, without having a text to set. I had a dramatic concept, but Katalin Kótzián could not really match it. Her poems were so empty of content that they might have been about anything. After the Viola Concerto, Aladár Tóth expressed the view that the Korean Cantata had much more individuality. I would agree with that. BAV: What conclusion can you draw from that? That the association with a text—even a nonexistent one—and a dramatic concept inspired you more than absolute music? GYK: [he hums a melody, then imitates the intermittent sounds that interrupt it] The screeching of the falcons made its first appearance in that piece but I could not notate it properly yet. The Korean Cantata was in fact a terribly important piece. Still, it could not be used, especially the ending with its march à la Ninth Symphony. BAV: You have not composed a single work for the stage to this day, but many of your pieces do have a stage element. We discussed this earlier when we talked of musicians suddenly turning motionless, petrifying. But there is also a stage aspect in Ruhelos,60 or in What Is the Word, where you ask the violinist to turn the bowing into a pantomime.61 In one passage, the vocal ensemble whispers and becomes “terrified.” There are many other similar moments in What Is the Word. GYK: Yes. Very slowly, the bow goes beyond the tip and returns in the air but as if it touched the strings and gave a sound. I think I first used pantomime in the Conversation After the Last—I am not sure. I wrote it in memory of Zsuzsa Kovács, who was the daughter of our best-loved psychoanalyst, Lili Perl. I had dedicated Bornemisza to Aunt Lili. She died in 1965 and we “inherited” her daughter, who was slightly older than us. Then she died too. I meant the Conversation After the Last to be played on the violin and the piano, but I never released it in that form. It served as the basis for the Epilogue in What Is the Word. BAV: In the Epilogue you give the performer veritable stage instructions. The solo violinist is to sing, sigh, and moan while playing and bowing in a pantomime-like fashion. In other words, elements of music theater crop up again and again in your concert music. What Is the Word could be a stage scene, the Kafka Fragments have indeed been staged a number of times. And yet you have never written genuine music theater. GYK: It did occur to me to add What Is the Word to the short Beckett scenes if I managed to compose them. Now I rather feel it is better to keep it a separate work.


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Example 8: Kurtág, What Is the Word, Op. 30b, beginning of the Sinfonia [epilogo scenico]. © Editio Musica Budapest. Reproduced by permission.

One day (I forget when), I suddenly turned into a dramatist. In an unexpected eruption, two or three scenes gushed forth out of me. Wholly out of context. It lasted three days. Never before and never afterward did the idea of writing drama ever occur to me. I am waiting for a similar eruption before I can compose an

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opera. The same happened with choruses. No one had ever asked me to write a choral work and suddenly I was working on one. Or rather, when Nono heard the quartet microludes, he said I ought to write for chorus. That was my “commission.” A casual remark like that means more to me than an official commission. BAV: If Nono had not made that remark, the Omaggio a Luigi Nono and all the other choruses would never have been written? GYK: I don’t know. Something else might have served as an impulse. BAV: Boulez said that one reason for his never writing a music theater work was that whenever he met a writer who grasped what he had in mind, the writer died before they could embark on it. And, of course, Boulez wants something quite different from everything that has gone by the name of music theater before. Are you also motivated by the desire—which also characterized Xenakis—to invent something basically new, something that never existed before? GYK: I have no idea. Perhaps something completely new would give me pleasure, but it could equally make me happy to produce a work along existing lines. I made several starts on the Hungarian Elektra and I always got stuck at the point where Aigisthos first jubilates over the victory of Evil. I am becoming more and more conservative. I tend to lose interest in whether I have invented anything fundamentally new. Incidentally, the Colinda˘-Balada˘ is also full of elements of music theater. ❦❦❦ BAV: There is no time for us to examine every one of your compositions, or even just a few key works of the past decades. We have touched on a few pieces so far, even if we could not analyze them in any depth. While listening to Stele and . . . concertante . . . , I noted down a few observations and I would be grateful if you would comment on them. First of all, however, just one detail concerning the double concerto for piano and cello: I was taken with the cello solo, with its sliding tones, its laments. There are minor seconds galore . . . GYK: Alas, it does not seem to mean as much to every soloist . . . Although I did hint at what I had in mind by writing Circumdederunt under the notes. “The groans of death, the shadows of Hell surrounded me”—an important moment in the burial rite. BAV: Is it your invention or a quote? GYK: It is not a quote. And this solo, with the retuning of the cello, is indeed important. BAV: A passage in the cello solo reminds me of the Schmutzig bin ich Milena song in Kafka Fragments. GYK: That’s quite possible. It is the same lament and the same hell.62 Submerging the cello was a great moment for me. BAV: I remember visiting you at Vero ˝ce when you were composing the double concerto. Pages of the score were all over your studio, lying on the floor, on your bed; they were also pinned onto the wall to make sure you had an overview.


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MK: The same as with . . . concertante . . . at St-André-de-Cubzac.63 He was writing on A4 sheets . . . GYK: . . . so that they could be faxed. Of course, to begin with, they had to be reduced in size. I was in permanent contact with the two soloists, Hiromi and Ken. As soon as I had completed a section, I faxed them the relevant pages and they learned them immediately. Then, if I changed or recomposed it, they learned that too. They were wonderfully selfless, ready for any self-sacrifice. MK: Three pages had to be glued together vertically. We have kept that copy at home in St-André. GYK: We placed the pages on the Steinway—one walked around to read them. MK: Sometimes, even four pages had to be stuck together. Schønwandt came by, took a look, and pronounced himself satisfied. When he had left, Gyuri played the score in his studio and both of us agreed that it made no sense at all. GYK: I started composition all over again. Schønwandt visited us in February; the world premiere was set for September. Márta then helped me a lot—she had many ideas about how to revise the piece. MK: I cannot remember how I may have helped—but I do know that it was while working on . . . concertante . . . that his skin allergy began. Whether the two are connected in any way I do not know.64 GYK: The problem was that I had lost the thread toward the end. Tamás Blum told us something fantastic about Shostakovich. When he visited Budapest, he decided to change a detail in Katerina Ismailova and he wrote the changes right into the parts, without taking a look at the score. He knew his own work—and its composition lay back quite a few years—that thoroughly. Really incredible. I forget by the evening what text I set during the day. Decades ago, Shostakovich was someone to go on strike against. Today, I find a great deal in his music that has real beauty—for instance, the songs of Captain Lebyadkin in The Devils.65 However, I admit I know just a fraction of his oeuvre. Of the string quartets, I am familiar only with the Eighth; it has some attractive features but some of it is banal. Shostakovich is regarded as one of the greatest composers in Holland, Britain, and the United States. BAV: Among key notions to do with your music, I mentioned madness, drivenness, and cited the example of Stele. At measure 75 you prepare that passage with the instruction Tutti: poco a poco crescendo e più agitato and at measure 81 it gets going with a vengeance . . . GYK: What mattered to me was something no one has so far been able to render properly: six flutes and a tuba, the timbre they create. The madness comes to a sudden halt and there appears an operetta-like melody similar to the one sung by Winnie at the end of Happy Days66 [he hums it] and they repeat it unconducted until, at a sign from the conductor, the madness resumes. It ought to be an island, with some quite extraordinary sounds. A low C with up to five octaves piled on top of it. I have told the musicians and indeed also the author of the program notes,

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Example 9: Kurtág, Stele, Op. 33, m. 52. © Editio Musica Budapest. Reproduced by permission.

Klaus Kropfinger, they should think of the scene in Tolstoy’s War and Peace where Prince Andrei is wounded at Austerlitz for the first time: all of a sudden, he no longer hears the battle but discovers the blue sky above him. That is what the music conjures up. I keep telling this story and no one responds . . . No one can hear it. No one sees the blue sky. There’s nothing to be done.


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The whole of the second movement could bear the title “Litany.” I mean, in litanies they are always repeating the same thing: “Virgin Mary, have mercy on us; Virgin Mary, Mother of God, have mercy on us . . . ” They say the same thing over and over again, for three hours on end. In the piece, different instrumental groups are sounding in canon. I had tried the same thing in the double concerto for piano and cello but could not yet solve it to my satisfaction (I mean using the chorale in canon). Here it has come off somewhat better but fails to sound the way I want. What I was striving for was for each part to keep the dynamic level of the flutes. Those imitating should neither be louder nor softer. For instance, one group is formed by the flutes and the clarinets, another, which replies to them consists of violins and violas. They enter one after the other and are followed in stretto by the horns and the bassoons. There is also a group of “gamelan” instruments: the upright piano, the piano, and the harp. Each group should say to the end whatever it has to say, without disturbing the others, and then disappear. That is what my son Gyuri succeeded in realizing in . . . concertante . . . He was able to bring out the parts that were meant to come to the fore. Then the music changes slowly: I was seeking beautiful harmonies for the doloroso. The instrumentation was beautifully conceived but what came out was rather different from what I had had in mind. I had hoped that the brasses would not shout—but they do. [He turns some pages] This requires a great many rehearsals—the instrumentalists should take the time and listen to one another. They are rarely in the habit of doing so. BAV: Let us now get on to . . . concertante . . . There is a motif right at the start that leaves a strong mark on the listener’s mind. I mean measure 15 on the second page of the score, which begins ppp, the dynamic rising slightly and returning to the same ppp with a sudden forte outburst on the whole orchestra, playing just three notes. GYK: Alas, that is the Siegfried motif . . . [laughs]. Interestingly enough, the music is always referring to Wagner without my consciously wanting it to. I do not even notice—and again and again there appears something linked to him. And then I accept it. Oh, I see! Ah, well. Then let it be Siegfried. BAV: Elsewhere, too, one encounters groups of notes that seem to add up to a motif with a patina, an aura about it—as if it had been there all along. Such are, for instance, measures 3 and 4 in the “Footfalls” movements of the string quartet Six moments musicaux. Now I understand the reason . . . GYK: Yes, that is the reason. BAV: What is actually the role of melody in your music? I have the impression that you dearly wanted to write some. GYK: Very much so, but I do not have sufficient talent for it. BAV: However, when you do compose a lovely melody, like Proshchai, you are afraid that it might be too lovely . . . GYK [with Márta echoing his words almost simultaneously]: No, there I am not afraid. BAV: I hear the first piece in Hipartita as a soaring melody.67

Example 10: Kurtág, Hipartita, Op. 43, I “*** [Hommage à Ligeti],” in the composer’s own handwriting. © Editio Musica Budapest. Reproduced by permission.

Example 10: (continued)

Example 10: (concluded)


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GYK: Actually, it is also a disperato that loses its momentum. Then it gathers strength once again. It is not too bad. BAV: This morning, when you were rehearsing What Is the Word, you said of a phrase: “This is not so much Schubert, but rather Brahms.” This awareness of melody in your own music, and its link to the classics, is always present. GYK: Yes, always. I would very much like it to be melodious. The Colinda˘ is full of tunes, and it is full of harmonies that, interestingly enough, while I am working on it strike me as unconventional. I may well discover later that they remind me of this or that, but . . . In the Colinda˘ I have been having an easy time of it. BAV: Usually, you are suspicious of anything that goes easily for you. Apparently, this time it is different. GYK: This time, indeed, I think I have found something. There is resistance all along. And once again: I am not aware that I know it. I am just doing it. Oddly enough, I am now making quite good progress. BAV: In . . . concertante . . . I have found a melody that seemed to me to want to coalesce out of tiny fractions. It seems to have great significance in the piece. GYK: Yes. I have discovered that that melody is in fact the death of Liù.68 That is the only melody in the whole piece. It returns later on, through many, many interpolations. That is actually the end of the story. And then something begins—what did you write on that piece of paper? BAV: I jotted down the word: “Magyar.” GYK: That “Magyar” character is rather misleading. One of the conductors put undue stress on it, while I meant it to be concealed. I was against him taking a different mute, but he employed a different one from the metal mute. In this way, this material received too much prominence, even though it never recurs. BAV: What was your intention with that material? You did not mean it to have a Magyar character? GYK: I did, but I meant it as a commentary and they made an important theme out of it. I was helpless. MK: Actually, this is not a double concerto but an orchestral work with two soli obbligati. And if you invest as much time and energy in a piece as Hiromi and Ken did, you would naturally like to show what you can do. This is the wrong piece for that. GYK: I do appreciate that, but sadly the piece goes in a different direction. BAV: Let me turn a few pages, to a violin solo that attracted my attention. GYK: Basically, this is a fast movement with three subjects. I now realize that that Magyar recitative does not disappear without a trace after all . . . [laughs]. But its consequences remain unexploited. The piece has the character of a fantasy. In any case, this is one kind of material. Then it is answered by the viola and then the two play together, with a short orchestral interlude, until a new kind of material appears: March, March . . .69 That should have been the beginning of the Rákosi Oratorio.

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BAV: The ending strikes me as a dance. GYK: It could be a dance, but I have drastically changed the dynamics: it suddenly becomes soft and, when it starts again, it turns even softer. It does not quite work: neither the conductor nor the soloists have a feel for it. They do as I ask, but it is not quite right . . . Perhaps, someday they will discover it. What comes afterward is long-winded, I fear. MK: When he showed it to me, full of doubt, I thought it had tremendous drive. GYK: In measure 107, this melody on the violin is an hommage à Ligeti: it is a quotation from the slow movement of his Violin Concerto. These notes—B– A–C-sharp–B—crop up in several of Ligeti’s pieces. It is there in a movement of his Musica ficta, but also in a very early piano duet which I think he composed at Kolozsvár. BAV: Did you realize this to be a Ligeti quote in retrospect? GYK: No, I wanted it that way, but it does not make enough impact. It is followed by another sort of material that could be a second subject. Those are the three kinds of material that make up the fast movement. Initially there was also a dialogue that should have been reminiscent of the one between soloist and orchestra in the finale of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, but it did not work and the soloists made a poor sound. I overcomplicated it; I worked for weeks on its details. It was a terribly complex hocket that they never seemed to master. My son Gyuri simply left it out of the recording and I wrote a vide in the score. MK: He said, “Papa, the piece works without it perfectly.” He showed it to us and we were immediately convinced. GYK: He simply skipped from measure 151 to measure 162. The piece has gained a great deal through that. BAV: Here and there, I have found some Bartókian rhythms. GYK: It is rather the Sacre du printemps. But the Sacre is also behind Bartók. At measure 180, there begins a music of longing that is important for me. It is a kind of cadenza. It is a wonderful idea to have it return with the contrabassoon in unison—but in performance it sounds like belching. MK: I liked the way Cambreling conducted it.70 GYK: It did make a beautiful sound with Cambreling. There follows a type of material like the Candelight Waltz—and then a sudden cut. Once again, no one will do it the way I want: to bring the tempo to a sudden halt. The Chastushka in Troussova is also like that. It is very much a Stravinskian cadenza— at least, it ought to be. Then the Candlelight Waltz, pure, pentatonic, followed by the recapitulation with the contrabassoon. It should make a beautiful sound. BAV: In one passage, one hears something like the fragment of a Hungarian folk song.

Example 11: Kurtág, . . . concertante . . . , Op. 42, mm. 180–81. © Editio Musica Budapest. Reproduced by permission.

key words (2007–2008)


GYK: It could even be Machaut. It’s rather beautiful. This passage is not about the soloists; they only make comments. In this large-scale chorale, it is once again the timbre of the flutes that matters. We are very nearly back in Stele. BAV: That is what struck me as a Hungarian folk song. GYK: It could also be Gregorian chant or a Hungarian folk song, it does not matter. The way I use it, it could be Machaut. And the chorale still goes on. Then comes the cadenza, the repetition of C. Not a particularly brilliant idea. I had meant to write a new one, but then I changed my mind. They play it so well, so I left it as it is. What started at the beginning returns at this point. The viola plays once again Liù’s death. And here is the other thing I wanted to say: the second subject in the first movement of Chopin’s Sonata in B-flat Minor—I have incorporated it almost without a change. BAV: I noted for myself: “with choking voice, hardly daring to say it.” GYK and MK: That’s it! Very good! GYK: It keeps moving on a bit, changing key. It is cut short by the tutti and then comes the farewell, with Liù’s death. The . . . coda: recitativo ed epilogo . . . is definitely taken from the material of the Furious Chorale,71 which was originally meant to be a violin concerto. As I have mentioned before, I worked on it for a few months in Paris. I did not know what to do with it, so I used it in Furious Chorale. It is not bad in the way of a recitative; it is well constructed. And then comes the second half of the recitative . . . BAV: . . . I wrote for myself: hell—heaven. GYK: Yes, but within the recitative. It is still the material of the Furious Chorale, but it has been tamed. BAV: The instrumentation is wonderful, with the low notes of the violas, the celli, and the double basses. GYK: Then a veritable miracle occurred. Hiromi offered me her silent violin to try things out on. For decades, whenever I was writing for the violin, I had been using a fingerboard fashioned out of a piece of thick paper. When the lines became faded, Márta drew them again. Hiromi saw it and thought that I could make better use of a silent violin. She showed me how it sounds, whereupon I said, “the violin stays with you and shall play in the piece.” So they had to buy a companion instrument for the viola player. I wrote . . . concertante . . . for Hiromi Kikuchi and her husband, Ken Hakii. When Riccardo Chailly, the then music director of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, asked me after a concert in Lucerne if I could compose a new work for his ensemble, I suggested this double concerto that was in the making. However, there was a hitch: Ken being the solo viola player of the orchestra, the ensemble insisted that the violin solo part be played by the concertmaster. Thereupon I canceled the commission. It was around that time that I was awarded the Leonie Sonning Music Prize in Denmark. When the foundation raised the idea of a commission, I mentioned the . . . concertante . . . I was working on. That is how the first performance took place in Copenhagen. However, we did try out the silent violin after a rehearsal


key words (2007–2008)

in the Concertgebouw, and there was no doubt about it: it was perfectly audible in the hall. That is some of my most beautiful music. I am really fond of it. It is the world of Flowers We Are. The instrumentation also works; no amplification is necessary. It could be that the ending needs adding to, but I cannot feel it yet. I did write a new ending to Stele: the first notes of Mihály’s Cello Concerto (I call it his visiting card), reinforced by a bass—that was all. You see, the third movement of Stele is a blowup of In Memoriam András Mihály72—just as the fifth Microlude at the end of . . . quasi una fantasia . . . . I have used that visiting card in several other homages to Mihály as well. ❦❦❦ BAV: A last question—are you a believer? GYK: I do not know. I toy with the idea. Consciously, I am certainly an atheist, but I do not say it out loud, because if I look at Bach, I cannot be an atheist. Then I have to accept the way he believed. His music never stops praying. And how can I get closer if I look at him from the outside? I do not believe in the Gospels in a literal fashion, but a Bach fugue has the Crucifixion in it—as the nails are being driven in. In music, I am always looking for the hammering of nails . . . This is a dual vision. My brain rejects it all. But my brain isn’t worth much. BAV: Bach believed in the teachings of the Church, in the Protestant dogmas. GYK: But he had the courage to transcend them, because he composed his masses. BAV: What is your attitude to the transcendental, that there may be something that exists beyond reality as we know it? GYK: It is always present with me. Without entertaining any hope that if I die I’ll . . . Actually, I am fascinated by what Socrates said at the end of the Apologia to those who had voted for him (I nearly put this into my Ligeti text): Do not think that death is anything bad. We do not know what death is. Perhaps it is indeed just like falling asleep. And is there anyone who would not be happy for a restful night’s sleep—if that restful night would never stop? It cannot be bad. But perhaps it is true what they say, that in afterlife we can meet the great spirits. And would it not be fantastic if we could talk to Achilles and all the others? Socrates could be there posing as he would his questions to unmask those deluding themselves that they are wise when in fact they are not. All that is also true of Ligeti. If there is afterlife, Ligeti would be engaged in the same thing. Since writing my text on him, this has been living truth for me. We do not know what dying is. I could die anytime now—I do not mind it at all. It would not be pleasant to live too long, but if I have to, I must accept it. BAV: You live an active, creative life.

key words (2007–2008)


GYK: It will not stay that way. I can see how it will go on; I can see how it will go downhill. But I will make the best of it as long as I possibly can. BAV: Elliott Carter is still composing at ninety-nine, and writing better music than before. I recently heard his Soundings for orchestra. He wrote it at ninetyseven—I much preferred it to his earlier pieces. GYK: I did not like the earlier ones. BAV: Neither did I. But after ninety, he suddenly started composing music with a human face. GYK: I do not say no to anything . . . ❦❦❦ I said good-bye to György and Márta Kurtág late on Saturday afternoon, November 26, 2007. Gyuri had grown tired, we had to put a stop to the interview. Without actually saying so, all three of us were under the impact of the ideas expressed in closing. Their embrace was longer than usual. I returned to Vienna on Sunday and dialed the Kurtágs’ number two days later. A voice unknown to me answered the call. He introduced himself as the caretaker of Professor Kurtág’s apartment. I listened stunned as he explained that the composer had had an attack during the night. It was probably a stroke, for he could neither speak nor move. He had been taken to the hospital. When at long last I reached Márta, her voice was astonishingly calm: “I only get worked up about a minor irritation; I keep my head if disaster strikes.” Gyuri was receiving an infusion, his condition was stable. There started an avalanche of calls from all over the world: news of Kurtág’s illness had spread like wildfire. Out of tact I did not ring Márta again; my source of information was Vera Ligeti. She told me that it may not have been a stroke after all; a very high fever had traumatized the organism. I first talked to Kurtág about a week later, when he was back home. The fever had weakened him considerably; he felt sick much of the time. Composing was out of the question, even though he was anxious to return to the Colinda˘ -Balada˘ . “The ending in the chorus is new for me, too. Harmonies are on my mind all the time.” The trauma that weakened his body and worried him a great deal was a warning for him to slow down, to think twice before embarking on any activity (above all, traveling) that would exhaust his constitution. András Szo˝llo˝sy and Stockhausen died early in December. The Colinda˘ -Balada˘ needs to be completed. The Akhmatova Songs must be finished. The Messages for orchestra have to be revised. Then there are the Beckett scenes as well. And a host of other plans. I rang the Kurtágs at their home in France in January. The Casals String Quartet of Barcelona had called and asked for tuition of the F major Rasumovsky Quartet. They worked for seven hours. Gyuri and Márta were very happy. ❦❦❦


key words (2007–2008)

The Colinda˘ -Balada˘ was completed on March 2, 2008. It had taken Kurtág fifteen months to finish the piece. In his view, the work builds an arch with Bornemisza, encompassing the Troussova songs, which, he says, play an important role in his musical autobiography. During the course of our conversation in November 2007, he referred a number of times to the memories conjured up by the encounter with Felician Brînzeu’s study of the vocative, indeed, to the strong emotions this encounter had evoked. Working on the Colinda˘ -Balada˘ , he found himself engaged in intensive contact, after many decades, with the Romanian language and through it, with his birthplace. It is no coincidence that his future plans include the setting of a poem by Eminescu for the Vidu Chorus of Lugoj and its conductor, Remus Tas¸ca˘ u. It may well be that in his eighties, Kurtág’s attention will turn to the Romanian language and literature, Felician Brînzeu’s subjects at the Lugos Lycée, supplanting the Hungarian, Russian, German, French, and Ancient Greek of the past decades. All through those fifteen months, the composer was guided by the goal to present a copy of the score to a member of the professor’s family: Pia Brînzeu, Felician’s niece, herself a professor at the University of Timis¸oara. Another copy was meant for the Lycée—as an homage to his former school and a message that it was the Lycée’s duty to keep Felician’s memory alive. The Colinda˘ -Balada˘ and its composer returned “home” as early as the end of March. Before arriving at Lugoj, Kurtág stopped over in Cluj. Although no childhood memories are linked to that city, he spent a restless night before his first ever teaching in Romanian—another emotional experience—the next day. He also met Cornel Groza, conductor of the Transylvanian Philharmonic Chorus and handed him a score of the Colinda˘ Balada˘ . Groza is to conduct the world premiere in 2009: Kurtág wants the composition to be presented by singers who actually understand the words they are singing. Kurtág had not visited Lugoj since 1973. His return had been prepared with great care by Constantin Tufan Stan, a piano teacher there and a dedicated researcher of the city’s musical traditions (and thus Kurtág’s own roots there). It was Stan who organized the ceremony at the Lycée for the composer to hand over the score, and the visit to the house where Kurtág was born and to the building where he spent his childhood. Less than a month after its completion, the Colinda˘ -Balada˘ arrived at Lugoj. The first sketches of the Eminescu chorus emerged in Budapest, right after Kurtág’s return from his visit to Romania.


