Zoltán Kodály - Dances of Galánta [With score]
Published at : 03 Jan 2021
Composer: Zoltán Kodály (16 December 1882 -- 6 March 1967)
Orchestra: Budapest Festival Orchestra
Conductor: Iván Fischer
Dances of Galánta (Galánti táncok), for orchestra, written in 1933
Despite the prominence of folk music in his career, Kodály was a type of artist/scholar -- an omnicompetent musician who composed fastidiously crafted chamber works richly colored by a fascination with French music, Debussy in particular, that were accepted by an international public long before they were embraced by his countrymen. He did not come to prominence in his native land until his Psalmus Hungaricus, given its premiere in 1923, took the audience by storm and went on to performances around the world. The first version of his opera Háry János (1926) met even greater success. The pattern of cosmopolitan influence and international acceptance, coupled with incomprehension and hostility at home, is paralleled in the career of his exact contemporary, the Polish composer Karol Szymanowski. But Szymanowski came to Polish folk music late in life, seizing upon it as a basis for a major stylistic turning point; Kodály grew up in the provinces, hearing folk music all around him. Beginning in 1905, he began collecting folk songs, eventually notating over 4,000 examples and publishing landmark scholarly articles on his discoveries. Among them was the gulf between authentic folk song, usually modal, and folk music overlaid by popular European dance idioms spiced with flamboyant gypsy ornamentation -- verbunkos music. Before Kodály and Bartók, authentic Hungarian folk music was overshadowed by verbunkos music, which had come to be accepted as the national Hungarian idiom. Even Liszt, seduced by the brilliance of gypsy musicians, was moved by it, and much of the material included in his Hungarian Rhapsodies is verbunkos in origin. Kodály's family moved to the village of Galánta before he was two and remained there for some seven years. Thus, when he was commissioned for a work by the Budapest Philharmonic Society in 1933 to commemorate its 80th anniversary, Kodály turned to his origins. Curiously, most of the material of Dances of Galánta is verbunkos-related, though its companion piece, the Marosszék Dances, employs authentic folk tunes. After an evocative flourish, a series of dances -- the sultry and insinuating giving way to the exhilarating and scintillant -- brilliantly conceived in opulent, glowing orchestral sonorities, place Dances of Galánta shoulder to shoulder with such ripe masterpieces as Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain and Dukas' La Péri while looming as perhaps the last and finest composition in the mold of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies. Kodály conducted the Budapest Philharmonic at its premiere on December 19, 1934.