Mementos of a Friendship György Kurtág on György Ligeti Friendship—the sharing, the opening of one’s innermost self; the give-and-take of ideas, experiences, and help; the courage to express criticism and the courage to accept it—is a gift. It is one that has enriched György Kurtág’s life and, through his decades-long friendship with György Ligeti, become part of music history. Debussy and Ravel, Britten and Tippett, Stravinsky and Schoenberg, Shostakovich and Prokofiev: history has witnessed several pairs and peers among great composers working alongside one another without becoming friends— indeed, in some cases, with rivalry and animosity rendering any close contact impossible. Bartók and Kodály offer a counterexample: different as they were in personality and musical idiom, they were bound by genuine friendship and worked together as comrades-in-arms in their mission (and missionary zeal) to explore genuine Hungarian folk music, save it for the future, and incorporate its lessons in art music of the highest level. It was also their shared goal to create art music of a new, pioneering kind in their native country. I believe that the friendship between Kurtág and Ligeti has something in common with that of their immediate predecessors—not least in matters of mutual respect, one tending to assume the role of disciple without losing any of his individuality. (In the case of Bartók and Kodály, it was the former who would turn to his friend, a year younger, for advice). This chapter consists of two speeches by Kurtág, and it was his wish that they be included in this book. They are historical (and historic) documents of unique significance. Apart from his short preface to the piano series Játékok, I know of no other writings by Kurtág. The first speech was read by Kurtág, in the presence of György Ligeti, at a ceremony in the Cuvilliés-Theater in Munich in May 1993 at which Ligeti was being presented with the Siemens Prize. On this festive occasion, Kurtág overcame (must have forced himself to overcome) his inhibition to speak in public. Writing this piece, putting the first words on paper, may well have been a daunting task for Kurtág. His solution was to cast the myriad memories surging in his mind as scenes in a kind of theater on various “stages.” He explains this in


mementos of a friendship

his introduction. By placing some “high up,” “in a back corner,” or “on the podium,” he was able to let his memories and associations flow. Kurtág’s originality as a thinker and as a writer is mirrored by the unusual form of these speeches. A very few details of the two composers’ friendship, often imprecise or distorted, have found their way into biographies and program notes: their first encounter at the Budapest Academy of Music after the war, their meeting in Cologne as Kurtág was on his way back to Budapest from Paris. Most of these “scraps of memory,” however, would never have come to light had it not been for the request that Kurtág deliver what the Germans call a “Laudatio” at the Siemens Prize celebration. Everything here is thrilling and revealing, including the very last lines, in which Kurtág anticipates Ligeti’s critical comments: criticism and self-criticism were basic features of their characters and of their friendship. Fourteen years later, in 2007, Kurtág delivered the second speech in Berlin in memory of Ligeti, at a ceremony commemorating deceased members of the Ordre pour le mérite. In this deeply moving testimony, Kurtág created another veritable composition in words, made another attempt to order his surging memories. Kylwyria–Kálvária is indeed a kind of composition, which only Kurtág could have formulated and delivered in this way. “Movements” of varying lengths are separated by pauses. Ellipses between words, when read out loud, took the form of intervals. Words written in capital letters, words and lines in boldface, were delivered as sforzati and dynamic peaks. Short lines placed poem-like one under the other indicate the rhythm of delivery. Indeed, Kurtág marked up his copy of the speech in the way he would a score. His reading of it was something of a musical performance. Many of those present listened with tears in their eyes. However, because he had only been given ten minutes to speak, he added an appendix, which he did not read but which is an integral part of his tribute to Ligeti: there was so much more he wanted to say. Both speeches are now available in this book, saving musicologists, teachers, students, and admirers of both composers much time and effort in attempting to locate them on the internet. Kurtág is present throughout this book in his replies to my interview questions—replies that, though subsequently corrected and supplemented many times, still preserve the immediacy and improvisatory character of conversation. He is also present in these verbal compositions without opus numbers, mementos of a historic friendship.1 ❦❦❦ Dear György Ligeti, Honored ladies and gentlemen, How to speak—when one is not a master of words? How can I evoke scenes from the time we spent with Ligeti without having a minimum of eloquence at my disposal to connect my narrative with what came before and afterward?

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If I could compose my memories like music I would have to tell them simultaneously—the chief strands in the middle—as if on a podium—and then imagine the scenes—for example, what Ligeti experienced earlier and I only know from his or others’ descriptions—let’s say high up—in a back corner—the consequences of the central events also somewhere at the side or the top center; and a series of merely illuminating incidents over the course of many years—so to speak—all around us. 1 So, first scene (central—on the podium): Christmas Eve 1957—according to a telegram I still have, at 11:02 p.m.— Paris—Gare du Nord. Ligeti arrives in Paris for the first time in his life. I wait at the station. The pianist György Szoltsányi, my friend and our host that evening, finds it strange that someone should want to travel so late on Christmas Eve. He invites Ligeti as well to his home at 48 Boulevard Garibaldi. “The metro is still running,” I say. “No, let’s walk!” And without hesitating Ligeti leads me through the streets of Paris, I who have lived here for over six months—naming every intersection and the streets beyond. (back corner, top, left): Ligeti’s early childhood. His obsessive pastime: perusing maps and memorizing them by heart—among them the map of his dream city, Paris—while already working on his fictitious country, Kylwyria. (front, top, right): The spirit of the Kylwyria construct seems to be hereditary—also in his early childhood, his son Lukas spent years writing the encyclopedia of his invented planet, with examples from its scientific history, literature, fine arts, and music. (front, top, left): The musical examples from this encyclopedia will later form an important starting point for my Játékok—or Games—for piano (and now a summary—all around us): For a long time, a lifetime, Ligeti led me onward. No, I must correct myself immediately: I followed him—sometimes right behind him and other times years or even decades later. I call it my “Imitatio Christi” syndrome. The first years of our friendship were marked not only by his intellectual leadership. Without being immediately influenced, I oriented my taste—even steps in my private life—according to his example.


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2 (podium, center): The Budapest Academy of Music, twelve years earlier—the beginning of September 1945. The entrance examination in composition. A very seriouslooking, friendly but distant young man, perhaps also distant because of his glasses, waits beside me. He seems older, but as I flip through his compositions it strikes me that he is a generation older. Choral works, probably also the second Cantata. From the Latin text I assume not very logically that he is a Calvinist theologian. There are also instrumental works and I see, or rather feel intuitively, that these are no student compositions. They comprise a self-contained, mature world, reigned over by a striking order in the note texture. My feeling: I have met a master. 3 (still on the podium, center): Early July 1958. Now it is I who arrive, and he who waits for me at the station in Cologne. He talks about Stockhausen’s most recent works on the way to the hotel and then straight on to the radio station where I would listen to the recordings over the next two days, telling me of the Groups for Three Orchestras with three conductors, and of its Alban Berg-like violin cadences and the segments with the dramatic, wildly jostling and quarreling brass instruments. These are the sections that strike me the most vividly when I hear the Groups in Stockhausen’s presence at the studio. Artikulation, also a new work, overwhelms me entirely. I experience the work as the first true Ligeti—marked by a density of events, a directness in its statement and a fine balance of humor and tragedy that still seem to me unsurpassed, even compared with his later development. (top, back, right): I speak of my impressions from those days, not of the absolute value of the compositions. But even later these two—Artikulation, Atmosphères—remain for me absolute masterpieces—representing two basic aspects of Ligeti’s work. Apparitions seemed to me rather a station on the way to them. (top, front, left): Today I view Apparitions entirely differently, but my loves nevertheless remain: Artikulation, Atmosphères. (top, front, right): After my return to Hungary—we would not see each other for ten years—I began my new life with Opus 1. From then on, my ideal and aspiration was to

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formulate in my language something similar to what I had experienced with Artikulation in Cologne. (top, back, left): He had written me in Paris: “You must get to know the studio in Cologne before you go back to Hungary”—knowing how difficult it would be for me to leave the country again. And in fact, these two days were musically far richer and more meaningful for me than the entire year in Paris. What I failed to see was that although he earned practically nothing for years, he underwent great sacrifices to pay for my room and board. 4 (podium, center): 1946–47, Budapest, 95 Szondy St. For five years I lived with my wife Márta at my aunt’s place, in the tiny servant’s chamber beside the kitchen with cockroaches at night. The room was four meters long by two meters wide. (top, left, back): More passport difficulties. From June 1947 to January 1948 we couldn’t return from our summer holidays in Romania. Ligeti lived in this room for a time. (center): Gradually it becomes a sort of ritual for us to have a musical evening at our flat every Sunday. Most often we sing parts from Mozart operas. Márta sings the female roles, Ligeti the tenor and sometimes the baritone. Our friend the composer Franz Sulyok, who studied composition with us, sings the bass roles. I play the orchestral part on the piano. (top, back, right): Ligeti repeats with us his tradition of musical evenings with his circle of friends in Cluj. (center): He tells us about Cosí fan tutte (I hadn’t even known anything like this opera existed). One of the first examples that he analyzes dramaturgically and then sings for us in a wonderfully comical—yet serious—manner is the duet from the second act: Il core vi dono, bell’idolo mio (Dorabella–Guglielmo). Without transgressing the borders of style, his somewhat exaggerated gestures exhibited the bold traits we see in his speeches nowadays, when he describes sections from Aventures or the Requiem, sketching them in the air.


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In those days we sang Mozart’s Italian operas in German; perhaps because it was easier to read in the piano score, or perhaps it was not yet “noblesse oblige” to sing in the original language of the composition—at least not for us in Budapest. No one who was there can forget how he played the scenic “aside”— ”du Lose” (you little rogue) in the role of Guglielmo-falling-out-of-his-role, then once more the lyrical humor of: “it beats tic-toc-tic-toc here,” the excessive Espressivo of the start again very different—we were party to an unheard of abundance of affective states unfolding from a single root. We cherish similar memories of the Don Giovanni–Zerlina duet, of the Pamina–Tamino–Sarastro trio (with Franz Sulyok’s grave “The hour has struck”), and of the duet between Susanna and the Count. And Cherubino’s unveiling scene, trio first act, how he played first the Count, then Basilio’s: “What I said—about the page—Was only my suspicion!” We sang all of Figaro, the Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, perhaps even the entire Abduction from the Seraglio. Tucked away among Márta’s notes we found something that was also new to Ligeti: the Wedding Quodlibet fragment by J. S. Bach. We were astonished to discover Bach’s absurd humor in the folksy, trivial tunes and in the Les Noces-like verses, like collective improvisations. Ligeti quickly oriented himself in the composition and took over the direction—how he did it is still a family legend. (exaggeratedly sentimental): “O ihr Gedanken, warum quälet ihr meinen—Geist?” —”Backtrog!” (“O all my thoughts now, Wherefore torment ye so my—soul?”) —”Dough-trough!”) (dryly—like a ventriloquist): and the repetitions kept varying more and more . . . Today when I read the verses of the Quodlibet: “Große Hochzeit, große Freude Großer Degen, große Scheide” (“Great the marriage, great the pleasure, Great the sabres, great the scabbards”) later: “Große Nasen, große Löcher” (“Great the noses, great the nostrils”) and elsewhere: “Pantagruel war ein sehr lustiger Mann” (“Pantagruel was a most comical man”)

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it sounds to me like something from Le Grand Macabre, not at all so far removed from the final verses of the 1st act: “Feuerblume sprieße mohnrot! Lieben wir uns bis der Tod droht . . . ” (I like these rhymes so much: . . . mohnrot Tod droht even in Hungarian: drótostót) (corner, left, top, back): 1949—Tavaszi Virág (spring blossoms), Chinese pantomime. I received a text from the Budapest Puppet Theater to set to music. It strikes me as tasteless, primitive verse. I can’t do a thing with it. Before I give it back, to amuse Ligeti, Márta and I show him these homemade “poems,” the makeshift rhymes of which could have been devised by the craftsmen in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (I’ll chant the verses in Hungarian): Öröm lenne mindenestül Minekünk a munka Ha a császár a Vén Tigris Nem ülne nyakunkba.2 To our astonishment, Ligeti shows an interest and takes on the job. The result is a brilliant piece of music with hits that live on until today in our circles. The spirit of this little verse that we had scorned found its exact dramatic function in Le Grand Macabre. “Song of the Tortoise”: Vígan úszik mint a hal Apró lábacskáival Ez az öreg tekno˝s.3 Tekno˝s = tortoise—and also trough—dough-trough! (corner, back, right, top): Paris, New Year’s Eve, 1957–58. Café-restaurant near the Comédie Française with a view onto the Avenue de l’Opéra. We sit there together with Franz Sulyok. Midnight—a wild honking concert in the Parisian tradition. Ligeti stands up, goes outside, listens enthusiastically, remains silent.


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(top, front, left): Vero˝ce, May 1993. We listen to the recording of Le Grand Macabre. Márta says about the honking overture: “As if it were the ‘Song of the Tortoise’ from the Puppet Theater.” Two scenes a) 1948–49 Opera House, Budapest The composition students have free passes to the loge on the third floor. Chopin’s Etude in C-sharp Minor is orchestrated in a tastelessly sweet way, and played sweetly and tastelessly on the cello, accompanying a kitschy pas de deux with a Traviata-like, consumptive, dying girl. Ligeti and Carl Melles, a student in the conducting class, whistle and shout, outraged that something like that is possible after Mozart, Verdi, Bartók, and Stravinsky. The police are called in and take them both away, their passes are revoked. b) 1981 (?) Opéra de Paris Our son was there. Ligeti shouts: “Arrêtez!” Stop—I’m the composer—and leaves the hall in an uproar—the police don’t intervene—the performance of Le Grand Macabre continues.

5 (center) 1946–47 Budapest—Óbuda—the area around Zsigmond Square. At the time, the old buildings were still standing, which Krúdy, Ligeti’s favorite writer, described with such nostalgia. Krúdy himself lived in this neighborhood. Ligeti rents a room here, the landlord is rather unfriendly, it’s better if visitors come in through the window. A strange house, built on a slope with crazy architecture. If you go in the main entrance, the room is on the raised ground floor. Nevertheless, the window is lower than street level. Escher perspective. Our first meetings, even before the evenings at 95 Szondy St. Here he tells us about Sándor Weöres’ poetry—I had never even heard the name. Then he plays us two short Weöres songs—until today these still seem to me the highpoint of his creative work at the time. Not a promise of things to come, but self-contained works of great inner truth. The wafting fairy-like Botticelli eroticism of the first song (“Táncol a hold”) and the gesticulating anguished drama of the second (“Kalmár jött nagy madarakkal”), once more mark two basic aspects of Ligeti’s work. Until today they are starting points for my own song compositions.

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Strangely, at the time we knew nothing of the third song—Gyümölcsfürt. What still amazes me today: although he could not have heard Japanese music, he invented this Koto music! (top, back, left) Ligeti: childhood memories. Two pictures of Japanese Geishas hang over his aunt’s piano. He improvises tones on the black keys while looking up at them, unaware that in doing so he had found his way to Asian pentatony. 6 Thought Splinters—Scraps of Memory a) 1946, 95 Szondy St.: “Do you have colored dreams? I do,” he says. “We don’t.” b) 1946 Óbuda: Ligeti: “Two of the most important books for me: Proust: A la recherche du temps perdu Freud: Totem und Tabu.” c) 1993—Birthday discussion with Bálint Varga: Ligeti: “I’m reading two of the world’s most beautiful books: Proust: A la recherche . . . for the first time in the original, and What Is Mathematics? by Courant and Robbins.” d) Proust: Un homme qui dort tient en cercle autour de lui le fil des heures, l’ordre des années et des mondes. Imaginary discussion: Ligeti: “l’ordre et le désordre.” Me: “et enfin—chez toi— l’ordre supérieur qui les unit.”


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e) Vienna, Himmelhofgasse 34—end of the 1980s: Ligeti: “Lately I can only listen to music that is intellectually stamped, that causes mental exertion. (Everything occult—Buddhist, if not musically structured, is foreign to me.”) f) His study, Budapest, 4 Alkotmány St.: Early 1950s—already married to Vera. Sharpened pencils are arranged neatly in small clay jars. On the black music rack of his piano is a magical incantation symbol of red wax—reminiscent of Rembrandt’s Doctor Faustus etching. g) Berlin, 1971: He works on the orchestral piece Melodien. Ligeti: “ . . . now I know exactly what Melodien will be like. I’ve just finished the framework of the harmonies.” h) In 1947 he writes an essay for Professor Szabolcsi’s course in music history. We are free to choose any topic we please on Beethoven’s quartets. Ligeti: “I’ve chosen the first movement of Opus 18 in F Major, because the whole thing develops out of an almost insignificant germ motif.” Yes, Szabolcsi’s courses . . . The nonacademic element in his teaching. No exams, just one short essay each semester on a topic of our choice. We discuss the history of music, but also cultural history, history in general. And how Szabolcsi talked of Mozart’s operas! And there was an optional Bartók seminar where Szabolcsi just commented. Here Erno˝ Lendvai read out his first analyses of Bartók’s music, and here we heard Ligeti’s analysis of Bartók’s Bear Dance. i) 28 May, 1993. Népszabadság: Musicologist János Breuer remembers Ligeti’s courses at the Academy in the 1950s. “Everything became so clear as soon as he touched it, at the same time he showed the complexity of Bartók’s seemingly simple structures.”

7 My Treasure Chamber 1947 Budapest, Music Academy: a) Ligeti’s speech on J. S. Bach’s Two-part Inventions. I illustrate the basic types on the piano according to Ligeti’s selection.

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Themes—and variously structured sequences resulting from them. Finally: part or final cadences that become so general that they could result from any theme at all. (And of course—a plan of the modulations.) And that is the entire formal development. Everyone who was there—including myself—understood for a lifetime. b) Hungarian folk music was compulsory for all students of the Academy. Kodály was very strict while teaching and examining, but he explained little. In a few sentences Ligeti explained to Márta and me the main types of Hungarian folk song: six, seven, or eight syllables (and their derivatives), and how you can recognize them by their cadence rhythms. c) At the time it was unfathomable to me how in analyzing the Bear Dance he could hit upon the very simple solution that the melody lies in the middle voice of the chord mixture. d) Ligeti collected folk music for several weeks in Romania. He was the first to discover and describe in a short essay the laws underlying the harmonies of Romanian village bands. Among my treasures are two Ligeti texts that I wrote down at the time of Apparitions-Atmosphères. e) (I call it: his early Ars Poetica) “Sounds and musical contexts always awaken in me the sensation of color, form, material shape. Involuntarily I can’t help associating even abstract concepts with sonorous ones. This explains the presence of so many ‘extra-musical’ traits in my compositions. Jingling surfaces and masses that displace, interpenetrate, and resolve into each other—floating networks that rip and tangle—wet, sticky, gelatinous, fibrous, dry, brittle, grainy, and compact materials, shreds, scraps, splinters, and traces of all kinds—imaginary buildings, labyrinths, inscriptions, texts, dialogues, insects, states, events, procedures, fusions, metamorphoses, catastrophes, dissolution, disappearance—all of these are elements of this nonpuristic music.” f) (I call this his Urtraum) “In my early childhood I once dreamed I wasn’t able to make it as far as my crib (which represented a safe haven) because the room was filled with a thinfibered, dense, and extremely intricate web. Apart from me, other beings and objects also hung in the huge network, moths and beetles, huge damp, dirty cushions. Every movement of the creatures caught in the web caused the entire system to tremble. Now and then the movements were so strong that the web ripped in places and several beetles were set free, only to stray once more into


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the billowy undulant meshwork. These incidents gradually changed the structure of the web. Inextricable knots formed in some places, other bits developed into caverns where isolated shreds floated about. The metamorphoses in the system were irreversible, no past state could be restored. There was something inexpressibly sad about this process, the hopelessness of the trickling of time and a past that could never be retrieved.” If I knew nothing about this dream I would set it to music. But as he has long been setting this dream to tones—and what tones!—and not just to tones, but to corresponding musical webs, I will never venture to touch it. g) In the Vienna Standard of May 28, 1993, Wolfgang Fuhrmann wrote about Ligeti and his “criminalistically exact analysis of some of Pierre Boulez’s key works.” (Truly, the analysis of Structure Ia is formulated is such a way that anyone who reads and understands it could write down the entire composition.) 8 His entire oeuvre is “criminalistically exact”—a lifelong development of his Urtraum—unfolding the means with which he can control it in each and every detail, to render it ever more complex. The piano etudes and the concertos for piano and violin rise to heights that my limited intellect finds hard to follow. In the first year of our friendship I declared myself his pupil. He helped me very, very much, but never accepted me as his pupil. Márta recently explained to me that Ligeti unconsciously felt I could never be a real partner for him. I never understood a thing about mathematics, I was full of enthusiasm for things big and beautiful, but my understanding never reached very far and my attitude to music and art is reminiscent of the ruddy-featured character in Thomas Mann’s Tonio Kröger who keeps repeating “The sdars, God, take a look at the sdars.” And like Serenus Zeitblom in Doctor Faustus, I also had my doubts about this speech, “whether according to my existence I am the right man” for the task, “to which I am attracted perhaps more by my heart than by any sort of essential (and here I add: or spiritual) affinity.” I cannot “speculate the elements” and will die without understanding anything about fractal geometry, for example. But I can love this music from the bottom of my heart, which resounds in Atmosphères as if it welled up inside me, which shakes me so in the Dies Irae, which lifts me on high in the violin concerto. There is still so much left to tell—our youth was so rich—our paths crossed again and again—I thank him for so much that I got to know only through him—Weöres, Kafka, Webern, Stockhausen, Frescobaldi, Boulez, Csontváry, Beckett, Bosch, the Joyce of Finnegans Wake, Helms, Nancarrow, Musil, Klee, the Nono of Il Canto sospeso, Robert Walser, Lewis Carroll, he even described Alain

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Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes to me so wonderfully in Paris that I was disappointed when I read it. The rest I’ll leave for his eightieth birthday. I had originally intended to introduce this speech with a few words, then later I wanted to put them at the end. But I could not finish them. I will include them here: What does Ligeti mean to me? The intuition that there is something higher, more perfect than I could ever imagine, that there are connections in art, in the sciences, in the cosmos, about which he knows—

and here my sentence breaks off. Thank you for your patience. And to you dear friend I wish very happy adventures through the looking glass in the land of wild and tame microtones. Coda Post Festam . . . from the end of the Purgatorio: (Dante: also a birthday present from Vera and György Ligeti when I turned thirty) S’io avessi, lettor, più’lungo spazio Da scrivere, io pur cantere’ in parte Lo dolce ber che mai non m’avria sazio. Ma perchè piene son tutte le carte Ordite a questa Cantica seconda, Non mi lascia più ir lo fren dell’arte.


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If, Reader, I possessed a longer space For writing it, I yet would sing in part Of the sweet draught that ne’er would satiate me; But inasmuch as full are all the leaves Made ready for this second canticle, The curb of art no farther lets me go. (Translation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) If I were to show this text composition to Ligeti he would have several things to say. “The introduction is too cumbersome . . . ” “Your coda goes on endlessly—coda, coda, coda, on and on . . . ” “The reference to parts of the hall soon loses its function—it’s good that you drop it altogether after a while, but as a structural element it tends to dither ...” “Why did you evoke these scenes in detail, and then just pile up other much more important ones in the coda?” Etc. . . . etc.

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Kylwyria–Kálvária Obituary, speech of mourning? For me he’s more alive than ever. For months my small study in St-André has been filled with his compositions, writings, and speeches, with essays, articles, and commemorative texts about him. Again and again I read the scores and listen to all the recordings I can get my hands on. In front of me is his life’s work—perhaps even his life. No end of things I’d like to tell him, including what I’ve finally understood about his music after decades. Perhaps there are correlations that only I’ve discovered now. So many things I’d like to ask. Sometimes his later works give answers, but other times it seems hopeless because he’s not here to explain them. ❦❦❦ I’d like to find out how you too might have known him. I must summon the help of those better equipped than me to portray him. “You had to hear him speak, if possible see him,” writes Wolfgang Sandner (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, June 17, 2006), referring to Ligeti’s lively, expressive gestures. “He was a master of the rare art of linguistic polyphony. Anyone lucky enough to experience his wonderful way of expressing himself could understand his music far better afterward. Because his language bore a striking congruence to his scores. The same lively, bustling sound configurations, the richness of associations, the far-fetched lightness of touch that nevertheless grew in some magical way into a complex linguistic architecture. Ligeti was a Gesamtkunstwerk.” ❦❦❦ A recollection written by neurobiologist Gerhard Neuweiler, Ligeti’s closest friend during the last six years of his life: “He began asking me what I was doing at the moment . . . He questioned, and I answered, he probed, and I responded, he bored deeper and deeper . . . , he was like a volcano, always spewing new ideas, stimulations, doubts, questions . . . He forced me to reflect and inquire more closely, and through his inquisitorial curiosity he led me into new and unexpected aspects of my own discipline.” In my own private mythology I ascribe this kind of probing to the SocratesLigeti. ❦❦❦


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Yes, that curiosity! Now I quote his words from 1993: “As different as the criteria for art and science are, they are similar in that those who work in them are driven by curiosity. The key thing in both areas is to investigate coherences still undiscovered by others, and to create structures that haven’t existed until now.” ❦❦❦ This “insatiable curiosity, the euphoria of discovering and understanding, the breathtaking speed of thought,” as Hungarian composer László Vidovszky put it, which characterized the heights of the Renaissance, this never-being-content with what you’ve achieved, always on the lookout for new ways of expression . . . At the same time, the true Ligetian poiesis emerges from the experiences of musical history from Machaut to today. Much has been written about how he profited from folklore research (that of Bra˘ iloiu, Kubik, Simha Arom, and of course, again and again, Bartók), but it seems that even he forgot that it was the young Ligeti (1950–53) who revealed in a seminal essay the functioning and harmonizing patterns of Romanian folk orchestras. For him, “the sciences were also a true source of inspiration” (Vidovszky). With Marina Lobanova he spoke about the “paradoxes and beauties of the mathematical way of thinking . . . ” And literature, the arts . . . From Heinrich von Kleist to Gyula Krúdy, from Proust to Weöres, Hölderlin and Kafka, Shakespeare and Lewis Carroll, the Joyce of Finnegans Wake, from Beckett and Ionesco to the Borges of Labyrinths, from Bosch to Piranesi, from Cézanne to Miró and Escher—so much is reflected in this music! ❦❦❦ We met and became friends sixty-two years ago. In the first days of September in 1945, the entrance exam for the composition class at the Budapest Music Academy changed my life forever. We waited to be called. At the same time I flipped through his scores, and saw how far above me his knowledge, maturity, and musical fantasy put him. I hooked up with him for life. Until 1956, as long as he lived in Budapest, we were bound by a close friendship. I had the privilege of witnessing the creation of his works, and participating in his life. I was there when he met Vera, and best man at their wedding in 1952. I see his life as a single entity, his oeuvre as endlessly ramified, held together by LOYALTY, fidelity. Above all to childhood.

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a) His early childhood Urtraum: motionless textural blocks transform gradually and imperceptibly, squirming and writhing from inside, on the verge of building musical structures. For decades this will be one of his fundamental musical typologies, appearing in its purest form in the immense chromatic clusters and micro-polyphonic meshes of his Atmosphères. Then later in the beseeching voice fascicles of the Kyrie fugue in Requiem (1962–65), unapproachable in its perfection. b) Kylwyria, his imaginary country, which he built up between the ages of five and thirteen. He drew colorful orohydrographic maps that could pass for Miró paintings, invented the Kylwyrian language and grammar, geography and history, describing in naive Utopian terms Kylwyria’s legal and social systems. Out of Kylwyria come his Aventures and Nouvelles Aventures (1962–65). They articulate his second fundamental musical typology: abundant humor, dramatic twists and turns, unexpected tremorous flashes, and equally unexpected moments of pause, aggression, and apprehension. The three singers develop very human relationships on the basis of nonexistent phonetic (SuperKylwyrian?!) linguistic material. His intention was to unite the two Aventures in a single opera entitled Kylwyria. Happily, Le Grand Macabre was born instead! Equally, in the Dies Irae of the Requiem a medieval sequence of images unfurls from desperation to anxiety, from the tragic to the grotesque, as if intoning the flash point of a Last Judgment by Hieronymus Bosch or Hans Memling. c) Sometime in his childhood he read the novella by Gyula Krúdy about an old widow whose apartment is bathed in twilight and stuffed full of antique clocks that beat confused, irregular time, creating a unique atmosphere. From this childhood memory and his experience with the Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes, Ligeti developed a new type of scherzo whose tempo and character notations already disclose much: Come un meccanismo di precisione (String Quartet No. 2, III) or Movimento preciso e meccanico (Chamber Concerto, III). The 1962 world premiere of the Poème Symphonique for 100 Metronomes was a scandal. The title, harking back to the heyday of Romanticism, together with the mechanically oscillating metronomes was like a provocation, an attempt to “épater le bourgeois.” But later concerts showed the sheer poetry of the piece over and above its daring novelty. At first the metronomes, all set at different speeds and set in motion at the same time, build an impermeable mesh of sound. But then the structure becomes increasingly clear as the quickest machines run to a halt. The beats of the two slowest, the two “soloists” remaining at the end, are like a moving, lyrical farewell. ❦❦❦


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The last minutes. Vera and Lukas are by his side. His breathing slows, halts, starts again, becomes even slower. Lukas: “Like the end of the metronome piece.” . . . the breathing slows even more and then . . . —stops. ❦❦❦ On the afternoon concert on the day of the funeral service the Poème symphonique. Astounding, tragic, Beckett-like. ❦❦❦

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Appendix I Remarks with no claim to completeness or system . . . . . . on the theme of “loyalty.” Symmetries in work and life. Again and again he comes back to the poetry of Sándor Weöres. After 1956, Weöres is the sole Hungarian poet whose work Ligeti sets to music. 1946: For me Táncol a Hold (The moon is dancing) and Kalmár jött nagy madarakkal (A peddler came with large birds), two songs with piano accompaniment, are explosive, courageous, surrealistic madness, both self-discovery and promise for the future, incomparable with anything in his oeuvre right up until the electronic Artikulation of 1958. I would almost say that I count the “true” Ligeti from this point on. 2000: His last completed work, again setting poems by Sándor Weöres to music: Síppal, dobbal, nádihegedu˝vel (With pipes, drums, and fiddles). Right away in the first song it moves mountains with a few strokes, instilling the gray wolves with fear and horror. The enchanting instrumentation of the Bittersweet in the sixth movement is a revival of North Transylvanian folk songs. Its harmonies integrate Kodály—heard through Bartók—and are reminiscent of the Ligeti of the 1940s and early 1950s. It may be a coincidence, but then again it may not, that his life’s work closes with Sándor Weöres and his mother tongue. In 1955, Weöres: Éjszaka (Night) and Reggel (Morning) for mixed choir. Perhaps the most perfect composition of this kind in his years spent in Hungary. Éjszaka foreshadows the meshwork of Atmosphères, without however pointing clearly in this direction. The author of this work could follow brilliantly in Bartók’s footsteps. (His first string quartet, Metamorphoses Nocturnes, is just as alive to me as if it were Bartók’s unwritten Seventh. And apart from Bartók’s six, this work remains the most important string quartet ever written in post–World War II Hungary.) In 1955–56, he worked on Weöres’ Istar pokoljárása (Istar’s Descent into Hell). True, all that remains of it are a few sheets of sketches, but we talked about it so much at the time that it has fixed itself in my memory as a special, major work.


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In 1983, Weöres once more with the Magyar Etüdök (Hungarian Etudes). The first, the “mirror canon,” displays breathtaking virtuosity. The third, Vásár (The Fair), arranges five choir groups, each one set apart from the rest. Every group sings five different poems, each in a different tempo. Their melodies refer to Hungarian folk music in ever-changing ways, without being direct quotations. Dizzying, teeming, fairground business, in all its density. II Ligeti’s knowledge of folk music didn’t come from books. From the age of three he was surrounded by the living reality of Hungarian and Romanian folklore. As a small child enjoying the summer freshness in Csíkszereda (Romanian: Miercurea-Ciuc) in the Transylvanian mountains, he listened to the bucium, the Romanian alpenhorn. Its special sound (which immediately attracted him to this instrument measuring several meters) derives from its ability to form only natural overtones. These sound false, yet attractive, to our ears accustomed to a tempered tuning. 1949 to 1950, he studied in Romania. He worked at the Bucharest and Cluj Institutes for Folklore, listening to and making many recordings. 1951: Concert românesc for orchestra. The horn solo in the third movement demands a bucium-like natural sound of the soloist. 1998–99: Hamburg Concerto in six movements. In 2001 he added a seventh. The work is a horn concerto for soloist, four differently tuned natural horns, and orchestra. This is the most decisive progression to a new harmonic world. Each horn plays its own natural tones. But their different tunings interfere with the harmony. In this way he transgresses the tempered tone system with the simplest means. Whether the composition is finished remains an open question. In any case, he spoke at the time of more movements. But perhaps it wasn’t sickness that hindered him; he may have considered the piece finished with seven movements. In any event, the consequences of the work could not have been fully exhausted. For those who come after, it is seminal, opening up new ground for their quests. III Hölderlin could have said of this person, this bundle of nerves and movement with a restless, fervent imagination:

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. . . Gewaltig hat ihn Apollo geschlagen! (Apollo has struck him resoundingly!) Step by step: a) At first pains in his legs, growing stronger. Then increasing difficulty walking and moving. At the same time, in 2001, he wrote the acceptance speech for the Kyoto Prize. This is full of important biographical details, containing at the end professional and professional-ethical advice that young composers would do very well to heed. He writes the seventh movement of the Horn Concerto. b) In 2002 he moves back to Vienna. For good. Vera cares for him. c) At the concert celebrating his eightieth birthday he is already in a wheelchair. d) Then years bedridden. He stops composing altogether, telling Vera: “If I can’t move, I can’t give form or shape to something either.” Leg operations result from faulty diagnoses. Two more operations follow the discovery that his afflictions stem from the brain, or rather the central nervous system. e) For a year all he does is read, almost twenty-four hours a day, increasingly turning to works of science. f) Then his hands fail him as well. Vera puts on music for him: Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart, but above all Bach. And she reads to him for hours at a time, entire books. g) As the prospect of recovery fades: restrained indignation and anger, depressions, but also severe pain. He can no longer even bear to hear music. Night after night he watches the Bavarian television station’s scientific channel “Bayern Alpha” with intense interest: academic lectures in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and astronomy, but also philosophy, geography, history, and politics. And he attentively follows the scientific lecture series on Budapest’s Duna TV. He still dreams of music. And a new piano etude. Yet he no longer has the strength to write it down or even give it form. h) Then long silences, sometimes lasting several days. He lies motionless with his eyes closed, but he still reacts to the scientific lectures now and then with a few words. Occasionally he throws in the key term before it’s said! i) Wordlessly and without complaint, already far along the path of despair, he learns that his friend Gerhard Neuweiler is severely ill: Ligeti weeps!


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IV My wife Márta and I followed the last years of his illness through faxes and telephone calls to Vera. We saw him for the last time in Vienna at the end of February 2006. We were filled with trepidation beforehand—we knew he lay on his bed with his eyes closed, motionless and silent, signaling “yes” and “no” with small movements of his head. From time to time he was clearly overcome by anguish. He spoke just a few words per week, but always to the point. Even those at night, to Vera. Marked by deep despair. ❦❦❦

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The meeting—a surprise. He lay there motionless with a full beard, his eyes closed. He even had a crise d’angoisse, not long it’s true, nevertheless we got the impression of someone entrückt and verklärt—transported, transfigured, I don’t want to say reconciled to his fate, but existing in another dimension. He was neither unhappy nor happy—it was something else with him. V At this moment I would like to stop and sing a hymn of praise to Vera-Penelope, who in the last years—in addition to her twelve- to thirteen-hour schedule as psychoanalyst—spent entire nights with Gyuri, practically without sleep. She fed him, put on music or the television. And when he could no longer move his hands, she read to him for hours on end. And she kept his body so clean (on weekends she had no help and singlehandedly rolled his heavy, will-less body from side to side) that she managed the impossible: He didn’t have a single bedsore! Although she herself had to have a knee operation, Vera would walk up the stairs in the five- to ten-minute pauses between analysis sessions to Gyuri’s bedroom: Superhuman— so movingly human! VI a) Our last telephone conversation: He was already bedridden, spent his whole time reading. I had agreed to try to convince him to write at least a short composition for a pedagogical collection of medium-difficult piano pieces that was being put together (Boulez and I had both agreed to participate). I wanted to give him the feeling he could still compose without an instrument, even lying down. “No! I want to write Alice, he said resolutely. (He was planning scenes for his second opera based on Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. He’d been thinking about it for at least ten years. For me the Nonsense Madrigals are the Wesendonck Lieder—the studies—for this opera.) b) Vera relates his last attempt at composition. He sat down at the piano and wrote out one measure for the eighth movement of the Horn Concerto (the draft is still on the music stand). Then he gave up, commenting that it needed no further movements. Was that really what he thought? Or was his sickness stronger after all? We will never know.


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VII A) And now my Ligeti-Ulysses mythology: Dante, Inferno, Canto XXVI: (Ulisse:) . . . Quando mi diparti’ da Circe . . . nè dolcezza di figlio, nè la pieta del vecchio padre, nè’l debito amore lo qual dovea Penelopè far lieta, vincer potero dentro a me l’ardore ch’i’ebbi a divenir del mondo esperto e degli vizi umani e del valore: ma misi me per l’alto mare aperto, sol con un legno e con quella compagna, picciola, dalla qual non fui diserto . . . . Io e i compagni eravam vecchi e tardi . . . —O frati, dissi, che per cento milia perigli siete giunti all’occidente, a questa tanto picciola vigilia de’nostri sensi ch’è del rimanente, non vogliate negar l’esperienza diretro al sol, del mondo sanza gente. Considerate la vostra semenza: fatti non foste a viver come bruti, ma per seguir virtute e conoscenza. (Ulysses:) . . . When I from Circe had departed, . . . Nor fondness for my son, nor reverence For my old father, nor the due affection Which joyous should have made Penelope, Could overcome within me the desire I had to be experienced of the world, And of the vice and virtue of mankind; But I put forth on the high open sea With one sole ship, and that small company By which I never had deserted been . . . .

mementos of a friendship


I and my company were old and slow . . . “O brothers, who amid a hundred thousand Perils,” I said, “have come unto the West, To this so inconsiderable vigil Which is remaining of your senses still Be ye unwilling to deny the knowledge, Following the sun, of the unpeopled world. Consider ye the seed from which ye sprang; Ye were not made to live like unto brutes, But for pursuit of virtue and of knowledge.” (English translation: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) VII B) 1 1993: An interview with Ligeti in the Vienna newspaper Der Standard on his seventieth birthday: Ligeti: Making music and Making love—those are the two major things in life! Yes indeed, Ulysses wandered far and wide, straying far from home. Even Ligeti himself may not have been aware of the extent to which the impulses behind his motivation for “ardore,” the passion for questioning and discovery, for Socratic exetase, as well as for love-making and music-making were identical. VII B) 2 Finally, his hour-long, mostly long-distance telephone calls with Vera. A whole life long. Almost every night. They discussed everything of importance that had happened during the day. I too must say: “Yes, Ulysses wandered far and wide, traveled through foreign countries, discovered worlds, without ever leaving Ithaca.” VIII The legacy When I started copying Webern in my thirties, I had to stop in the first movement of his Symphony, Op. 21 to deconstruct and analyze the mirror canon in its separate parts, and recast it in a multicolored four-voiced score. I felt that


mementos of a friendship

studying this music complemented the analysis of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (which we took very seriously at the Music Academy), and should be made obligatory for all composition students (which is now the case in Budapest). Recently, when I once again took up the study of Ligeti’s work, one of the first sources I came across was Simon Gallot’s outstanding analysis of the fifth movement of the Nonsense Madrigals, The Lobster Quadrille (Simon Gallot: “György Ligeti populaire et savant—aux origines du style,” doctoral thesis, 2005, Université Lumière, Lyon). My first reaction was: if I weren’t eighty-one years old, I would have to get to work copying and analyzing Ligeti’s “model pieces.” That would mean, it turned out, taking a close look at many compositions. Not just one or two. Almost as with Bach. Above all I would have to analyze the Kyrie of Requiem, but also Atmosphères, Lux Aeterna, and Lontano. Of the etudes, at least Désordre and Automne de Varsovie. But also the first movement of the Violin Concerto (both versions; after the first in 1990 he wrote another in 1992), as well as the mirror canon of the first movement of the Hungarian Etudes, Continuum, and Aventures. Numbers 1, 5, and 6 of the Nonsense Madrigals also open up the task of once again looking closely at Josquin and Ockeghem. But it’s too late for that, it seems completely hopeless. Yet it’s not inconceivable that I should get to work: “Io e i compagni eravam vecchi e tardi” (I and my company were old and slow). I could at least copy, analyze, and get through Kyrie and Lux Aeterna. But it’s hard to imagine what it could mean for young composers to immerse themselves in these works, to be versed in the problems posed by the Hamburg Concerto. What’s important for me could mean life itself to them. X On the etymology of Kylwyria. Vera says that as a five-year-old, Ligeti had seen a poster for a film called “The ordeals of a mother,” using the Hungarian word “kálvária” for “ordeals.” The word “kálvária” in the title pleased him, but he was also fond of the letter Y, which is why he called his country Kylwyria. As he planned the fusion of Aventures and Nouvelles Aventures into an opera, the first draft was to be called “Oedipus” (see “Egy anya kálváriája,” in English “The ordeals of a mother”!). But then he decided in favor of Kylwyria. In the end he wrote Le Grand Macabre.


A Brief Biography of György Kurtág György Kurtág was born on February 19, 1926, at Lugos (Lugoj in Romanian) in the Bánát region of Romania. He has been a Hungarian citizen since 1948 and has held dual Hungarian and French citizenship since 2002. Kurtág started playing the piano at age five with lessons from Klára VojkiczaPeia. In subsequent years, music-making with his mother was an important source of inspiration: they played arrangements for piano duet of symphonies by Haydn and Beethoven as well as overtures by Mozart. The first genuine pedagogue in his life, the piano teacher Magda Kardos at Temesvár (Timis¸oara), exerted a lifelong influence on Kurtág, even in the field of composition. His first teacher of composition (harmony and counterpoint) was Max Eisikovits, also at Temesvár (Timis¸oara). In September 1945, Kurtág sat for an entrance examination at the Budapest Academy of Music—it was on that occasion that he made the acquaintance of György Ligeti who was to remain his friend until the latter’s death in 2006. Kurtág began his studies at the Budapest Academy of Music in 1946. His professors included Pál Kadosa (piano), Leó Weiner (chamber music), Sándor Veress and subsequently Ferenc Farkas (composition); another important influence was Pál Járdányi. Kurtág received his degree in piano and chamber music in 1951, and in composition in 1955. In 1947, Kurtág married Márta Kinsker who has since been of decisive significance in every area of his life: as wife, as mother of their son, György Kurtág Jr. (b. 1954), as pianist, and also as the first listener and critic of his compositions in gestation. In 1957–58, Kurtág attended the courses of Olivier Messiaen and Darius Milhaud in Paris. It was, however, Hungarian psychologist Marianne Stein, who made the greatest impact. Not only did she help him find the way out of the crisis that had paralyzed his work as a composer for several years, she also opened a new chapter in his career (“Marianne halved my life”); she showed him a new direction. Hence the dedications of the String Quartet, Op. 1 and of the Kafka Fragments, Op. 24, to Marianne Stein.


a brief biography of györgy kurtág

During the months in Paris, Kurtág attended concerts of the Domaine musical under the baton of its founder, Pierre Boulez, and heard several of Boulez’s compositions—an experience that was to prove significant for his thinking. The time in Paris as well as the few days in Cologne on his way back to Budapest when he met Ligeti again and heard his electronic composition Artikulation, and the acquaintance with Stockhausen and listening to his Gruppen for three orchestras were further decisive influences that played an important role when he was working on the String Quartet, Op. 1. Between 1960 and 1968, Kurtág acted as répétiteur for soloists of the National Concert Bureau; in 1967, he was invited to teach at the Academy of Music. Initially, he was assistant to Pál Kadosa in piano, and later he taught chamber music. He retired in 1986 but continued to give classes regularly until 1993. Since then, and to the present day, he gives courses in chamber music in many European countries as well as in the United States. He and his wife also appear in recitals where they play from the piano series Játékok (Games) alternating with Kurtág’s Bach transcriptions. In 1971, Kurtág spent a year in West Berlin on a DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) scholarship. He was awarded the Kossuth Prize in 1973 and a second time in 1996. In Paris in 1981, the Ensemble Intercontemporain played the world premiere of Messages of the Late Miss R. V. Troussova, Op. 17, for soprano and chamber ensemble (with soloist Adrienne Csengery and conductor Sylvain Cambreling). This event marked Kurtág’s international breakthrough. In 1993, at the invitation of the Wissenschaftskolleg, he moved to Berlin for two years as composer-in-residence of the Berlin Philharmonic. In 1995–96 he was a guest of the Konzerthaus in Vienna in the same capacity, followed by posts in Amsterdam (1996–98), Berlin again (1998–99), and Paris (1999–2001). Kurtág and his wife have lived at St-André-de-Cubzac near Bordeaux since 2001. György Kurtág has been decorated with many awards and prizes. They include the Prize of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation in 1998 and the Grawemeyer Award—one of the world’s most prestigious music prizes—for “ . . . concertante . . . ,” Op. 42, in 2006.

Personalia Abbado, Claudio (b. 1933). Italian conductor. Founded “Wien Modern,” the Vienna Contemporary Music Festival. Akhmatova, Anna (1889–1966). Regarded as one of the most important Russian poets of the twentieth century. Ady, Endre (1877–1919). Hungarian symbolist poet of great originality. Set by Bartók in his Ady Songs. Aimard, Pierre-Laurent (b. 1957). French pianist. Alain-Fournier, Henri (1886–1914). French writer. Andsnes, Leif Ove (b. 1970). Norwegian pianist. Arghezi, Tudor (1880–1967). Romanian poet, writer, and translator. Arom, Simha (b. 1930). French-Israeli ethnomusicologist. Aristophanes (448 BC–385 BC). The most significant representative of Classical Greek comedy. Babbitt, Milton (b. 1916). American composer and mathematician, a pioneer of serial and electronic music. Balassa, Sándor (b. 1935). Hungarian composer. Barenboim, Daniel (b. 1942). Argentinian-born Israeli pianist and conductor. Barna, Mrs. András (1909–84). A leading official of the Hungarian Ministry of Culture. She headed the General Department for Music between 1964 and 1977. Bartók, Béla (1881–1945). Hungarian composer; one of the most significant figures of twentieth century music. Bálint, István (1943–2007). Hungarian poet, actor, theater director. Four of his poems have been set by György Kurtág (Four Capriccios, Op. 9, 1959–70, revised in 1993). István Bálint’s father, the painter Endre Bálint (1914–86) was closely befriended by Kurtág who composed the piano piece “For the Opening of a Bálint Exhibition” in his honor. Bárdos, Lajos (1899–1986). Hungarian composer, primarily of choral music. A pupil of Zoltán Kodály at the Budapest Academy of Music, he was appointed professor of music theory and music history at the same institution. Highly respected by György Kurtág. Beckett, Samuel (1906–89). Irish playwright, novelist, and poet. He lived most of his life in France where he was close to James Joyce. Having participated in the resistance against the Nazi occupants, he withdrew from politics after the war. His books and plays were marked by an atmosphere of alienation, loss of illusion, hopelessness, and a kind of heroic pessimism. Beckett wrote both in English and French. Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature (1969).



Bellini, Vincenzo (1801–35). Italian composer, primarily of operas. Berg, Alban (1885–1935). Austrian composer. Together with his teacher, Arnold Schoenberg and his fellow pupil, Anton Webern, he was a key figure of the Second Viennese School. Blok, Alexander (1880–1921). Russian symbolist poet. Blum, Józsa. Widow of the Hungarian conductor Tamás Blum. Blum, Tamás (1927–92). In the late 1940s, Blum worked as répétiteur for Otto Klemperer when the latter was music director of the Budapest State Opera House. In later years, Blum headed the Opera House in the Hungarian city of Debrecen and allowed Kurtág to coach singers at his theater upon Kurtág’s request. Theirs was a close musical friendship. Blum made a lasting impression on Kurtág by playing through and commenting on operas; his commentaries on Schubert Lieder were also unforgettable for the composer. Blum died in Zurich as head of the Opera Studio. Borges, Jorge Luis (1899–1986). Argentinian novelist. Bornemisza, Péter (1535–84). Hungarian writer, poet, and Protestant preacher, translated Sophocles’s Electra into Hungarian in 1558. It is the first extant example of a tragedy in the Hungarian language, a synthesis of Reformation and Humanism. Bosch, Hieronymus (1450–1516). Flemish painter. Botticelli, Sandro (1445–1510). Italian painter and graphic artist of the early Renaissance. Boulez, Pierre (b. 1925). Epochal figure of the musical avant-garde. Composer, conductor, writer on music, founder of IRCAM, and the Ensemble Intercontemporain. Bra˘ iloiu, Constantin (1893–1958). Romanian composer and ethnomusicologist of international standing. Brennecke, Dr. Wilfried (b. 1926). German musicologist, producer of contemporary music with WDR Cologne and for many years artistic director of the Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik (Witten Days of New Chamber Music). He recognized Kurtág’s genius on hearing his The Sayings of Péter Bornemisza, Op. 7, in Darmstadt in the 1960s and commissioned several works from him, including the Twelve Microludes, Op. 13, for string quartet and the Kafka Fragments, Op. 24, for soprano and violin. Breuer, János (b. 1932). Hungarian musicologist. Cage, John (1912–92) highly influential U.S. composer and cult figure. Kurtág met Cage at a music workshop at Szombathely, Hungary, in 1986. He described the time he had spent with Cage as a great experience. Cage’s lecture was like a ritual; the weird exclamations in his hoarse voice, the long pauses, provided a key to the music of the composer who struck Kurtág as a kind of prophet. He asked me to send Cage all his scores. Kurtág also told me that a year later, he bumped into Cage in Zurich. “He was standing in the lobby of the Opera House. I went up to him and told him my name: Kurtág. Whereupon Cage: guten Tag! Me: I’m Kurtág. He: guten Tag! (as a stage instruction: Kurtág giving up): Bye-bye! It was something like a composition; I jotted it down on a piece of paper.” Cambreling, Sylvain (b. 1948). French conductor. Carter, Elliott (b. 1908). American composer.



Carroll, Lewis, nom de plume of Charles Dodgson (1832–98). British mathematician and author of Alice in Wonderland and its sequels. Cerha, Friedrich (b. 1926). Austrian composer and conductor. With die Reihe, an ensemble he founded in 1958 with Kurt Schwertsik, he introduced a great deal of what was new in European music, invited Pierre Boulez to conduct his own works, furthered the compositions of György Ligeti and others. His pupils include Georg Friedrich Haas. Cerha completed the third act of Alban Berg’s Lulu. Many of his own works are landmarks in Austrian music history. Cézanne, Paul (1839–1906). Pioneering French painter whose work influenced Picasso, Matisse, and others. Chailly, Riccardo (b. 1953). Italian conductor, currently music director of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, Leipzig. One of the few major conductors genuinely committed to new music and probably the only one to have renounced a jet-set career, devoting himself entirely to his orchestra. Courant, Richard (1888–1972). German-born American mathematician. He left Germany in 1933 and was appointed professor in New York in 1936. Co-founder of a mathematics research institute, called since 1964 the Courant Institute for Mathematical Sciences. Cranach, Lucas the Elder (1472–1553). One of the most significant German painters and graphic artists of the Renaissance. Csalog, Gábor (b. 1960). Hungarian pianist, a student of Kurtág. Csontváry Kosztka, Tivadar (1853–1919). Visionary Hungarian painter. Dalos, Rimma (b. 1944). Russian poet living in Hungary. Kurtág has set a number of her poems, including Messages of the Late R. V. Troussova, Op. 17, Requiem po drugu, Op. 26, four of the six settings in Omaggio a Luigi Nono, Op. 16, and others. Dobszay, László (b. 1935). Hungarian musicologist, conductor, and founder of the chorus Schola Hungarica. Donatoni, Franco (1927–2000). Italian composer, next to Luigi Nono and Luciano Berio, the most prominent figure in Italy of the generation born in the 1920s. Donizetti, Gaetano (1797–1848). Italian composer, primarily of operas. Doráti, Antal (1906–88). Hungarian-born American conductor. Dutilleux, Henri (b. 1916). Major French composer. Dürer, Albrecht (1471–1528). German painter of the Reformation. Eisikovits, Max (1908–88). Composer and conductor. Kurtág studied with him at Temesvár (Timis¸oara) between ages fourteen and eighteen. Eminescu, Mihai (1850–89). Romanian poet. Eötvös, Péter (b. 1944). Hungarian composer and conductor, dedicatee of a number of works by Kurtág, several of which he has premiered. Escher, Maurits Cornelis (1898–1972). Dutch graphic artist, held in high esteem by György Ligeti. Esenin, Sergei (1895–1925). Russian poet. Born to a peasant family, his poetic talent was discovered by Blok. He regarded himself as a “village poet,” committed to the Soviet Revolution of 1917. Farkas, Ferenc (1905–95). Hungarian composer and professor of composition at the Budapest Academy of Music. His pupils included György Ligeti and György Kurtág.



Feldman, Morton (1926–87). American composer of the avant-garde, one of the pioneers of graphic notation. His friends included John Cage, Christian Wolff, and Earle Brown (the New York School of Music) as well as the painters Robert Rauschenberg, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Philip Guston, and Franz Kline. Fischer, Annie (1914–95). Greatest Hungarian pianist of the second half of the twentieth century. Frescobaldi, Girolamo (1583–1643). Early Baroque Italian composer and organist. Freud, Sigmund (1856–1939). Austrian physician and psychologist, the founder of psychoanalysis. Furrer, Beat (b. 1954). Swiss-born Austrian composer and conductor. Gabin, Jean (1904–76). Popular French film actor. Gerlóczy, Sári (b. 1931). Hungarian painter, graphic artist, and costume designer. Gounod, Charles (1818–93). French Romantic opera composer. Greene, Graham (1904–91). British novelist. Gregor, József (1940–2006). Hungarian opera singer (bass). Gubaidulina, Sofia (b. 1931). Russian composer. Dedicatee of the fouth movement of Omaggio a Luigi Nono. Kurtág uses the diminutive of her first name: Sonia. Gulyás, Pál (1899–1944). Hungarian poet. Hajdu, André (b. 1932). Israeli-Hungarian composer. Born in Budapest as András Hajdú, he studied at the Academy of Music with Endre Szervánszky and Zoltán Kodály. After his emigration in 1956, he continued his studies in Paris with Darius Milhaud and Olivier Messiaen. Hakii, Ken (b. 1954). Japanese violist, since 1992 first violist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. Together with his wife, the violinist Hiromi Kikuchi, he played the world premiere of György Kurtág’s . . . concertante . . . , Op. 42. Halász, Péter (1943–2006). Actor and theater director. His ensemble held performances in private apartments and in other opposition venues in Budapest in the 1960s and 1970s. Helms, Hans G. (b. 1932). German writer and composer, social and economic historian. According to Vera Ligeti, he organized a sort of club in Cologne where he read aloud Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, which fascinated György Ligeti on his arrival in the West. Henze, Hans Werner (b. 1926). German composer, primarily of operas, several of which have become part of the repertoire of German opera houses, also of symphonies and chamber music. Hermann, Imre (1889–1985). Hungarian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. Horváth, Judit (b. 1953). Violist. Former student and long-time collaborator of Kurtág. Hölderlin, Friedrich (1770–1843). One of the most important German lyric poets. His oeuvre has inspired numerous composers who set his poems to music. Hugo, Victor (1802–85). French writer of novels and dramas. Also talented as a graphic artist. Husmann, Maria (b. ?). German soprano. Ionesco, Eugène (1909–94). Romanian-born French playwright, a leading representative of absurd theater.



Issa, Kobayashi (1763–1828). Prolific Japanese haiku poet. Járdányi, Pál (1920–66). Hungarian composer, a pupil of Zoltán Kodály, he was an important figure in Kurtág’s musical development. Jeanmaire, Zizi (b. 1924). French ballet dancer. Joyce, James (1882–1941). Innovative Irish writer. József, Attila (1905–37). Hungarian poet. Kafka, Franz (1883–1924). Prague-born writer in the German language. His novels and novel fragments exerted considerable influence on twentieth-century literature. Kadosa, Pál (1903–83). Hungarian composer, pianist, and professor of piano at the Budapest Academy of Music where his pupils included György Kurtág, György Ligeti, Zoltán Kocsis, Dezso˝ Ránki, and András Schiff. Kardos, Magda. Piano teacher at Temesvár. Kurtág was her pupil as of 1940. Volumes I–IV of Játékok are dedicated to her memory. Kästner, Erich (1899–1974). German writer of popular children’s stories. Keller, András (b. 1960). Hungarian violinist and conductor. A pupil of Kurtág, he worked together with Csalog, under the guidance of the composer, on Brahms’s G Major Sonata for a whole year. As a soloist, he premiered and recorded Kurtág’s Kafka Fragments, Op. 24 (1985/87), for soprano and violin, and performed and recorded Kurtág’s quartets with the string quartet bearing his name. Kharms, Daniil (1906–42). Russian writer. Kikuchi, Hiromi (b. 1958). Japanese violinist born in Tokyo. Together with her husband, the violist Ken Hakii, she played the world premiere of György Kurtág’s . . . concertante . . ., Op. 42. She is also the dedicatee of the composer’s Hipartita, Op. 43, for solo violin and has received further solo pieces from him as birthday presents. Klee, Paul (1879–1940). Swiss painter. Kurtág took his notion of “sign” from Klee’s Zeichen im Gelb (Sign in yellow). Kocsis, Zoltán (b. 1952). Hungarian pianist, conductor, and composer; pupil of Kurtág. Kodály, Zoltán (1882–1967). Hungarian composer, together with Béla Bartók, a pioneer of twentieth-century Hungarian music and ethnomusicology. Kooning, Willem de (1904–97). Dutch-born American painter and sculptor. Kótzián, Katalin (b. 1926). Hungarian poet. Kovács, János (b. 1951). Hungarian conductor, primarily of operas. Principal conductor of the Budapest State Opera House. Krúdy, Gyula (1878–1933). Hungarian writer of novels marked by an atmosphere and a style unique in Hungarian literature. Kubik, Gerhard (b. 1934). Austrian ethnomusicologist. Kurtág, Judit (b. 1975). The composer’s granddaughter, a professional photographer and video artist. Lachenmann, Helmut (b. 1935). German composer of the avant-garde, professor of composition at the State Music Academy of Stuttgart. László, Ferenc (b. 1937). Hungarian musicologist resident in Transylvania. Leeuw, Reinbert de (b. 1938). Dutch composer, conductor, and pianist. Founder of the ASKO Ensemble, a new music group of international renown. Leeuw, Ton de (1926–96). Prominent Dutch composer.



Lendvai, Erno˝ (1925–93). Hungarian musicologist, one of the first theorists to write on the appearance of the golden section and the Fibonacci series and how these are implemented in Bartók’s music. Lermontov, Mikhail (1814–41). Next to Pushkin, one of the most important Russian Romantic poets. Lichtenberg, Georg Christoph (1742–99). German writer, mathematician, and the first German professor of experimental physics. He founded the genre of aphorism in the German language. Ligeti, György (1923–2006). Hungarian composer, a major figure of the international avant-garde. Having defected in the wake of the Hungarian uprising of 1956, he became something of a father figure to his colleagues who stayed in Hungary. A lifelong friend of György Kurtág. Lukács, György (Georg) (1885–1971). Hungarian philosopher and author of studies on aspects of literature. Lutosławski, Witold (1913–94). Polish composer. Lützeler, Heinrich (1902–88). German art historian. Machaut, Guillaume de (ca. 1300–1377). French composer and poet. Mandelstam, Osip (1891–1938). Born in Warsaw, Mandelstam was a Russian poet in the first half of the twentieth century. A victim of Stalin’s purges. Mann, Thomas (1875–1955). German writer whose books and other writings, such as his correspondence with his wife Katia, have been of great significance for Kurtág’s thinking. This is true to the extent that the brief sentence in his speech in memory of György Ligeti, “Ligeti cries!” is a direct reference to a sentence in the novella Tonio Kröger. Marcus Aurelius (121–80). Roman emperor (161–80). “His ‘Meditations on Stoicism,’ considered one of the great books of all times, gives a full picture of his religious and moral values. His reign is often thought to mark the Golden Age of Rome” (Encyclopaedia Britannica). Maros, György (b. 1928). Répétiteur, a close friend of Kurtág since 1946. Originally, Maros studied with Kurtág—the relationship has since been reversed. “We have sung many Schubert Lieder together” (Kurtág). Maros, Rudolf (1917–82). Hungarian composer. Méfano, Paul (b. 1937). French composer, founder of the ensemble 2e2m. Melles, Carl (1926–2004). Born Károly Melles in Budapest. Austrian conductor. Memling, Hans (ca. 1435–94). German painter of the Flemish school. Menuhin, Yehudi (1916–99). American violinist and conductor. Meyerbeer, Giacomo (1791–1864). Born in Germany as Jakob Meyer Beer. One of the most successful opera composers of the nineteenth century and a founder of French grand opéra. Mihály, András (1917–93). Hungarian composer, director of the Budapest State Opera House, founder and conductor of the Budapest Chamber Ensemble, professor of chamber music, and an advocate of Kurtág. Dedicatee of the Twelve Microludes, Op. 13, and several other compositions. Miklósa, Erika (b. 1970). Hungarian coloratura soprano.



Milhaud, Darius (1892–1974). French composer, a member of the Groupe des Six (with Honegger, Auric, Poulenc, Tailleferre, and Durey). Professor of composition at Mills College in Oakland, where his pupils included Dave Brubeck, Steve Reich, Iannis Xenakis, and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Miró, Joan (1893–1983). Catalan surrealist painter, graphic artist, and sculptor. Monyók, Ildikó (b. 1948). Hungarian actress who performed the world premiere of What Is the Word, Op. 30a and b, in the version with piano in 1993 and the version with voices and ensemble in 1991. Musil, Robert (1880–1942). Austrian writer. His masterpiece is the unfinished novel Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (The Man Without Qualities). Nancarrow, Conlon (1912–97). U.S.-born Mexican composer, whose pieces for player piano were much admired by György Ligeti. Nono, Luigi (1924–90). Left-wing Italian composer of the avant-garde. Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi da (1525 or 1526–94). Italian composer and reformer of church music. Pärt, Arvo (b. 1935). Estonian composer of Austrian nationality, resident in Germany, England, and Estonia. After an avant-garde period he turned to introspective, meditative music composed with the simplest of means. His tintinnabuli (little bells) style has recently given way to more powerful musical statements. Peskó, Zoltán (b. 1937). Hungarian conductor with several works by Kurtág on his repertoire, some of which are dedicated to him and which he premiered. Petrovics, Emil (b. 1930). Hungarian composer, professor of composition and for many years director of the State Opera House in Budapest. Penderecki, Krzysztof (b. 1933). Polish composer whose avant-garde works written in the late 1950s and early 1960s exerted considerable influence on Hungarian composers, including Kurtág. Pilinszky, János (1921–81). Hungarian poet. Four of his poems were set by Kurtág in his Four Songs to Poems by János Pilinszky, Op. 11 (1975), for baritone and chamber ensemble. The unfinished piano concerto Confessio . . . , Op. 21, was planned as a requiem in his memory. Piranesi, Giovanni Battista (1720–78). Italian engraver, archaeologist, and architect. Pousseur, Henri (b 1929–2009). Belgian composer, one of the leading Darmstadt composers. Having worked in the electronic music studios of Milan and Cologne, he founded the Studio de musique électronique Apelac in Brussels. At the University of Liège where he was professor, he founded the Centre de recherches musicales. Proust, Marcel (1871–1922). French writer, author of the gigantic, fictitious autobiography A la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time). Rákosi, Mátyás (1892–1971). Hungarian politician, general secretary of the Hungarian Communist (later Democratic) Party, and prime minister in the late 1940s and early 1950s. His dictatorship was modeled on Stalin’s. Rattle, Sir Simon (b. 1955). British conductor, has performed Kurtág’s Stele, Op. 33, a number of times. Rauschenberg, Robert (1925–2008). American painter, graphic, and happening artist. Reich, Steve (b. 1936). American composer.



Respighi, Ottorino (1879–1936). Italian composer. Ferenc Farkas was his pupil 1929–31. Rihm, Wolfgang (b. 1952). Next to Hans Werner Henze and Helmut Lachenmann the most prominent contemporary German composer. Rimbaud, Arthur (1854–91). Precocious French poet whose art has inspired numerous composers. Robbins, Herbert (1915–2001). American mathematician, coauthor with Richard Courant of the book What Is Mathematics? Romas¸canu, Stefan (1926–73). Romanian violinist. He and Kurtág started playing chamber music together when they were sixteen. S. Nagy, Katalin (b. 1944). Hungarian art historian. Sárai, Tibor (1919–95). Hungarian composer, for many years general secretary of the Hungarian Musicians’ Association. Sáry, László (b. 1940). Hungarian composer, founding member of the New Music Studio. Sattler, Dietrich Eberhard (b. 1939). Editor of the Frankfurt Hölderlin Edition. He remembered the conversation recalled by Kurtág. Sattler had quoted the following sentence by Hölderlin: “Ein Zeichen sind wir, deutungslos” (We are a sign, inexplicable). Schlee, Alfred (1901–99). For many years director of the music publisher Universal Edition in Vienna. Kurtág has dedicated five works to him under the title Aus der Ferne (From Afar), on the occasion of round-number birthdays; the last one is in his memory. Three pieces are for string quartet, two for piano. Schoenberg, Arnold (1874–1951). Austrian-born composer, conductor, and teacher. One of the most influential figures of twentieth-century music. Did pioneering work in atonality and serialism. Schubert, Franz (1797–1828). Austrian composer greatly admired by Kurtág, who regularly teaches his chamber music. Simon, Albert (1926–2000). Hungarian conductor, professor at the Budapest Academy of Music where he founded a chamber orchestra in 1970; a cofounder of the Budapest New Music Studio in 1971. The spirit of his music-making, his exacting standards were of importance for György Kurtág’s development. Schnittke, Alfred (1934–98). Russian composer. Schønwandt, Michael (b. 1953). Danish conductor, who led the world premiere of . . . concertante . . ., Op. 42, in Copenhagen on September 18, 2003 (with Hiromi Kikuchi, violin, Ken Hakii, viola, and the Symphony Orchestra of Danish Radio). Seiber, Mátyás (1905–60). Hungarian composer, a pupil of Zoltán Kodály at the Budapest Academy of Music. He moved to England in 1935, wrote twelve-tone music tinged with jazz as well as studies on Bartók and Kodály. Sévigné, Mme de (Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, Marquise de Sévigné) (1626–96). French noblewoman whose correspondence with major figures of her time and especially the 764 letters she wrote to her daughter are regarded as classics of seventeenth-century French literature. Shallon, David (1950–2000). Israeli conductor, married to the violist Tabea Zimmermann.



Shostakovich, Dmitri (1906–75). Soviet composer whose oeuvre, especially his symphonies, have become an integral part of the international repertoire. Socrates (469 BC–399 BC). Classical Greek philosopher. Solti, Sir Georg (1912–97). Born in Budapest as György Stern, Solti studied at the Budapest Academy of Music with Bartók, Kodály, and Leó Weiner. He was to become one of the major international conductors of his generation. Somlyó, György (1920–2006). Hungarian poet, essayist, and translator. Stockhausen, Karlheinz (1928–2007). One of the most significant composers of the twentieth century. Stein, Marianne (1913–94). Hungarian psychologist who worked primarily with artists and musicians. During the year he spent in Paris, she helped Kurtág find his way back to composition. In later years, too, she gave him valuable advice—by suggesting, for instance, that he take his time when embarking on a new work and forgive himself, so to speak. As Kurtág put it, she had succeeded in liberating him in this manner. Szabolcsi, Bence (1899–1973). Hungarian musicologist, founder of the Musicological Faculty at the Budapest Academy of Music. Szervánszky, Endre (1911–77). Hungarian composer and music critic. He was professor of composition at the Budapest Academy of Music from 1949 until his death. His early music bore traces of the influence of Kodály, later of Bartók. In 1959 he became acquainted with the twelve-tone method of composition; his Six Orchestral Pieces (1959) was one of the first dodecaphonic compositions in Hungary. Szokolay, Sándor (b. 1931). Hungarian composer, mainly of operas, including Blood Wedding. Szoltsányi, György (1922–88). Hungarian pianist, a pupil of Ernst von Dohnányi at the Budapest Academy of Music. He continued his studies in Paris with Marguerite Long. Now largely forgotten, his memory is kept alive by Kurtág’s piano piece In memoriam György Szoltsányi in Three in Memoriam. Szo˝llo˝sy, András (1921–2007). Hungarian composer and musicologist, professor of music history at the Budapest Academy of Music. Dedicatee of several compositions by Kurtág. Tandori, Dezso˝ (b. 1938). Hungarian poet. See Eight Choruses to Poems by Dezso˝ Tandori, Op. 23, as well as S. K. Remembrance Noise, Op. 12. Toscanini, Arturo (1867–1957). Epoch-making Italian conductor. Tolstoy, Count Lev (1828–1910). Russian novelist and philosopher. Considered one of the most notable writers in world literature. Tóth, Aladár (1898–1968). Hungarian musicologist and music critic, an important advocate of Bartók and Kodály in the years between the two World Wars. Director of the Hungarian State Opera House. He was married to the pianist Annie Fischer. Tsvetaeva, Marina (1892–1941). Russian poet. She left the Soviet Union in 1922 to settle first in Berlin, then in Prague, and finally in Paris. After her contacts with White Russian emigrants broke down, she became once again a Soviet citizen in 1939 and returned home. Frowned upon by Stalin, strokes of fate and the hardships of the evacuation necessitated by the war drove her to suicide.



Verdi, Giuseppe (1813–1901). Italian composer. Veress, Sándor (1907–92). Hungarian composer, a pupil of Kodály at the Budapest Academy of Music. Before his emigration to Switzerland in 1949, Kurtág and Ligeti were among his pupils. He continued teaching in Bern where he settled and taught, among others, Heinz Holliger and Jürg Wyttenbach. Vidovszky, László (b. 1944). Hungarian composer, cofounder of the Budapest New Music Studio. His Autokoncert was composed in 1972. One of the pieces in Játékok is dedicated to him. Vieru, Anatol (1926–98). Romanian composer. Viski, János (1906–61). Hungarian composer and professor of composition at the Budapest Academy of Music. Vladimirescu, Tudor (1780–1821). Romanian revolutionary. The battalion formed by the Red Army out of Romanian prisoners of war taken on the Eastern front was named after him. They fought against the pro-Nazi regime of Ion Antonescu and merged with the Romanian army in 1944. Walser, Robert (1878–1956). Swiss writer. Webern, Anton (1883–1945). With his teacher Arnold Schoenberg and his fellow student Alban Berg, a key figure of the Second Viennese School. His oeuvre was to become a point of reference for young composers around Boulez after World War II. For Kurtág, too, he was—next to Bartók—of utmost significance. He copied many of Webern’s scores, which he regards as “music at its purest.” Weiner, Leó (1885–1960). Hungarian composer and professor of chamber music at the Budapest Academy. Sir Georg Solti, Antal Doráti, Géza Anda, and György Kurtág were among his pupils. Weöres, Sándor (1913–89). One of the most important Hungarian poets of the twentieth century with lasting influence on composers such as György Ligeti. Widmer, Kurt (b. 1957). Swiss baritone who sang the world premiere of the HölderlinGesänge, Op. 35, and . . . pas à pas—nulle part . . . Poèmes de Samuel Beckett, Op. 36. Wilheim, András (b. 1949). Hungarian musicologist. Xenakis, Iannis (1922–2001). Born in Romania of Greek parentage, Xenakis lived most of his life in France. He was a composer of great individuality, of what he called stochastic music. Zathureczky, Ede (1903–59). Hungarian violinist, director of the Budapest Academy of Music 1943–57. As of 1957, professor of violin at the University of Indiana in Bloomington. Zimmermann, Tabea (b. 1966). German violist. Zsigmondy, Dénes (b. 1922). Kurtág dedicated to the Hungarian violinist A Flower for Dénes Zsigmondy (1994 rev. 2005), in Signs, Games and Messages for Strings (1989— in progress).

List of Works Abbreviations: WP EMB UE

World premiere performance Editio Musica Budapest Universal Edition (Vienna)

Within each generic category, works are listed chronologically.

Works for Orchestra Movement for Viola and Orchestra Composed 1953–54 Dedicated to Imre Pataki WP: Debrecen (Hungary), 1955. Imre Pataki, vla; Railway Symphony Orchestra of Debrecen, cond. Tamás Blum Published by EMB © 1961 (score Z. 3210, out of print) Note: First movement of the Viola Concerto; the second movement has been revoked

Four Capriccios, Op. 9 To poems by István Bálint For soprano and chamber ensemble, in Hungarian Composed 1959, 1970–71; rev. 1993, 1996–97; most recent revision 1999 Dedicated to András Mihály WP: Budapest, October 13, 1971. Erika Sziklay, soprano; Budapest Chamber Ensemble, cond. András Mihály Published by UE © 1996 (score UE 31 264; piano reduction UE 30 393)

Grabstein für Stephan, Op. 15c In memoriam Stephan Stein For guitar and groups of instruments dispersed in space Composed 1978–79; rev. 1989 WP: Szeged (Hungary), May 26, 1989. Salieri Chamber Orchestra, cond. Tamás Pál Published by EMB (score Z. 13 813, in preparation) Note: Prix de Composition Musicale 1993 of the Fondation Prince Pierre de Monaco


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Messages of the Late Miss R. V. Troussova, Op. 17 [Послания покойнoй Р. В. Трусовой · Poslaniia pokoinoi R. V. Trusovoi] To twenty-one poems by Rimma Dalos For soprano and chamber ensemble, in Russian Composed 1976–80 Commissioned by the French State and the Ensemble Intercontemporain Dedicated to György Kósa WP: Paris, January 14, 1981. Adrienne Csengery, soprano; Ensemble Intercontemporain, cond. Sylvain Cambreling Published by EMB © 1982 (score Z. 12 021)

. . . quasi una fantasia . . . , Op. 27, no. 1 For piano and groups of instruments dispersed in space Composed 1987–88 Commissioned by the Berlin Festival Weeks [Berliner Festwochen] Dedicated to Zoltán Kocsis and Peter Eötvös WP: Berlin, October 16, 1988. Zoltán Kocsis, pft; Ensemble Modern, cond. Péter Eötvös Published by EMB © 1989 (score Z. 13 742)

Opus 27, no. 2 [a.k.a. Double Concerto] For piano, violoncello, and two chamber ensembles dispersed in space Composed 1989–90 Commissioned by the Ensemble Intercontemporain, the Ensemble Modern, and the Alte Oper, Frankfurt Dedicated to Zoltán Kocsis, Miklós Perényi, and Peter Eötvös WP: Frankfurt (Germany), December 8, 1990. Zoltán Kocsis, pft; Miklós Perényi, vlc; Ensemble Intercontemporain, Ensemble Modern, cond. Peter Eötvös Published by EMB (score Z. 13 988, in preparation) Note: Prix de Composition Musicale 1993 of the Fondation Prince Pierre de Monaco

Samuel Beckett: What Is the Word Samuel Beckett Sends Word Through Ildikó Monyók in the Translation by István Siklós, Op. 30b To the last writing of Samuel Beckett For contralto solo (recitation), five vocalists and chamber groups dispersed in space, in Hungarian and English combined Composed 1991 WP: Vienna, October 27, 1991. Ildikó Monyók, contralto; Tomkins Vocal Ensemble, chorus master János Dobra; Ensemble Anton Webern, cond. Claudio Abbado Published by EMB (score Z. 13 990, in preparation) Note: Reworking of Samuel Beckett: What Is the Word, Op. 30 and, like the latter, written for singer-actress Ildikó Monyók, who remained the exclusive soloist for both ver-

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sions of the work until 2008. This exclusivity has recently been transferred by the composer to Hungarian actress-reciter Piroska Molnár

Stele, Op. 33 [Στήλη · Stêlê] For large orchestra Composed 1994, rev. 2003 and 2006 Commissioned by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra [Berliner Philharmoniker] Dedicated to Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra WP: Berlin, December 14, 1994. Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Claudio Abbado Published by EMB © 2003 (score Z. 14 060) Note: Prior to the official world premiere, the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester conducted by Claudio Abbado gave three preliminary public performances of the work

Messages for Orchestra, Op. 34 For orchestra and mixed choir Movements: I. Letter to Peter Eötvös (1994); II. Aus der Ferne—Hommage à Alfred Schlee 85 (1991, rev. 1994); III. Progress Report—A Word with Zoltán Jeney (1993); IV. . . . A Solemn Air . . . —Hommage à Albert Simon 70 (1996); V. Inscription on a Grave in Cornwall (1995); VI. Flowers We Are . . . —In Memoriam Ottó Kocsis (1995) Dedications: V. to Sabine Tomek; VI. to Zoltán Kocsis WP: I. Essen, June 29, 1995. West German Radio Orchestra, cond. Zoltán Peskó; II. Vienna, June 3, 1996. SO of the Austrian Radio, cond. Peter Eötvös; V–VI. Stuttgart, August 16, 1995. Gächinger Kantorei, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Helmuth Rilling Published by EMB (score Z. 14 075, in preparation)

New Messages for Orchestra, Op. 34a Completed movements in chronological order: I. Merran’s dream—Caliban detecting—rebuilding Mirranda’s dream (for full orchestra, 1999); II. Schatten [Shadows]—to Elmar Weingarten (2000); III. . . . aus tiefer Not . . . —Un message à Madeleine Santchi (1999); IV. Les Adieux (in Janácˇeks Manier) [in Janácˇek’s manner]—In memoriam Egon von Westerholt (1999); V. Message to Zoltán Peskó (1998); VI. Merran’s dream—Caliban detecting-rebuilding Mirranda’s dream (for string orchestra, 1998) WP: I. Cologne, November 13, 1998. West German Radio Orchestra, cond. Zoltán Peskó; II. Budapest, April 11, 1999. “Budapest-Hegyvidék” Chamber Orchestra, cond. Géza Gémesi; III–IV. Berlin, January 24, 2000. Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Zoltán Peskó Published by EMB (score Z. 14 261, in preparation); temporary performance materials available for hire

. . . concertante . . . , Op. 42 For violin (also dumb violin), viola (also dumb viola), and orchestra


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Composed 2002–3; rev. 2007 Commissioned by the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra Dedication: “Composed for and dedicated to Hiromi Kikuchi and Ken Hakii” WP: Copenhagen, September 18, 2003. Hiromi Kikuchi, vln; Ken Hakii, vla; Danish RSO, cond. Michael Schønwandt Published by EMB © 2005 (score Z. 14 392) Note: University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition 2006

Chamber Music with Voice The Sayings of Péter Bornemisza, Op. 7 [Bornemisza Péter mondásai] Concerto for soprano and piano To words by the sixteenth-century Hungarian preacher, in Hungarian Composed 1963–68; rev. 1976 Dedicated to the memory of Lili Perl WP: Darmstadt, September 5, 1968. Erika Sziklay, soprano; Lóránt Szu˝cs, pft Published by UE © 1973 (UE 15 493)

In Memory of a Winter Sunset, Op. 8 [Egy téli alkony emlékére] Four fragments to poems by Pál Gulyás For soprano, violin, and cimbalom, in Hungarian Composed 1969 Dedicated to Alice Németh WP: Debrecen (Hungary), May 18, 1969. Alice Németh, soprano; Judit Hevesi, vln; Márta Fábián, cimbalom Published by UE © 1974 (UE 15 907)

Four Songs to Poems by János Pilinszky, Op. 11 For baritone or bass and chamber ensemble, in Hungarian Composed 1973–77 Dedications: No. 2. to Lajos Bárdos; No. 3. to Katalin Szego˝; No. 4. to György Kurtág Jr WP: Budapest, October 1, 1975. István Gáti, bass; Budapest Chamber Ensemble, cond. András Mihály Published UE © 1979 (UE 16 841) Note: Nos. 1–3 have been reworked for voice and piano as Three Songs to Poems by János Pilinszky, Op. 11a

S. K. Remembrance Noise, Op. 12 [Sz. K. Emlékzaj] Seven songs to poems by Dezso˝ Tandori For soprano solo and violin, in Hungarian Composed 1974–75

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Dedicated to Lajos Bárdos WP: Budapest, December 18, 1976. Júlia Pászthy, soprano; András Ligeti, vln Published by EMB © 1978 (Z. 7940)

Herdecker-Eurythmie, Op. 14 For flute, violin, speaking voice, and tenor lyre Volumes: I. Stille Stücke für Olga-Maria, Op. 14a, for flute and tenor lyre; II. Kleine erbauliche Konzerte für Theo und Gerhard, Op. 14b, for violin and tenor lyre; III. Gedichte von Ellen Lösch, Op. 14c, for speaking voice and tenor lyre Composed 1979 Dedications: Vol. II to Theo Becker and Gerhard Beilharz; Vol. III to Ursula Steinke Published by EMB © 1983 in three volumes (performance scores Z. 12 533, Z. 12 534, Z. 12 535) Note: Vol. II has been reworked for violin and piano as Tre pezzi per violino e pianoforte, Op. 14e

Seven Songs, Op. 22 To poems by Amy Károlyi and a haiku by Kobayashi Issa in the Hungarian translation by Dezso˝ Tandori For soprano and cimbalom (or piano) Composed 1981–82 Dedicated to Adrienne Csengery WP: Glasgow, October 7, 1985. Adrienne Csengery, soprano; Márta Fábián, cimbalom Published by EMB © 1987 (Z. 12 499)

Scenes from a Novel, Op. 19 [Сцeны из романа · Stseny iz romana] Fifteen songs to poems by Rimma Dalos For soprano, violin, double bass, and cimbalom, in Russian Composed 1979–82 Dedicated to Adrienne Csengery WP: Budapest, October 1, 1983. Adrienne Csengery, soprano; András Keller, vln; Ferenc Csontos, db; Márta Fábián, cimbalom Published by EMB © 1985 (performance score Z. 12 661)

Three Songs to Poems by János Pilinszky, Op. 11a Version for voice and piano of Nos. 1–3 of Four Songs to Poems by János Pilinszky, Op. 11 Composed 1986 Dedicated to Zoltán Kocsis Published by UE (UE 18 999 and UED 189 9900)

Three Old Inscriptions, Op. 25 [Három régi felirat] [Drei alte Inschriften] To a Hungarian folk text, words inscribed on a Transylvanian mangle and on the epitaph of a young German girl in a Hungarian village cemetery


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For soprano and piano, in Hungarian and German Composed 1986–87 Dedicated to Márta Kurtág WP: Berlin, October 16, 1988. Adrienne Csengery, soprano; Zoltán Kocsis, pft Published by EMB © 1992 (Z. 13 378)

Kafka-Fragments, Op. 24 [Kafka-Fragmente] Fragments of diary entries and letters of Franz Kafka, selected by the composer For soprano and violin, in German Composed 1985–87 Commissioned by the Witten Festival [Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik] Dedicated to Marianne Stein WP: Witten, April 25, 1987. Adrienne Csengery, soprano; András Keller, vln Published by EMB © 1992 (performance score Z. 13 505)

Requiem for the Beloved, Op. 26 [Реквием по другу · Rekviem po drugu] To poems by Rimma Dalos For soprano and piano, in Russian Composed 1982–86 WP: London, October 13, 1989. Adrienne Csengery, soprano; Zoltán Kocsis, pft Published by EMB (Z. 13 892 in preparation)

Friedrich Hölderlin: An . . . (Ein Fragment), Op. 29 To a fragment by Friedrich Hölderlin For tenor and piano, in German Composed 1988–89 Commissioned by West German Radio [WDR] WP: Aachen, June 6, 1989. Frieder Lang, tenor; Ruth Lang, pft Published by EMB (Z. 13 038, pending)

Samuel Beckett Sends Word Through Ildikó Monyók in the Translation by István Siklós Samuel Beckett: What Is the Word, Op. 30a To Samuel Beckett’s last writing For contralto voice (recitation) and upright piano, in Hungarian Composed 1990 WP: Sermoneta, Italy, June 5, 1993. Ildikó Monyók, contralto; Csaba Király, pft Published by EMB (Z. 13 989, not distributed before the expiration of the exclusivity) Note: Together with Samuel Beckett: What Is the Word, Op. 30, and just like the latter, written for singer-actress Ildikó Monyók, who remained the exclusive soloist for both versions of the work until 2008. This exclusivity has now been transferred by the composer to actress-reciter Piroska Molnár

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Einige Sätze aus den Sudelbüchern Georg Christoph Lichtenbergs, Op. 37a For soprano and double bass, in German Composed (1996—withdrawn) 1999 Dedicated to Annette and Wolf Lepenies WP: Berlin, November 12, 1999. Maria Husmann, soprano, Christian Sutter, db Published by EMB (Z. 14 242 in preparation) Note: An earlier version numbered Op. 37, published by EMB © 1998 (Z. 14 129, withdrawn), included twenty-two Lichtenberg settings for soprano solo and an Appendix, which consisted of an Introduction and seven instrumental and vocalinstrumental paraphrases. The solo settings have since been reworked and compiled in Op. 37a, including parts of the Appendix to Op. 37

. . . pas à pas—nulle part . . . —Poèmes de Samuel Beckett, Op. 36 To poems by Samuel Beckett and maxims by Sébastien Chamfort, some translated by Beckett For baritone solo, percussion, and string trio, in French and English combined Composed 1993–98, rev. 2007–8 Commissioned by the Festival d’Automne à Paris and the Edinburgh International Festival WP: Paris, October 21, 1998. Kurt Widmer, baritone; the Orlando Trio (Hiromi Kikuchi, vln; Ken Hakii, vla; Stefan Metz, vlc); Mircea Ardeleanu, perc Published by EMB (Z. 14 169 in preparation)

Анна Ахматова: Четыре Стихотворения, Op. 41 [Anna Akhmatova: Four Poems] Four songs to poems by Anna Akhmatova For soprano and chamber ensemble, in Russian Composed 1997–2008 Dedications: The cycle as a whole is dedicated to Natalia Zagorinskaya. No. 1. to Natalia Melnikova; No. 2. to Mrs. Zina Brájer; No. 3. to Márta Papp WP: January 31, 2009, New York (Carnegie Hall). Natalia Zagorinskaya, soprano; UMZE Ensemble, cond. Peter Eötvös Published by EMB (Z. 14 212, in preparation)

Chamber Music Without Voice Suite For piano four hands Composed 1950–51 Published by EMB © 1956 (Z. 2210)

String Quartet, Op. 1 Composed 1959 Dedicated to Marianne Stein


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WP: Budapest, April 24, 1961. Várkonyi Quartet Published (rev. ed.) by EMB © 2000 (study score Z. 40 128, parts Z. 4482)

Wind Quintet, Op. 2 Composed 1959 Dedicated to Ferenc Sulyok WP: Budapest, November 17, 1963. Budapest Wind Quintet (Zoltán Jeney, fl; Tibor Szeszler, ob; Ferenc Meizl, cl; János Ónozó, hn; László Hara, bn) Published (rev. ed.) by EMB © 2008 (performance score Z. 14 638, in preparation)

Eight Duos, Op. 4 For violin and cimbalom Composed 1960–61 Dedicated to Judit Hevesi and József Szalay WP: Budapest, March 22, 1963. Judit Hevesi,vln; József Szalay, cimbalom Published by EMB © 1965 (Z. 4492)

In Memoriam György Zilcz For two trumpets in B flat, two trombones, and tuba. A tubular bell is also played by one of the performers Composed 1975 Published in An Introduction to Ensemble Playing for Brass Instruments, ed. István Máriássy and Frigyes Varasdy. EMB © 1982 (score and parts, Vol. 2, pp. 57–58, Z. 12 580)

Hommage à András Mihály 12 Microludes for String Quartet, Op. 13 Composed 1977–78 Commissioned by the Witten Festival [Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik] Dedicated to the City of Witten WP: Witten, April 21, 1978. Éder Quartet (Pál Éder, vln; Erika Tóth, vln; Zoltán Tóth, vla; György Éder, vlc) Published by EMB © 1979 (performance score Z. 8716)

The Little Predicament, Op. 15b [a.k.a. The Little Fix] [A Kis Csáva] For piccolo, trombone, and guitar Composed 1978 Dedicated to Botond Kocsis WP: Budapest, April 27, 1979. Mátyás Antal, picc; Erika Bereczki, trbn; Erzsébet Nagy, gt Published by EMB © 1981 (performance score Z. 12 020)

Six Pieces for Trombone and Piano Composed 1978 Dedicated to Erika Bereczki

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WP: Amsterdam, January 17, 1997. Erika Bereczki, trbn; Stevan Kovacs Tickmayer, pft Published by EMB © 1999 (performance score Z. 14 176)

Tre Pezzi per Violino e Pianoforte, Op. 14e Composed 1979 Dedicated to Judit Hevesi and István Kerekes Published by EMB © 1996 (performance score Z. 14 104)

Bagatelles, Op. 14d For flute, double bass, and piano Composed 1981 WP: London, June 14, 1982. Michelle Lee, fl; Rafael Gonzales de Lare, db; Richard Nunn, pft Published by EMB © 1999 (performance score Z. 12 494)

Thirteen Pieces for Two Cimbaloms from “Games” [ . . . from “Játékok”] Composed 1982 Dedicated to Ilona Szeverényi and Tünde Enzsöl WP: Budapest, March 2, 1986. Ilona Szeverényi, cimbalom; Tünde Enzsöl, cimbalom Published by EMB © 1980 (performance score Z. 8773)

Waltz [Keringo˝] To the poem by János Pilinszky For Pilinszky’s voice and two pianos, in Hungarian Composed 1975 (?) Published (version for two pianos without voice) in Games [Játékok], Vol. VIII (in preparation) Note: With János Pilinszky’s death in 1981, the possibility of live performances ceased to exist. The only sources of the original composition are the Hungaroton releases LPX 13 878 ℗ 1986 and HCD 31 290 ℗ 1990, based on the same live recording of a performance given by János Pilinszky, Zoltán Kocsis, and György Kurtág in 1975

Ligatura—Message to Frances-Marie, Op. 31b (The Answered Unanswered Question) For violoncello with two bows, two violins, and celesta, dispersed in space; or for two violoncellos, two violins, and celesta, dispersed in space; or for two organs and celesta (or upright piano), dispersed in space Composed 1989 WP: Oslo, September 25, 1990. Frances-Marie Uitti, vlc; Kjell Arne Jörgensen, vln; Eileen Siegel, vln (the celesta was omitted) Published by EMB © 1995 (performance score Z. 13 957)


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Note: An earlier version for violoncello solo with two bows entitled The Answered Unanswered Question, Op. 31a, has been embedded in and is playable from the score of Ligatura—Message to Frances-Marie, Op. 31b

Officium Breve in Memoriam Andreæ Szervánszky, Op. 28 For string quartet Composed 1988–89 Commissioned by the Witten Festival [Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik] Dedicated to Wilfried Brennecke WP: Witten, April 22, 1990. Auryn Quartet (Matthias Lingenfelder, vln; Jens Oppermann, vln; Stewart Eaton, vla; Andreas Arndt, vlc) Published by EMB © 1995 (performance score Z. 13 959)

Hommage à R. Sch., Op. 15d For clarinet (and bass drum), viola, and piano Composed 1975–90 WP: Budapest, October 8, 1990. Gellért Tihanyi, cl; Zoltán Gál, vla; Márta Kurtág, pft Published by EMB © 1994 (performance score Z. 13 809)

Plaintive Pleading [Panaszos Kérlelo˝] For recorder and piano Composed 1988 Dedicated to Flóra and Fanni Varga Published in Child’s Play. Music for Recorder and Piano, ed. György Orbán, EMB © 1991 (Z. 13 846), pp. 12–13

Aus der Ferne III Hommage à Alfred Schlee 90 [Voice in the Distance III For Alfred Schlee’s 90th Birthday] For string quartet Composed 1991 Published by EMB (performance score included in Signs, Games and Messages for strings, in preparation), and by UE © 1991 (UE 30 552), by special agreement, in Schleedoyer I. Werke für Streichquartett von Beat Furrer, Günter Kahowez, György Kurtág (score and parts)

Lebenslauf, Op. 32 [Életút] For two pianos and two basset horns; the second piano is tuned down a quarter tone Composed 1992 Dedicated to Sándor Veress

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WP: Witten, April 26, 1992. Thomas Bæchli, pft; Gertrud Schneider, pft; Elsbeth Darbellay, basset hn; Jean-Luc Darbellay, basset hn Published by EMB (Z. 13 967, in preparation) Note: The facsimile of the manuscript was fully reproduced in Sándor Veress zum 85. Geburtstag. Program booklet of the concert given in honor of Sándor Veress on February 1, 1992, Konservatorium Bern © 1992, pp. 13–30

Tre Pezzi per Clarinetto e Cimbalom, Op. 38 Tre Altri Pezzi per Clarinetto e Cimbalom, Op. 38a Composed 1996 Dedicated to Michel Portal and Márta Fábián WP: Budapest, 1996. Michel Portal, cl; Márta Fábián, cimbalom Published by EMB © 1998 (performance score Z. 14 131)

Myriam Marbé in Memoriam For three recorders of the same tuning Composed 1999 WP: Aldeburgh, June 24, 2000. Trio Tagarela (Louise Bradbury, Lisete da Silva, Amy Whittlesea) Published by EMB (Z. 14 241, pending)

Aus der Ferne V Alfred Schlee in Memoriam [Voice in the Distance V To the Memory of Alfred Schlee] For string quartet Composed 1999 Dedicated to the Arditti Quartet WP: Munich, June 24, 1999. Arditti Quartet Published by EMB (performance score included in Signs, Games and Messages for strings, in preparation)

Four Initiums from Hommage à Jacob Obrecht (Hommage à László Dobszay) For viola and violoncello Composed 2005 WP: August 22, 2005, Antwerp. Zoltán Gál, vla; Judit Pintér, vlc Published by EMB (included in Z. 14 495, pending)

Hommage à Jacob Obrecht For string quartet Composed 2004–5 Dedicated to János Bali WP: August 22, 2005, Antwerp. Keller Quartet (András Keller, vln; János Pilz, vln; Zoltán Gál, vla; Judit Pintér, vlc)


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Published by EMB (Z. 14 495, pending)

Six Moments Musicaux, Op. 44 For string quartet Composed 1999–2005 Commissioned by and composed for the Concours International de Quatuor à Cordes de Bordeaux 2005 Dedicated to György Kurtág Jr. WP: Participants in the Concours International de Quatour à Cordes, Bordeaux, June 25–30, 2005 Published by EMB © 2008 (Z. 14 512)

Triptic, Op. 45 For two violins Composed 2007 Dedicated to Márta Kurtág Published by EMB (Z. 14 602, pending)

Works for Solo Voice Attila József Fragments, Op. 20 To fragments from 1929–37 by Attila József For soprano solo, in Hungarian Composed 1982 WP: Budapest, October 26, 1982. Adrienne Csengery, voice Published by EMB © 1984 (Z. 12 304; the printed score is based on a photographic reproduction of the composer’s handwriting)

Hölderlin-Gesænge, Op. 35 [Hölderlin Songs] To poems and fragments by Friedrich Hölderlin For baritone solo (and instruments), in German Book One: No. 1. An . . . ; No. 2. Im Walde; No. 3. Gestalt und Geist (with trombone and tuba); No. 4. An Zimmern; No. 5. Der Spaziergang; No. 6. Paul Celan: Tübingen, Jänner Book Two: (in progress, songs in chronological order) No. 7. Hälfte des Lebens (also in version for three baritones); No. 8. und wenig wissen . . . ; No. 9. Zwei Fragmente: (Süss ist’s . . . ; und der Himmel . . . ); No. 10. Das Angenehme dieser Welt . . . ; No. 11. Nun versteh’ ich; No. 12. Brief an die Mutter; No. 13. Sehnsucht und Wünschen (Two fragments from Mnemosyne III, and from Der Rhein; No. 14. Nicht alle Tage . . . ; No. 15. Griechenland . . . Composed 1993—in progress Dedications: Book One: No. 1. to D. E. Sattler; No. 2. to Georg Kröll; No. 3. to Alexander Polzin; No. 4. to Reinhart Meyer-Kalkusre; No. 5. to Heinz Holliger; No. 6. to the memory of Robert Klein. Book Two: No. 7. to György Ligeti; No. 8.

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to Adrienne Csengery; No. 9. to Rolf Hans; No. 10. to Vera Ligeti; No. 11. to Roland Moser; No. 12. to Friedrich Cerha; No. 13. to Jan van Vlijmen; No. 14. to Kurt Widmer; No. 15. to Karl-Heinrich Müller Published by EMB (Z. 14 463 in preparation)

Péter Esterházy: Fancsikó and Pinta (Fragments), Op. 40 Introduction to the Art of Belcanto I [Esterházy Péter: Fancsikó és Pinta (Töredékek) Bevezetés a belcanto (szépéneklés) mu˝vészetébe I] For solo voice, piano, and celesta (both keyboard instruments are played by one performer) Composed 1999 WP: Budapest, October 2, 2001. Krisztina Jónás, soprano; András Wilheim, pft/cel Published by EMB (Z. 14 245 in preparation)

Instrumental Solos Eight Piano Pieces, Op. 3 Composed 1960 Dedicated to István Antal WP: Darmstadt, July 10, 1960. Andor Losonczy, pft Published (rev. version) by UE (UE 14 140; online: UED 141 4000)

Signs, Op. 5 [Jelek] For viola solo Composed 1961; rev.1992 (further revisions may be expected) Dedicated to János Székács WP: Budapest, March 22, 1963. János Székács, vla Published by EMB © 1965 (Z. 4643 out of print, the revised edition is pending; some movements have been included in Signs, Games and Messages for Viola)

Splinters, Op. 6c [Szálkák] For cimbalom Composed 1962, 1973 Dedicated to Márta Fábián WP: Budapest, April 12, 1975. Márta Fábián, cimbalom Published by EMB © 1976 (Z. 7563)

Pieces for the Guitar Tutor [Darabok a gitáriskolának] Volume II, No. 1. without title, No. 2. Molto tranquillo, quasi legato, No. 31a. Legato–tenuto.


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Volume III, No. 45. Parlando, No. 135. Calmo, scorrevole, No. 144. without title Volume IV, No. 25. Cantabile, No. 30. Russian [Oroszos], No. 102. Undulation [Hullámzás] Composed 1976 (?) Published by EMB, in Gitáriskola, ed. Erzsébet Nagy and Miklós Mosóczi Vol. II © 1983 (Z. 12 280), Vol. III © 1983 (Z. 12 281), Vol. IV © 1987 (Z. 12 735)

Splinters, Op. 6d [Szálkák] Splinters, Op. 6c set for piano solo Composed 1978 Dedicated to Valéria Szervánszky WP: Budapest, November 5, 1978. Valéria Szervánszky, pft Published by EMB © 1979 (Z. 8735)

[János Pilinszky: Gérard de Nerval] [Pilinszky János: Gérard de Nerval] Now included in Signs, Games and Messages for Violoncello

Signs, Op. 5b [Jelek] Signs, Op. 5 set for violoncello (incomplete) Composed 1978—in progress Note: The completed movements have now been included in Signs, Games and Messages for Violoncello

3 In Memoriam For piano Composed 1990 Note: This piece has now been included in Games [Játékok], Vol. V

Ligature e Versetti For organ Composed 1990 Dedicated to László Dobszay and Janka Szendrei WP: (of a selection) Kuhmo, July 18, 1990. György Kurtág, org Note: Ligature e Versetti served as interludes played by György Kurtág in a concert program of plainchant sung by Schola Hungarica, directed by László Dobszay and Janka Szendrei. The program, which was titled From Adam to Abraham, was recorded and released by the Quintana label (QUI 903032). Four Versetti, playable on organ or piano, were later added to Games [Játékok], Vol. VI

Az hit . . . [The Faith] For violoncello

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Composed 1998 Published by UE © 2007 (UE 33 372) Note: The piece has now been included in Signs, Games and Messages for Violoncello

Hipartita, Op. 43 For violin solo Composed 2000–2004, rev. 2007 Dedicated to Hiromi Kikuchi (the Second Movement separately to Anne LonguetMarx) Published by EMB (Z. 14 459 in preparation)

Choruses Klárisok [Beads] For four-part mixed choir To the poem by Attila József, in Hungarian Composed 1950 Dedicated to Márta Kurtág WP: Szombathely, 1986. Savaria Vocal Ensemble, cond. István Deáky Published by EMB © 1994 (Z. 13 955)

Kórkép és hattyúdal [Clinical Picture and Swan-Song] To the poem by János Pilinszky For mixed choir, in Hungarian Composed 1978, 1981, rev. 2005 Dedicated to Zoltán Kocsis Published by EMB (Z. 14 487, in preparation)

Omaggio a Luigi Nono, Op. 16 Six choruses to poems by Anna Akhmatova and Rimma Dalos For mixed choir, in Russian Composed 1979 Dedications: No. 2. to Mrs. Zina Brájer; No. 4. to Sonia Gubaidulina WP: London, February 3, 1981. BBC Singers, cond. John Pool Published by EMB © 1980 (Z. 12 037)

Eight Choruses to Poems by Dezso˝ Tandori, Op. 23 For mixed choir, in Hungarian (in three movements) Composed 1981–82, rev. 1984 Dedications: I. to Ilona Ferenczi; II. to László Dörnyey; III. to András Wilheim WP: London, June 1, 1984. BBC Singers, cond. John Poole Published by EMB (Z. 12 947 in preparation)


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Songs of Despair and Sorrow, Op. 18 [Песни уныния и печали · Pesni unyniia i pechali] Six choruses to poems by Mikhail Lermontov, Aleksandr Blok, Sergei Esenin, Osip Mandelstam, Anna Akhmatova, and Marina Tsvetaeva For double mixed choir and instruments, in Russian Composed 1980–94 (further revisions may be expected) Dedicated to Mrs. Zina Brájer WP: (without No. 4) Holland Festival, Amsterdam, June 29, 1995. Monteverdi Choir, Schönberg Ensemble, members of the English Baroque Soloists, cond. John Eliot Gardiner; (first complete performance) Edinburgh, August 24, 1996. Edinburgh Festival Singers, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, cond. David Jones Published by EMB (score Z. 14 077, in preparation)

Colinda˘ -Balada˘ , Op. 46 Based on a Romanian colinda collected by Béla Bartók For mixed choir and instruments, in Romanian Composed 2006–8 Dedicated to Felician Brînzeu WP: Cluj-Napoca, Romania, Festival “Cluj Modern,” March 29, 2009; “Transilvania” Philharmonic Chorius, instrumental ensemble, cond. Cornel Groza Published by EMB (Z. 14 668, in preparation)

Joint Works With György Kurtág Jr.: Mémoire de Laïka Digital recording (duration: 3:23) Based on sampled and synthesized sounds Composed 1990, rev. 2001 WP: (original version) Budapest, January 1, 1991; (rev. version) London, April 20, 2002 Published EMB (Z. 13 987)

With György Kurtág Jr. Zwiegespräch For string quartet and live electronics Composed 1999–2006 Commissioned by the Conservatory of Basle, with funds provided by the Maja Sacher Foundation WP: (original version) Basle, November 12, 1999; (most recent, sixth version) Budapest, February 16, 2006. Keller Quartet (András Keller, vln; János Pilz, vln; Zoltán Gál, vla; Judit Pintér, vlc), György Kurtág Jr., synthesizers/electronics Published by EMB (Z. 14 074, pending)

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With Luciano Berio, Friedrich Cerha, Marc André Dalbavie, Paul-Heinz Dittrich, John Harbison, Marek Kopelent, Arne Nordheim, Krzysztof Penderecki, Bernard Rands, Wolfgang Rihm, Alfred Schnittke, Judith Weir, and Joji Yuasa: Requiem of Reconciliation [Requiem der Versöhnung] For soloists, choir, and orchestra Composed 1995 Commissioned by the International Bach Academy (Stuttgart), for the “Europæisches Musikfest Stuttgart” in memory of the victims of the Second World War WP: Stuttgart, August 16, 1995. Gæchinger Kantorei Suttgart, the Cracow Chamber Choir, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Helmuth Rilling Note: György Kurtág’s part, the Epilog, is virtually identical to movements 4 and 5 of Messages for Orchestra, Op. 34

Collections Pre-Games [Elo˝-Játékok] For piano Composed 1973–74 (1976) Dedicated to Marianne Teöke Published in Tarka-Barka [Motley]. A Collection of New Piano Pieces, ed. Marianne Teöke EMB © 1977 (Z. 7769), pp. 34–42 Games First Series: Volumes I–IV Games [Játékok I–IV] Volumes I–III [a.k.a. Games] for piano Volume IV for piano four hands and for two pianos Composed 1975–79 Dedicated to the memory of Magda Kardos Published by EMB Vol. I © 1979 (Z. 8377); Vol. II © 1979 (Z. 8378); Vol. III © 1979 (Z. 8379); Vol. IV © 1979 (Z. 8380) Note: Pedagogical collaborator, Marianne Teöke

Games Second Series: Volumes V–VIII Diary Entries and Personal Messages [Játékok V–VIII] For piano, organ, cimbalom, upright piano with damper pedal, piano four hands, and two pianos Composed since 1990 (in progress) Published by EMB Vol. V © 1997 (Z. 14 002); Vol. VI © 1997 (Z. 14 068); Vol. VII, Vol. VIII © 2003 (Z. 14 069); Vol. VIII (for four hands and two pianos) in preparation


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Miscellaneous Piano Solos Not Included in Games Composed 1947–2008

Transcriptions from Machaut to J. S. Bach For piano four and six hands, and for two pianos Composed 1973–76 (1991) Published by EMB © 1991 (Z. 13 823)

Further Bach Transcriptions for Piano Four Hands Composed 1992–2008, in progress

Signs, Games, and Messages for Strings including:

Signs, Games, and Messages for Violin Published by EMB © 2005 (Z. 14 220)

Signs, Games and Messages for Viola Published by EMB © 2005 (Z. 14 221)

Signs, Games, and Messages for Violoncello Published by EMB © 2007 (Z. 14 224)

Signs, Games, and Messages for Double Bass Published by EMB © 2006 (Z. 14 225)

Signs, Games, and Messages for String Trio Published by EMB © 2005 (Z. 14 223 performance score)

Miscellaneous Violin, Viola, and Viola da Gamba Solos, String Duos, String Quartet, and Other String Settings, and String Orchestra Publication temporarily pending

Games and Messages for Winds including:

[Games and Messages for Flute/Alto Flute] Composed before 1981 and up to 2005 Publication temporarily pending

[Games and Messages for Oboe/English Horn] Composed 1997–2001 Publication temporarily pending

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[Games and Messages for Clarinet/Bass and Double Bass Clarinet] Composed 1984–2001 Publication temporarily pending

[Games and Messages for Bassoon/Double Bassoon] Composed 1984–2001 Publication temporarily pending

[Games and Messages: Wind Duos] Composed 1991–2000 Publication temporarily pending

[Games and Messages: Miscellaneous Wind and Mixed Settings] Composed 1991–2000 Publication temporarily pending

Rückblick [Looking Back] Old and New for Four Players (Hommage à Stockhausen) A composed program of original and reworked pieces For trumpet, double bass, piano, and keyboard instruments (full length over sixty minutes) Composed 1993 WP: Berlin, September 30, 1993. Markus Stockhausen, tpt; Peter Riegelbauer, db; Majella Stockhausen, pft; Marcus Creed, kbd Distributed by UE worldwide, except in Hungary

14 Fragments from Rückblick For trumpet, double bass, piano, and keyboard instruments Composed (1993) Published by UE (performance score UE 31 512)

Discography Kurtág, Birtwistle, and Grisey, with Messages of the Late Miss R. V. Troussova, Op. 17. Erato ECD 88263, 1984. Flowers, Chants, Hymn, Plays and Games for Cimbalom. Hungaroton SLPX 12755, 1987. György Kurtág, Witold Lutosławski, and Sofia Gubaidulina. String Quartets (with String Quartet, Op. 1, Twelve Microludes, Op. 13, Officium breve, Op. 28). The Arditti Quartet Edition. Disques Montaigne 789007, 1991. György Kurtág: Song Cycles, with Messages of the Late Miss R. V. Troussova, Op. 17, . . . quasi una fantasia . . . , op. 27, no. 1, Scenes from a Novel, Op. 19. Sony SK 53290, 1993. György Kurtág: Portrait Concert. Salzburg, August 10, 1993. CD 1: Praeludium and Choral, Tamás Blum in memoriam, Antiphone in F sharp, Four Microludes for string Quartet, Op. 13/4, 6, 10, and 5, Il pleut sur la ville, Lebewohl Op. 26/4, Les Adieux, Op. 12/7, János Pilinszky: Gérard de Nerval, The Answered Unanswered Question Op. 31b, Op. 27, No.2, Requiem for a Friend, Op. 26, Samuel Beckett: What Is the Word, Op. 30b; CD 2: Grabstein für Stephan, Op. 15c, Játékok—a selection, Three Old Inscriptions, Op. 25, . . . quasi una fantasia . . . , Op. 27, no. 1. Col Legno WWE 31870, 1994. Ligeti, Kurtág, Orbán, and Szervánszky (with Wind Quintet, Op. 2). BIS Records BIS CD 662, 1994. Kurtág. Robert Schumann: Hommage à R. Sch., Op. 15d. ECM Records ECM 1508, 1995. Works by György Kurtág: The Sayings of Péter Bornemisza, Op. 7, Four Pilinszky Lieder, Op. 11, Eight Piano Pieces, Op. 3, Eight Duos for Violin and Cimbalom, Op. 4, Splinters, Op. 6c for cimbalom, János Pilinszky: Gérard de Nerval, for violoncello solo. Hungaroton HCD 31290, 1995. György Kurtág: Kafka Fragments, Op. 24. Hungaroton HCD 31135, 1995.



Requiem der Versöhnung (Requiem of Reconciliation), with movements by fourteen composers, the Epilog being by GK. Hänssler Classic 98.931, 1995 (2-CD set). György Kurtág: Musik für Streichinstrumente. Aus der Ferne III, for string quartet; Officium breve, Op. 28 for string quartet; Ligatura-Message to Frances-Marie, Op. 31b; String Quartet, Op.1, Hommage à Mihály András; 12 Microludes for String Quartet, Op. 13. ECM Records ECM 1598, 1996. György Kurtág: Grabstein für Stephan, Op. 15c; Stele. Stockhausen: Gruppen. Deutsche Grammophon 4477612, 1996. György Kurtág: Kafka Fragments, Op. 24. Ondine ODE 868-2, 1996. György Kurtág. . . . quasi una fantasia . . . , Op. 27, no. 1; Játékok, excerpts, Splinters, Op. 6c; Grabstein für Stephan, Op. 15c. BMG Ricordi Oggi, 1996. György Kurtág: Játékok (Games). ECM Records ECM 1619, 1997. György Kurtág: Works for Soprano; Attila József Fragments, Op. 20, S. K. Remembrance Noise, Op. 12, Messages of the Late Miss R. V.Troussova, Op. 17, Scenes from a Novel, Op. 19, Farewell. Hungaroton HCD 31821, 1998. Rückblick Moderne—Orchestermusik im 20. Jahrhundert (with . . . quasi una fantasia . . . , Op. 27, no. 1). Col Legno 200041, 1999. Kim Kashkashian. Bartók/Eötvös/Kurtág (with Movement for Viola and Orchestra). ECM Records ECM 1711, 2000. Ligeti, Kurtág, and Veress. Wind Quintets. CPO 999315, 2000. Marlboro Music Festival. 50th Anniversary Album (with Wind Quintet, Op. 2 and Hommage à Mihály András. Twelve Microludes for String Quartet, Op. 13). Bridge 9108, 2000. Berio, Dillon, Dusapin, Kurtág, Ligeti, and Sciarrino. Works for solo viola. Audivis MO782082, 2000. Notes for Pierre—12 World Premieres. Commissioned by the Royal Festival Hall, London. For Pierre Boulez’s 75th birthday. With Kurtág’s Hommage à Pierre Boulez, for piano. SBC, 2000. Psy: Charm of the Cimbalom (with Eight Duos, Op. 4 for violin and cimbalom, Un bruyère à Witold . . . , Tre pezzi, Op. 38 and Op. 38a). Hungaroton HCD 32015, 2001.



Tihanyi Gellért. Kurtág/Bartók/Faragó/Stravinsky/Reich (with Hommage à R. Sch. Op. 15d). BMC Records 048, 2001. Vékony Ildikó. Szálkák (Splinters) (with Splinters, Op. 6c for cimbalom solo). BMC Records BMC CD 046, 2001. Bartók: 44 Duos for Two Violins, Ligeti: Ballade und Tanz, Kurtág: Ligatura— Message to Frances-Marie, Op. 31b (The Answered Unanswered Question). ECM Records ECM 1729, 2002. György Kurtág: Signs, Games and Messages. Hölderlin-Gesänge, Op. 35a, Signs, Games and Messages, for strings; . . . pas à pas—nulle part . . . ; Poèmes de Samuel Beckett, Op. 36. ECM Records ECM 1730, 2003. György Kurtág: Játékok (Games). BMC Records BMC CD 123, 2006. György Kurtág: Messages of the Late Miss R. V.Troussova, Op. 17, Grabstein für Stephan, Op. 15c, What Is the Word, Op. 30b. Etcetera KTC 9000 CD 14, 2006. György Kurtág: Kafka Fragmente, Op. 24. ECM Records ECM 1965, 2006. György Kurtág: Complete Choral Works. Omaggio a Luigi Nono, Op. 16, Eight Choruses to Poems by Dezso˝ Tandori, Op. 23, Songs of Despair and Sorrow, Op. 18). Hänssler Classic, 2006. Kurtág 80. . . . concertante . . . , Op. 42, Hipartita, Op. 43, György Kurtág-György Kurtág Jr.: Zwiegespräch, Excerpts from Játékok and Transcriptions. BMC Records BMC CD 129, 2007. György Kurtág: Játékok (Games) 2. BMC Records BMC CD 139, 2008.

Notes 1 Three Questions to György Kurtág 1. The Sayings of Péter Bornemisza, Op. 7 (1963, rev. 1976), Concerto for soprano and piano. 2. Játékok (Games) (1975–) So far seven volumes of these short piano pieces have appeared, most of them written for two hands, some for piano duet or two pianos. Kurtág writes: “The idea of composing Games was suggested by children playing spontaneously, children for whom the piano still means a toy. They experiment with it, caress it, attack it, and run their fingers over it. They pile up seemingly disconnected sounds, and if this happens to arouse their musical instinct they look consciously for some of the harmonies found by chance and keep repeating them.” Some of the pieces equally lend themselves to performance by beginners (such as the seven-tone Flowers We Are or Perpetuum mobile—both in Book I) and by concert artists. 3. Heinrich Lützeler, Führer zu Kunst (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder & Co., 1938). 4. Attila József, untitled fragment, in The Complete Poems of Attila József, ed. Béla Stoll, trans. John Bátki (Budapest: Osiris, 1934), 405. 5. György Kurtág, Attila József Fragments, Op. 20 (1981), for soprano solo; and György Kurtág, Messages of the Late R. V. Troussova, Op. 17 (1976–80), to twenty-one poems by Rimma Dalos, for soprano and chamber ensemble. 6. György Kurtág, S. K. Remembrance Noise, Op. 12 (1975). Seven songs to poems by Dezso˝ Tandori, for soprano and violin. 7. György Kurtág, Hommage à András Mihály—Twelve Microludes for String Quartet, Op. 13 (1977–78). 8. Budaliget is a suburb of Budapest where Kurtág used to have a place for composing.

2 The Three Questions Again 1. By way of an experiment, I showed my collection of drawings to the great Austrian sculptor and painter, Alfred Hrdlicka (b. 1928). He did not know any of the composers and could examine the pictures objectively. Without hesitating for a second, Hrdlicka singled out Kurtág’s “insects” for their element of concentration. 2. A movement in Bartók’s Nine Piano Pieces (1926). 3. An influential association of liberal Hungarian intellectuals, founded in 1908.


notes to pages 16–34

4. It has since been completely revised and now bears the title “Footfalls” as the second movement of Six moments musicaux, Op. 44, for string quartet. 5. . . . quasi una fantasia . . . , Op. 27, no. 1 (1987–1988), for piano solo and instrumental groups arranged in space. 6. Asked to specify what he meant, Kurtág explained that the ink drawings led to the Games series, S. K. Remembrance Noise, Op. 12, for soprano and violin or the Twelve Microludes, Op. 13, for string quartet. The structures he fashioned in Paris out of dust balls and matchsticks had their traces in the String Quartet, Op. 1 and the Eight Piano Pieces, Op. 3, half of which were written in Paris. 7. Summer resort in Hungary on Lake Balaton. 8. Scraps of a colinda melody—faintly recollected. Hommage à Farkas Ferenc 2, in Játékok III. Kurtág uses the Romanian spelling “colinda˘” only in his Colinda˘ –Balada˘ , where he has set a Romanian text. 9. Four Capriccios, Op. 9 (1959–70, rev. 1993) to poems by István Bálint, for soprano and ensemble. 10. Vero˝ce is a small town to the north of Budapest where the Kurtágs used to own a villa. 11. The first version of Samuel Beckett: What Is the Word, for voice and upright piano, Op. 30a (1990). 12. Songs of Despair and Sorrow, Op. 18 (1980–94). Six choruses to poems by Lermontov, Blok, Esenin, Mandelstam, Akhmatova, and Tsvetaeva. 13. Stele, Op. 33 (1994), for large orchestra. 14. . . . pas à pas—nulle part. . . , Op. 36 (1993–98), to poems by Samuel Beckett and maxims by Sébastien Chamfort adapted by Samuel Beckett, for baritone solo, percussion, and string trio. 15. Hölderlin-Gesänge, Op. 35 (1993—in progress), for baritone solo and instruments. 16. Omaggio a Luigi Nono, Op. 16 (1979). Six choruses to poems by Anna Akhmatova and Rimma Dalos, for mixed choir. 17. Eight Choruses to Poems by Dezso˝ Tandori, Op. 23 (1981–82, revised in 1984), for mixed choir. 18. Confessio . . . (Concerto), Op. 21 (1982–85), unfinished. 19. Three Shakespeare Songs was Ton de Leeuw’s last composition, premiered in 1996. 20. Site of the International Musicians’ Seminar on the Cornwall coast. 21. Judit Kurtág, a professional photographer and video artist, is György Kurtág’s granddaughter. 22. Kafka Fragments, Op. 24 (1985–87), for soprano and violin. 23. Einige Sätze aus den Sudelbüchern Georg Christoph Lichtenbergs, Op. 37a (1999) (Some Sentences from Georg Christoph Lichtenberg’s Sketchbooks), revised version for soprano and double bass. The printed version of the Lichtenbergs, for unaccompanied solo voice, is not valid. I have rewritten them for voice and double bass. The Beckett songs, . . . pas à pas—nulle part . . . are among my essential works.—Note by György Kurtág. 24. In Memory of a Winter Sunset, Op. 8 (1969), four fragments to poems by Pál Gulyás, for soprano, violin, and cimbalom. 25. See Rimma Dalos in “Personalia.” 26. See Dénes Zsigmondy in “Personalia.”

notes to pages 34–45


27. Samuel Beckett: What Is the Word (Samuel Beckett Sends Word Through Ildikó Monyók in the translation by István Siklós), Opp. 30 a and 30b (1990 and 1991). 28. Rückblick—Altes und Neues für vier Spieler, Hommage à Stockhausen (Looking Back—Old and New for Four Players) (1993), no opus number. For trumpet, double bass, and keyboard instruments.

3 Key Words 1. “Whoops, we have forgotten all about Mrs. Freud.” 2. Graham Greene, Ways of Escape (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1982), 211. 3. Vera Ligeti, the composer’s wife. 4. Vera Ligeti remembers her husband pressing her hand on hearing the Colinda˘ , which was a sign of his liking something. 5. See page 102. 6. Kurtág’s comment after completing the work: “I decided for the story to be momentarily suspended to let the music run its course, something to which I attached more importance. It takes up nearly one-third of the entire score.” 7. . . . concertante . . ., Op. 42 (2003), for violin, viola, and orchestra. The definitive version is in one movement. 8. Translated by Peter Sherwood, in Attila József Fragments, Op. 20 (Budapest: Editio Musica Budapest, 1984). 9. The piano duet “Hommage à Halmágyi Mihály” (Játékok IV) was inspired by Kurtág’s encounter with the violinist. 10. The Kossuth Prize is Hungary’s highest government decoration for artistic excellence. 11. Play (1962–63), Footfalls (1975), and Rockaby (1980). Kurtág would not set them in chronological order but would begin with Footfalls, followed by Rockaby, and end with Play. In April 2008, Kurtág and his wife took the train from St-André to Paris to attend two performances of Rockaby: the one in the evening was in English and the same actors performed the work the next day at four o’clock in the afternoon, in French. Both were directed by Peter Brook. The evening performance made a deep impression on the Kurtágs. 12. Kurtág: “To put it plainly: I do not like the idea of living with paintings around me. I much prefer to go to a gallery or museum to look at what interests me. In Cologne, for instance, I only went for a late self-portrait by Rembrandt and left without examining any other picture.” 13. Márta and György Kurtág regularly play recitals, performing pieces from Játékok interspersed with Kurtág’s arrangements of Bach for piano duet. 14. As explained in the score: “Due to the differences of tempo, the music material of Vl. I, Vla., and Vlc. can be repeated at discretion. The movement should end suddenly, simultaneously with the end of the Vl. II part, at the sign of the player, as if petrified.” 15. Months after the interview, I chanced upon a Picasso quote: “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” 16. Play by Nikolai Gogol (1809–52). 17. Six moments musicaux, Op. 44 (1999–2005).


notes to pages 47–58

18. It is marked Berceuse-Siciliano con amore in the score. 19. Scenes from a Novel, Op. 19 (1979/82). Fifteen songs to poems by Rimma Dalos, for soprano, violin, double bass, and cimbalom. 20. It is marked Lamentoso-disperato, con moto. Not too fast, but wildly, harassedly, impatiently in the score. 21. Cf. Schumann’s Phantasiestücke, Op. 12. “Traumeswirren” is the title of the seventh piece. 22. Kurtág: “Indeed, it is there in Bornemisza’s first (Confession) and third (Death) movements, where it says ‘Righteous custom thus demandeth: bury thy fellow man.’” 23. Opus 27, no. 2 (1989/90) for piano, violoncello, and two chamber ensembles dispersed in space. 24. Ligeti, Hamburgisches Konzert for horn and chamber orchestra (1998/2003). 25. Grabstein für Stefan, Op. 15c (1978/79, rev. 1989), for guitar and instrumental groups arranged in space. 26. Hommage à R. Sch., Op. 15d (1990), for clarinet, viola, and piano. 27. Waltz (2). After the double bar line: Marianne’s piece. The dedications in the Játékok series are printed in small letters following the double bar lines. 28. From János Pilinszky’s poem “Waltz.” The piano piece in Játékok carries the same title. Kurtág: “This piece is a failed song.” 29. The Colinda we learned at school was the basis of Scraps of a colinda-melody— faintly recollected (Játékok IV). 30. See Péter Bornemisza in “Personalia.” 31. Samuel Beckett Sends Word Through Ildikó Monyók in the Translation of István Siklós [Samuel Beckett: What Is the Word], Op. 30a (1990), for voice and upright piano. The version for alto solo, voices, and chamber ensembles dispersed in space, Op. 30b, was composed in 1991. 32. In the liner notes to the BMC disc Kurtág 80, György Kurtág Jr. writes of the recording of “. . . concertante . . . ”: “the piece is characterised by a kind of ‘formal stuttering.’” 33. Op. 29 (1988–89). Kurtág: “I may eventually decide to withdraw this version: the one for solo voice where the singer accompanies himself, so to speak, is that much clearer, that much more accurate.” 34. See n. 23. 35. Title of a self-standing song by Kurtág. 36. Kurtág: “The Beckett songs begin in the same way. It is almost my rhythm-visiting card.” 37. Officium breve in memoriam Andreae Szervánszky, Op. 28 (1988–89), for string quartet. 38. Hommage à Vidovszky, for piano, in Játékok II. 39. Pierre Boulez, “Improvisation II: ‘Une dentelle s’abolit,’” a movement from Pli selon Pli, Portrait de Mallarmé (1958/62), which can be performed by itself. 40. Karlheinz Stockhausen, Gruppen (1955/57), for three orchestras. 41. György Ligeti, Artikulation (1958), electronic music. 42. Information on serial music in the journal edited by Herbert Eimert and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Karlheinz Stockhausen, “. . . wie die Zeit vergeht . . .” [. . . how time passes . . .], Die Reihe. Informationen über serielle Musik 3 (1957): 13–42. 43. Kurtág is referring to the Kafka Fragments, Op. 24, for soprano and violin.

notes to pages 58–73


44. “The older I get, the clearer it is to me that my whole life constitutes a unity. Monteverdi is just as much part of it as Bartók or Webern. I have followed Ligeti all my life without ever imitating him. He was the one all along who encouraged me to start something new. One of my basic goals as a composer has been to create a unity out of these disparate influences.” 45. October 23–November 4, 1956. Officially referred to as “counterrevolution” until 1989, it is now described as “revolution and fight for freedom.” It was an attempt, put down by Soviet troops, to leave the Warsaw Treaty Organization and the so-called socialist camp and to turn Hungary into a neutral country outside the Soviet sphere of influence. 46. GYK: We learned Mozart sonatas, Beethoven trios and devoted particular attention to Brahms’s Sonata in G Major. When we played the first movement for Leó Weiner, he was terribly impressed. Whatever we may have played for him later on, we were never again able to satisfy him.—Stefan [Romas¸canu] always looked smart, while I never managed to appear other than disheveled. MK: Gyuri held him in high esteem. One day he told Stefan: “I have met a girl, but she is quite plain.” Stefan, however, said on meeting me that he thought I had a fragile beauty and in a way gave Gyuri permission to marry me. BAV: It would be worth writing a study on why you always seem to have needed a father figure whom you could look up to. GYK: Yes . . . 47. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, West-östlicher Divan—a cycle of poems written from 1814–19. 48. Requiem for the Beloved, Op. 26 (1982–87) for soprano and piano, in Russian. Proshchai (Farewell) is the fourth song, which served as the basis for the last movement of Opus 27, no. 2. 49. The last of Seven Songs, Op. 22 (1981), for soprano and cimbalom. Six are settings of poems by the Hungarian poet Amy Károlyi (1909–2003). Translated into English by Peter Sherwood. 50. Humorous magazine in Hungary. 51. Part IV, sixth song: “I can’t actually . . . tell a story, in fact I am almost unable even to speak; when I try to tell it, I usually feel the way small children might when they try to take their first steps.” Translated by Júlia and Peter Sherwood. 52. Movement XV of the string quartet Officium breve, Op. 28 quotes measures 1–12 from the third (Arioso) movement of Szervánszky’s String Serenade of 1947/48. 53. Lament (2), Játékok III. 54. Lebenslauf, Op. 32 (1992), for two pianos and two basset horns. The second piano is tuned down by a quarter tone. 55. Signs, Games and Messages (1989–) in versions for string trio as well as for violin, viola, cello, and double bass solo, and various combinations of these instruments, for two to six players. See “Works List.” 56. Signs, Op. 5, for viola solo. 57. Shakespeare, As You Like It. 58. Messages for Orchestra, Op. 34 (1991–96), sixth movement. Flowers We Are . . . To Zoltán Kocsis. In memoriam Ottó Kocsis. 59. Korean Cantata (1952/53), for baritone, mixed chorus, and orchestra. 60. Restless, Part 1, Song 4, in Kafka Fragments, Op. 24. As explained in the score: “The piece should be a kind of pantomime. The singer follows the acrobatics and


notes to pages 73–95

the rage of the violinist with increasing tension, excitement, even fear, until her voice also fails in the end.” 61. As instructed in the score: “Exaggerate the change of bow, pantomime-like; a slow, continuous movement linking the next change of bow without a break.” 62. Kafka-Fragments, Part III, Song 4: “I am dirty, Milena, endlessly dirty, that is why I make such a fuss about cleanliness. None sing as purely as those in deepest Hell; it is their singing that we take for the singing of angels.” Translated by Peter Sherwood in Kafka Fragments, Op. 24 (Budapest: Editio Musica Budapest, 1992). 63. The French town near Bordeaux where Kurtág and his wife rent an apartment. 64. Kurtág has been tormented by his skin allergy ever since; it gets particularly acute when he is composing. 65. Shostakovich: Four Songs of Captain Lebyadkin, Op. 146 (1975), for bass and piano. Based on the novel The Devils, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. 66. Samuel Beckett, Happy Days, a play in two acts (1961). 67. Hipartita, Op. 43 (2000–2004), for violin solo. 68. Puccini, Turandot. 69. For Hungarians, the month of March is synonymous with revolution: that of 1848 and of what has come to be known as the Hungarian Republic of Councils (1919). 70. Sylvain Cambreling and his orchestra, the SWR Symphony Orchestra BadenBaden and Freiburg, played . . . concertante . . . on a tour. 71. Játékok IV. 72. Játékok VI.

4 Mementos of a Friendship 1. Both speeches were translated from the German by John Lambert. The late Marianne Biczó played an important role in finalizing the German text of the first speech. 2. Work would be sheer joy for us but for the emperor, the old tiger, who is sitting on our necks. 3. This old tortoise swims, like a fish, jollily, with its tiny legs.

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Griffiths, Paul. “Desert Flowers: Kurtág’s Recent Music.” Hungarian Quarterly 126 (1992): 164–68. ———. “‘The voice that must articulate’. Kurtág in rehearsal and performance.” Hungarian Quarterly 140 (1995): 141–44. Grmela, Sylvia. “Recall and Repetition in Some Works by Kurtág.” Studia Musicologica 43, nos. 3–4 (2002): 371–81. Halász, Péter. “On Kurtág’s Dodecaphony.” Studia Musicologica 43, nos. 3–4 (2002): 235–52. ———. “Preface to the Volume ‘Hommage à Kurtág.’” Studia Musicologica 43, nos. 3–4 (2002): 221–22. Hildebrandt, Toni. Geschichte und Erinnerung im Werk von György Kurtág. Munich: GRIN Verlag, 2008. Hoffmann, Peter. “Die Kakerlake sucht den Weg zum Licht: zum Streichquartett Op. 1 von György Kurtág.” Die Musikforschung 44 (1991): 32–48. ———. “Kurtágs Idee des ‘komponierten Programms.’” Berliner Beiträge zur Musikwissenschaft 9, no. 2. (1994): 37–46. Hohmaier, Simone. “Am Rande der Hauptströmungen: Zu Einfluß und Material in György Kurtágs Quartetto per archi opus 1 von 1959.” Musiktexte 72 (1997): 39–46. ———. Meine Muttersprache ist Bartók . . . Einfluß und Material in György Kurtágs “Quartetto per archi,” Op. 1 (1959). Saarbrücken: Pfau Verlag, 1997. ———. “Mutual Roots of Musical Thinking: György Kurtág, Péter Eötvös and Their Relation to Erno˝ Lendvai’s Theories.” Studia Musicologica 43, nos. 3–4 (2002): 223–34. Johnson, Tim. “Communication and Experience: Some Observations on the Relationship Between Composer and Performer in ‘Játékok.’” Studia Musicologica 43, nos. 3–4 (2002): 281–87. Kunkel, Michael. György Kurtág: “A kis csáva” Op. 15b (1978). Saarbrücken: Pfau Verlag, 1999. Lentsner, Dina. “The Structure of What Is Beyond The Words: Musico-Poetic Analysis of the Fragment from ‘Scenes from a Novel, Op. 19’ by György Kurtág.” Studia Musicologica 43, nos. 3–4 (2002): 323–32. Lück, Hartmut. “Die Einsamkeit einer verstorbenen Dame: György Kurtágs‚ Die Botschaften der verewigten R. V. Trusova.” MusikTexte 27 (1989): 26–29. Mazzolini, Marco. “Gefangen (Diesseits-Jenseits).—Su György Kurtág.” In Danubio— Una civiltà musicale. Vol. 3, Slovacchia, Ungheria. Monfalcone, edited by Carlo de Incontrera and Alba Zanini, 401–26. Monfalcone, 1993. McLay, Margaret. “A Brief Office for György Kurtág.” Musical Times (1989): 525–26. ———. “György Kurtág’s Microludes.” Tempo 151 (1984): 17–23. ———. “Kurtág at Sixty.” Tempo 163 (December 1987): 45–47. ———. “Kurtág’s ‘Bornemisza’Concerto.” Musical Times 129, no. 1749 (November 1988): 580–83. ———. The Music of György Kurtág 1959–1980. PhD diss., University of Liverpool, 1986. ———. “Three Recent Works by György Kurtág. Aspects of Settings of Texts by Lichtenberg, Hölderlin and Beckett.” Hungarian Quarterly 159 (2000): 146–53.



Miller, Malcolm. “Kurtág 70th Birthday Weekend.” Tempo 197 (July 1996): 28–29. Moldován, Domokos, ed. Tisztelet Kurtág Györgynek (Hommage à György Kurtág). Budapest: Rózsavölgyi és Társa, 2006. Perrey, Beate. “‘Eyes Talked In-To Blindness’. Paul Celan and György Kurtág.” Studia Musicologica 43, nos. 3–4 (2002): 451–67. Polloli, François. Dimension de l’absurde dans les musiques de György Ligeti et de György Kurtág. PhD diss., Université Paris 8–Vincennes Saint Denis, 2004. Sallis, Friedemann. “The Genealogy of György Kurtág’s ‘Hommage à R.Sch. Op. 15d.’” Studia Musicologica 43, nos. 3–4 (2002): 311–22. Somfai, László, ed. “Hommage à György Kurtág.” Studia Musicologia 43, nos. 3–4 (2002): 223–467. Spangemacher, Friedrich, ed. György Kurtág. Musik der Zeit: Dokumentationen und Studien 5. Bonn: Boosey & Hawkes, 1986. ———. “What Is the Music?” Kompositionswerkstatt György Kurtág. Saarbrücken: Pfau Verlag, 1996. Stahl, Claudia. Botschaften in Fragmenten. Die großen Vokalzyklen von György Kurtág. Saarbrücken: Pfau Verlag, 1998. Thomas, Gavin. “Fragments, Monuments. Kurtág’s Kafka Fragments and New Music for Voice and Guitar.” Musical Times 1798 (1991): 642–43. Tosser, Grégoire. “Links and ligatures: György Kurtág’s ‘Ligatura-Messages to Frances-Marie’ (‘The Answered Unanswered Question’) op. 31b.” Studia Musicologica 43, nos. 3–4 (2002): 439–49. Walsh, Stephen. “A Brief Office for György Kurtág.” Musical Times 130, no. 1759 (September 1989): 525–26. ———. “György Kurtág: An Outline Study.” Tempo 140 (1982): 11–21; 142 (1982): 10–19. ———. “György Kurtág: The Sayings of Péter Bornemisza, Op. 7: A Concerto for Soprano and Piano.” Music and Letters 87, no. 4 (November 2006): 667–70. ———. “Kurtág’s Russian Settings: The Word Made Flesh.” Contemporary Music Review 20, parts 2 and 3 (2001): 71–88. Wilheim, András. “Satzfolge und Grundform—Der Begriff des ‘offenen Werkes’ in den Kompositionen von György Kurtág.” MusikTexte 72 (1997): 35–38. Williams, Alan E. “Music Theatre and the Open Work.” Hungarian Quarterly 163 (2001): 136–46. ———. “Music Theatre and Presence in Some Works of György Kurtág.” Studia Musicologica 43, nos. 3–4 (2002): 359–70. Wischmann, Claus. “Spaß am Experimentieren—Kurtágs Játékok für Klavier.” MusikTexte 72 (1997): 51–61. Zenck, Martin. “Beckett after Kurtág: Towards a Theory of Theatricality of a NonTheatrical Music.” Studia Musicologica 43, nos. 3–4 (2002): 411–20.

Index Abbado, Claudio, 50, 72, 117, 128, 129 Ady, Endre, 6, 16, 177 Aimard, Pierre-Laurent, 51, 117 Akhmatova, Anna, 29, 87, 117, 141, 142, 152n16; Anna Akhmatova: Four Poems, 133 Alain-Fournier, Henri, 101, 117; Le Grand Meaulnes, 101 Andsnes, Leif Ove, 51, 64, 117 Antal, István, 139 Arghezi, Tudor, 7, 117 Aristophanes, 47, 117; The Birds, 47 Arom, Simha, 104, 117 Aurelius, Marcus, 47, 122 Babbitt, Milton, 12, 117 Bach, Johann Sebastian, 9, 12, 38, 40, 66, 86, 94, 109, 114, 116, 144, 153n13, 161–63; Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit— Actus Tragicus, 40; Wedding Quodlibet, 94 Balassa, Sándor, 70, 117 Bálint, Endre, 117 Bálint, István, 117, 127, 152n9 Bárdos, Lajos, 1, 117, 130, 131 Barenboim, Daniel, 55, 117 Barna, Mrs. András, 59, 60, 117 Bartók, Béla, 5, 10, 16, 32, 38, 40, 41, 42, 47, 53, 56, 66, 68, 83, 89, 96, 98, 104, 107, 117, 121, 124–26, 142, 148, 155n44, 158; Bear Dance, 98, 99; Cantata Profana, 73, 155; Concerto for Orchestra, 10; Contrasts, 10; Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, 6;For Children, 10; 44 Duos for Two Violins, 149; Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, 5; Nine Little Piano Pieces—Marcia delle bestie, 16; Rondo, 10; Sonata for Two Pianos and Two Percussionists, 10; Two-Part Inventions, 98; Violin Concerto, 5, 29, 72

Bartók, Béla Jr., 32 Beckett, Samuel, 29, 31, 33, 34, 43, 44, 70, 73, 87, 100, 104, 106, 117, 126, 156n66, 158, 159; Footfalls, 153n11; Happy Days, 156n66; Play, 153n11; Rockaby, 153n11 Beethoven, Ludwig van, 32, 33, 38, 50, 53, 54, 56, 109, 115, 155n46, 157; Leonore Overture No. 3 in C Major, Opus 72a, 50; Leonore Overtures, 71; Piano Sonata No. 1 in F Minor, Opus 2, 8; Piano Sonata No. 7 in D Major, Opus 10, 53; Piano Sonata No. 8, “Pathétique,” in C Minor, Op. 13, 8; Piano Sonata No. 12 in A-flat Major, Op. 26, 53; Piano Sonata No. 23, “Appassionata,” in F Minor, Opus 57, 8; Piano Sonata No. 26, “Les adieux,” in E-flat Major, Opus 81a, 8; Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat, Op. 110, 54; String Quartet No. 1, “Rasumovsky,” in F Major, Opus 59, 87; Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, “Eroica,” Opus 55, 4; Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Opus 125, 61, 73; Violin Concerto in D Major, Opus 6, 56 Bellini, Vincenzo, 28, 118 Berg, Alban, 92, 118, 126 Berio, Luciano, 119, 143, 148 Birtwistle, Sir Harrison, 147 Blok, Aleksandr, 29 Blum, Józsa, 34, 118 Blum, Stephen, 157 Blum, Tamás, 1, 76, 118, 127 Bogár, István, 42 Borges, Jorge Luis, 104, 118 Bornemisza, Péter, 28, 30, 50, 58, 63, 68, 69, 73, 88, 118, 130, 147, 151n1, 154n22, 154n30, 157, 159; Hungarian Elektra, 75



Bosch, Hieronymus, 100, 104, 105, 118 Botticelli, Sandro, 96, 118 Boulanger, Nadia, 60 Boulez, Pierre, 12, 13, 55, 57, 58, 70, 75, 100, 109, 116, 118, 119, 126, 148, 154n39, 163; Improvisation II, 57, 154n39; Pli selon pli, 154n39; Structure Ia, 100 Brahms, Johannes, 38, 56, 82; Scottish Ballad, 56; Sonata in G Major, 155n46; Symphony No. 1, 56 Bra˘iloiu, Constantin, 104 Brennecke, Wilfried, 33, 57, 118, 136 Breuer, János, 98, 118 Brînzeu, Felician, 1, 7, 42, 44, 52, 88, 142 Brînzeu, Pia, 88 Brook, Peter, 153n11 Cage, John, 3, 32, 57, 118, 120, 163; 4'33', 57 Cambreling, Sylvain, 49, 83, 116, 118, 128, 156n70 Carroll, Lewis, 100, 104, 111, 119; Alice in Wonderland, 111; Through the Looking Glass, 111 Carter, Elliott, 12, 87, 118, 161; Soundings, 87 Casals, Pablo, 8, 87 Celan, Paul, 138, 159 Cerha, Friedrich, 71, 119, 139, 143 Cézanne, Paul, 104, 119 Chailly, Riccardo, 85, 119 Chopin, Frédéric, 85, 96; Etude in C-sharp Minor, 96; Sonata in B-flat Minor, 85 Courant, Richard, 97, 119, 124; What Is Mathematics, 124 Craft, Robert, 12, 31 Cranach, Lucas, 16, 119 Csalog, Gábor, 58, 119, 121 Csontváry Kosztka, Tivadar, 100 Dalos, Rimma, 119, 128, 131, 132, 141, 151n5, 152n25, 154n19 Dante Alighieri, 56, 101, 112 Darmstadt, Kurtág’s relationship with, 44, 57 Debussy, Claude, 89, 161–63 Déry, Pál, 6 Dobszay, László, 1, 45, 119, 137, 140 Donatoni, Franco, 12, 119 Donizetti, Gaetano, 28, 119; Don Pasquale, 28

Doráti, Antal, 5, 29, 119, 126 Dostoevsky, Fyodor Mihailovich, 156n65; The Devils, 156n65 Dutilleux, Henri, 12, 119 Dürer, Albrecht, 16, 119 Eimert, Herbert, 154 Eisikovits, Max, 1, 6, 115, 119 Eminescu, Mihai, 88, 119 Eötvös, Péter, 9, 65, 66, 119, 128, 129, 133, 148, 158 Escher, Maurits, 96, 104, 119 Farkas, Ferenc, 59, 60, 70, 73, 115, 119, 124, 152n8 Farkas, Zoltán, 157 Feldman, Morton, 12, 120 Fischer, Annie, 27, 120, 125 folk music, Kurtág’s contact with, 42, 43 Frescobaldi, Girolamo, 100, 120 Freud, Sigmund, 39, 97, 120; Totem und Tabu, 97 Fuhrman, Wolfgang, 100 Furrer, Beat, 12, 120, 136 Gabin, Jean, 64, 120 Gallot, Simon, 114 Gergely, János, 63 Gerlóczy, Sári, 17, 120 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 155n17, 163; West-östlicher Divan, 155n17 Gogol, Nikolai Vasilyevich, 45, 153n16; The Inspector General, 45 Gounod, Charles, 28, 120 Greene, Graham, 39, 153n2; Ways of Escape, 39 Gregor, József, 28, 120 Gubaidulina, Sofia, 33, 120, 141, 147 Hajdú, András (André Hajdu), 1, 2, 120; Plasmas, 1 Hakii, Ken, 85, 120, 121, 124, 130, 133 Halász, Péter (actor and theater director), 120 Halász, Péter (musicologist), 158 Halmágyi, Mihály, 43, 153n9 Haydn, Joseph, 47, 51, 115 Helms, Hans G., 100, 120 Hermann, Imre, 17, 120 Hermann, Richard, 161 Hevesi, Judit, 130, 134, 135 Holzschuher, Hieronymus, 16 Horváth, Judit, 30, 34, 120

index Hölderlin, Friedrich, 31, 33, 38, 55, 70, 71, 104, 108, 120, 124, 126, 132, 138, 149, 152n15, 157, 158 Hugo, Victor, 39, 120 Husman, Maria, 33, 35 Ionesco, Eugène, 104, 120 Issa, Kobayashi, 65, 121, 131 Járdányi, Pál, 1, 115, 121 Jeanmaire, Zizi, 2, 121 Josquin des Prez, 114, 161 Joyce, James, 100, 104, 117, 121; Finnegans Wake, 100, 104 József, Attila, 9, 10, 11, 30, 32, 38, 42, 56, 121, 138, 141, 148, 151n5, 153n8, 157 Kadosa, Pál, 53, 59, 60, 115, 116, 121 Kafka, Franz, 33, 35, 38, 65, 70, 73, 100, 104, 114, 118, 121, 132, 147, 148, 149, 152n22, 154n43, 155n60, 156n62, 157, 159 Kagel, Mauricio, 44 Kardos, Magda, 1, 7, 16, 53, 115, 121, 143 Kästner, Erich, 5, 121; The 35th of May, 5 Keller, András, 58, 121, 131, 132, 137, 142 Kharms, Daniil, 44, 121 Khatchaturian, Aram, 45 Kikuchi, Hiromi, 85, 120, 121, 124, 130, 133, 141 Klee, Paul, 71, 100, 121; Zeichen in Gelb, 71 Klein, Robert, 1, 2, 61, 62, 138 Kleist, Heinrich von, 104 Kocsis, Ottó, 72, 129, 155 Kocsis, Zoltán, 27, 72, 121, 128, 131, 132, 134, 135, 141, 155n58 Kodály, Zoltán, 89, 99, 107, 117, 120, 121, 124, 125, 126; Psalmus Hungaricus, 5 Kovács, János, 28, 121 Kovács, Zsuzsa, 73 Kropfinger, Klaus, 77 Krúdy, Gyula, 96, 104, 105, 121 Kubik, Gerhard, 104, 121 Kurdi, Éva, 42 Kurtág, György, 1, 2, 3, 4, 12, 13, 15, 18, 36, 37, 38, 39, 41, 45, 51, 56, 68, 87, 88, 89, 90, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 135, 136, 140, 152n23, 153n6, 153n9,


153n11, 153n12, 153n13, 154n22, 154n28, 154n33, 154n36, 154n37, 154n43, 156n63, 156n64; performers and Kurtág’s music, 51, 64 Kurtág, György, works of Anna Akhmatova: Four Poems, Op. 41, 29, 87, 133 Attila József Fragments, Op. 20, 10, 11, 30, 42, 56, 138, 148, 151n5, 153n8 Aus der Ferne II, 129 Aus der Ferne III, 136, 148 Aus der Ferne V, 54, 137 Colinda˘-Balada˘, Op. 46, 39, 41–44, 47, 51, 65, 66, 75, 82, 87, 88, 152n8, 153n4 Colinda˘ for Two Violins, 41 . . . concertante . . . Op. 42, 41, 54, 65, 66, 75, 76, 78, 82, 84, 116, 120, 121, 124, 129, 149, 153n7, 154n32, 156n70 Confessio…(Concerto), Op. 21, 123, 152 Conversation after the Last, 73 Double Concerto, 50, 64, 75, 78, 128, 154n23, 155 Eight Choruses to Poems by Dezso˝ Tandori, 125, 141, 149, 152n17 Eight Piano Pieces, Op. 3, 2, 8, 139, 147, 152n6 Einige Sätze aus den Sudelbüchern Georg Christoph Lichtenbergs, Op. 37a, 133, 152n23 A Flower for Dénes Zsigmondy, 126 Flowers We Are, 54, 86, 129, 151n2, 155n58 Four Capriccios, Op. 9, 27, 117, 127, 152n9 Furious Chorale, 85 Grabstein für Stefan, Op. 15c, 50, 127, 147–49, 154n25 Hipartita, Op. 43, 78, 79, 121, 141, 149, 156n67 Hommage à Borsody, 11 Hommage à Mihály András. Twelve Microludes for String Quartet, Op. 13, 11, 16, 50, 75, 118, 122, 134, 147, 148, 151n7, 152n6, 158 Hommage à R. Sch., Op. 15d, 51, 149, 159 Hommage à Vidovszky, 57, 154n38 Hölderlin-Gesänge, Op. 35, 126, 149, 152n15 Il pleut sur la ville, 56 In Memory of a Winter Sunset, Op. 8, 34, 130, 152n24



Játékok, 7–9, 11, 39, 43, 51, 54, 55, 58, 68, 89, 91, 116, 121, 126, 135, 140, 143, 147–49, 151, 152n8, 153n9, 153n13, 155n53, 156n71, 156n72 Kafka Fragments, Op. 24, 33, 35, 65, 70, 73, 75, 115, 118, 121, 132, 147–49, 152n22, 154n43, 155n60, 157, 159 Korean Cantata, 73, 155n59 Lament, 69, 70, 155n53 Lebenslauf, Op. 32, 70, 136, 155n54 Messages of the Late R. V. Troussova, Op. 17, 10, 34, 116, 119, 128, 147–49, 151n5 Messages for Orchestra, Op. 34, 87, 129, 143, 155n58 New Messages for Orchestra, Op. 34a, 129 Officium breve in memoriam Andreae Szervánszky, Op. 28, 57, 65–67, 136,147, 148, 154n37, 155n52, 157 Omaggio a Luigi Nono, Op. 16, 75, 119, 120, 141, 149, 152n16 Opus 27, No. 2, 50, 64, 75, 78, 128, 154n23, 155 . . . pas à pas–nulle part . . . Op. 36, 126, 133, 149, 152n14, 152n23 Proshchai, 64, 78, 155n48 . . . quasi una fantasia . . . Op. 27 No. 1, 16, 44, 48, 49, 86, 128, 147, 148, 152n5 Rákosi Oratorio, 69, 82 Requiem po drugu, Op. 26, (also referred to in the text as Requiem for the Beloved or Requiem for a Friend), 119, 132, 147, 155n48 Rückblick, 35, 145, 148, 153n28 S. K. Remembrance Noise, Op. 12, 10, 125, 130, 148, 151n6, 152n6 Samuel Beckett: What Is the Word, 65, 72–74, 82, 123, 128, 132, 147, 149, 152n11, 153n27, 154n31 The Sayings of Péter Bornemisza, Op. 7, 5, 28, 69, 118, 130, 147, 151n1, 154n22, 157, 159 Scenes from a Novel, Op. 19, 69, 131, 147, 148, 154n19, 158 Scraps of a colinda melody—faintly recollected, 55, 152n8, 154n29 Seven Songs, Op. 22, 131, 155n49 Signs, Games and Messages, 126, 136, 137, 139–41, 144, 149, 155n55 Signs, Op. 5, 139, 140, 155n56 Six moments musicaux, Op. 44, 54, 58, 78, 138, 152n4, 153n17

Songs of Despair and Sorrow Op. 18, 142, 149, 152n12 Stele, Op. 33, 31, 49, 50, 75–77, 85, 86, 123, 129, 148, 152n13, 157 String Quartet, Op. 1, 6, 44, 57, 59, 60, 62, 63, 68, 92, 115, 116, 133, 147, 148, 152n6 Suite, for piano, four hands (ca. 1950) 133 Suite, for piano, two hands (ca. 1943) 6, 16, 58 Viola Concerto, 5, 9, 10, 56, 65, 71, 73, 127 Violin Concerto, 5, 59, 61, 85 Waltz, 135, 154n27, 154n28 What Is the Word, Op. 30a and b, 65, 72–74, 82, 123, 128, 132, 147, 149, 152n11, 153n27, 154n31 Wind Quintet, Op. 2, 63, 134, 147, 148 Kurtág, György Jr., 130, 138, 142 Kurtág, Judit, 152 Kurtág, Márta, 2, 15–17, 27–30, 33, 36, 38–40, 42, 43, 45, 49, 50, 52, 53, 59, 61–64, 70, 76, 78, 85, 87, 93, 95, 96, 99, 100, 110, 115, 132, 136, 138, 141, 153n13 Lachenmann, Helmut, 12, 13, 121, 124 László, Ferenc, 42, 121 Leeuw, Reinbert de, 50, 121 Leeuw, Ton de, 121, 152n19; Three Shakespeare Songs, 152n19 Ligeti, György, 1,2,12, 37, 38, 40–44, 50, 51, 57, 58, 60, 61, 70–72, 79, 83, 86, 89–104, 105, 107, 108, 112–16, 119– 23, 126, 138, 147–49, 154n24, 154n41, 155n44, 157, 159; Apparitions, 92, 99; Artikulation, 57, 92, 93, 107, 116, 154n41; Atmosphères, 92, 99, 100, 105, 107, 112; Aventures, 93, 105, 112, 114; Cantata No 2, 92; Chamber Concerto, 105; Concert românesc, 108; Continuum, 114; Éjszaka, 107; Etudes, 100, 114; Le Grand Macabre, 95, 96, 104, 114; Hamburgisches Konzert, 50, 108, 114, 154n24; Hungarian Etudes (Magyar Etüdök), 108, 114; Istar’s Descent Into Hell, 107; The Lobster Quadrille, 114; Lontano, 114; Lux aeterna, 114; Melodien, 98; Métamorphoses nocturnes, 107; Nonsense Madrigals, 111, 114; Nouvelles Aventures, 105, 114; Poème symphonique, 105; Reggel, 107; Requiem, 93, 105, 114;

index Síppal, dobbal, nádihegedu ˝vel, 107; String Quartet No 2, 105; Three Weöres Songs, 96; Violin Concerto, 83, 100, 114 Ligeti, Lukas, 106 Ligeti, Vera, 40, 87, 98, 101, 104, 106, 109, 111, 113, 114, 120, 139, 153n3, 153n4 Liszt, Franz, 16; Sonata in B Minor, 16 Lobanova, Marina, 104 Lukács, György (Georg), 61, 122; The History of the Development of Modern Drama, 61 Lutosławski, Witold, 3, 122, 147, 148; Jeux vénitiens, 3 Lützeler, Heinrich, 16, 122, 151 Machaut, Guillaume de, 85, 104, 122, 144 Maeterlinck, Maurice, 44 Mahler, Gustav, 15, 66 Mallarmé, Stéphane, 54, 61, 154n39 Mann, Katia, 122 Mann, Thomas, 9, 37, 62, 100, 122; Doctor Faustus, 100; Schwere Stunde, 9; Tonio Kröger, 100, 122 Maros, György, 33, 122 Maros, Rudolf, 60, 122 Marx, Karl, 39 Méfano, Paul, 32, 122 Melles, Carl (Károly), 96, 122 Memling, Hans, 105, 122 Menuhin, Yehudi, 5, 29, 122 Messiaen, Olivier, 115, 120 Meyerbeer, Giacomo, 28, 122 Mihály, András, 1, 60, 86, 122, 127, 130, 134, 148, 151n7; Cello Concerto, 86 Miklósa, Erika, 28, 122 Milhaud, Darius, 50, 60, 115, 120, 123 Miró, Joan, 104, 123 Molnár, Piroska, 129, 132 Monteverdi, Claudio, 66, 142, 155n44 Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 46, 29, 38, 56, 93, 96, 109, 115, 155n46; Abduction from the Seraglio, 94; Così fan tutte, 93; Don Giovanni, 94; Haffner Symphony, 38, 45, 46; The Magic Flute, 94; The Marriage of Figaro, 94 music theater, role in Kurtág’s music, 44, 73, 74 Musil, Robert, 100, 123; The Man Without Qualities, 123 Nancarrow, Conlon, 100, 123 Neuweiler, Gerhard, 103, 109


Nono, Luigi, 58, 75, 100, 119, 120, 123, 141, 149, 152n16; Il Canto sospeso, 100 Ockeghem, Johannes, 114 Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi da, 114, 123 Pantomime, Kurtág’s use of, 7, 44, 73, 95, 155n60, 156n61 Paris, Kurtág’s life in, 6,7,13, 54, 59–63, 71, 85, 93, 115, 116 Pärt, Arvo, 12, 123 Penderecki, Krzysztof, 5, 123, 143; Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, 5 Peskó, Zoltán, 43, 123, 129 Petrovics, Emil, 60, 123; String Quartet, 60 Picasso, Pablo, 119, 153n15 Pilinszky, János, 38, 42, 44, 65, 123, 130, 131, 135, 140, 141, 147 Piranesi, Giovanni Battista, 104, 123 Pop, Adrian, 41 Pousseur, Henri, 58, 123 Proust, Marcel, 97, 104, 123; Á la recherche du temps perdu, 97 Puccini, Giacomo, 73, 156n68; Il Tabarro, 73; Turandot, 156 Rabutin-Chantal, Marie (Marquise de Sévigné), 124 Rákosi, Mátyás, 69, 82, 123 Rattle, Sir Simon, 54, 123 Rauschenberg, Robert, 57, 120, 123 Reich, Steve, 13, 71, 123, 149 Rembrandt, Harmenszoon van Rijn, 98, 153n12; Doktor Faustus (etching), 98 Renoir, Jean, 64; La bête humaine, 64 Respighi, Ottorino, 70, 124 Rihm, Wolfgang, 12, 124, 143 Rimbaud, Arthur, 38, 61, 124; Les Illuminations, 61 Robbins, Herbert, 97, 124; What Is Mathematics?, 97 Romaşcanu, Stefan, 1, 6, 50, 59, 61, 62, 124, 155n46 S. Nagy, Katalin, 17, 124 Sandner, Wolfgang, 103 Sárai, Tibor, 59, 60, 124 Sáry, László, 65, 124 Savonarola, Girolamo, 61 Schiller, Friedrich von, 9 Schlee, Alfred, 58, 124, 129, 136, 137 Schnittke, Alfred, 70, 124, 143



Schoenberg, Arnold, 68, 89, 118, 124, 126 Schønwandt, Michael, 76, 124, 130, 157, 161 Schubert, Franz, 4, 16, 38 82, 109, 118, 122, 124, 163; Quintet in C, 16; Unfinished Symphony, 4, 16 Schumann, Robert, 38, 147, 154n21, 162; Phantasiestücke, Op. 12, 154n21 Seiber, Mátyás, 5, 124 Shakespeare, William, 31, 95, 104, 152n19, 155n57, 163; As You Like It, 155n57; A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 95 Shallon, David, 54, 124 Shostakovich, Dmitri, 76, 89, 125, 156n65; Four Songs of Captain Lebyadkin, 76, 156n65; Katerina Ismailova, 156n65 Siklós, István, 128, 132, 153n27, 154n31 Simon, Albert, 1, 124, 129 Simor, András, 9 Socrates, 61, 86, 103, 125 Somlyó, György, 15, 125 Sophocles, 53, 118; Electra, 53, 118 Stan, Constantin Tufan, 88 Stein, Emil, 16 Stein, Marianne, 6, 60, 115, 125, 132, 133 Stein, Stephan, 127 Stockhausen, Karlheinz, 13, 38, 57, 58, 70, 87, 92, 100, 116, 123, 125, 145, 148, 153n28, 154n40; Gruppen, 70, 92, 116, 148, 154; . . . wie die Zeit vergeht . . . , 57 Stravinsky, Igor, 10, 12, 31, 38, 56, 57, 89, 96, 149; Les Noces, 94; Le Sacre du printemps, 56, 83 Sulyok, Ferenc (Franz), 1, 60–63, 93–95, 134 Szabolcsi, Bence, 54, 98, 125 Szego˝, Júlia, 43 Szervánszky, Endre, 66, 67, 120, 125, 147, 154n37, 155n52; String Serenade, 66, 155n52 Szervánszky, Valéria, 140 Szokolay, Sándor, 60, 125; Lorca Songs, 60 Szoltsányi, György, 91, 125 Szo˝llo˝sy, András, 87

Tandori, Dezso˝, 31, 125, 130, 131, 141, 149, 151n6, 152n17 Tašca˘u, Remus, 88 Tchaikovsky, Piotr Ilich, 83; Violin Concerto, 83 teaching, Kurtág’s practice of, 30, 31, 32, 55 Tolstoy, Lev Nikolayevich, Count, 38, 77, 125; War and Peace, 77 Toscanini, Arturo, 8, 28, 125 Valéry, Paul, 61; L’âme et la danse, 61; Eupalinos ou l’architecte, 61 Varga, Bálint András, 15, 97 Varga, Fanni and Flóra, 136 Verdi, Giuseppe, 8, 28, 71, 73, 96, 126; La forza del destino, 28; Requiem, 71; Rigoletto, 73; La Traviata, 8, 96; Les Vêpres siciliennes, 28 Veress, Sándor, 70, 126, 136, 137, 148, 157 Vidovszky, László, 9, 38, 57, 104, 126, 154n38; Autokoncert, 9, 126 Vieru, Anatol, 44, 45, 126 Viski, János, 59, 126 Wagner, Richard, 40, 66, 71, 78, 161, 162, 164; Lohengrin, 71; Siegfried, 78; Tristan und Isolde, 40, 71; Wesendonck-Lieder, 110 Walser, Robert, 100, 126 Webern, Anton, 5, 12, 38, 58, 68, 100, 113, 118, 126, 128, 155n44, 157; Symphonie, Op. 21, 113; Variationen, Op. 27, 68 Weiner, Leó, 115, 125, 126, 155 Weöres, Sándor, 42, 96, 100, 104, 107, 126 Wilheim, András, 10, 28, 126, 139, 141, 159 Xenakis, Françoise, 39; Zut, on a encore oublié Mme Freud, 39 Xenakis, Iannis, 12, 39, 75, 123, 126 Zathureczky, Ede, 5, 126 Zimmermann, Tabea, 54, 124, 126

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