GYÖRGY KURTÁG (1926, Lugos/Lugoj, Rumania) started his music education in 1940 with piano lessons (Magda Kardos) and composition training with Max Eisikovits in Timisoara. Hoping to become a pupil of Béla Bartók, he moved after the war to Budapest (as did György Ligeti, also from Romania, since then Kurtág’s close friend). Their hopes were dashed by Bartók’s death. From 1946 Kurtág studied with Sándor Veress, Ferenc Farkas, Pál Kadosa and Leó Weiner at the Franz Liszt Music Academy in Budapest. In 1957–1958, Kurtág studied in Paris with Marianne Stein and attended courses of Messiaen and Milhaud. As a result, he rethought his ideas on composition and marked the first work he wrote after hist return to Budapest, the String Quartet, as his Opus 1. He worked as a rehearsal pianist at the National Philharmonic (1960-68), since 1967 he was teaching piano, later also chamber music at the Budapest Academy. With the DAAD scholarship he lived for a year in Berlin. In 1995/1996 he was appointed composer-in-residence at Vienna’s Konzerthaus. Kurtág received several awards at home and abroad (Erkel and Kossuth Awards, Officier des Arts et des Lettres, Fellow of the Bayerische Akademie der Schönen Künste, Akademie der Künste Berlin, the Herder Award, Austrian State Award for European Composers, etc.).
“The overwhelming majority of Kurtág’s works are chamber pieces. The large form is made up of a string of short movements. His goals – and his means – are to stay as much as possible with as few notes as possible. The impulse to compose stems from a strong desire to share his message – let the sheets of music be handbills, let them carry this message to the people. There are two fundamental gestures: the lyrical song and the spasmodic, jerky, surging and balking motion. The material may consist of just an objet trouvé (such as a scale) or indeed of an intricate web of parts rich in cross-references, allusions and interconnections. Tenderness and brutality, eroticism and suffering, wit and pain – the basic human exerience – are integrated in song cycles (for voice alone, accompanied by the piano or the dulcimer, small groups of instruments or large ensembles – but never orchestra), in instrumental solos or chamber ensembles“.
Bálint András Varga
Works (selection): Viola Concerto (1954), String Quartet (1959), Wind Quintet (1959), Eight Piano Pieces (1960), Eight Duos for violin and dulcimer (1961), Signs for solo viola (1961), The Sayings of Péter Bornemisza for soprano and piano (1963 – 1968), In Memory of a Winter Sunset, four fragments for soprano, violin and dulcimer (1969), Four capriccios for soprano and chamber ensemble (1972), Games for piano in 4 books (1973 – 1976), Four Songs to Poems by János Pilinszky for bass/bass-baritone and chamber ensemble (1975), S. K. Remembrance Noise, 7 songs for soprano and violin (1975), Messages of the late Miss R. V. Troussova for soprano and chamber ensemble (1976 – 1980), Hommage à Mihály András for string quartet (1977), The Little Predicament for piccolo, trombone and guitar (1978), Herdecker Eurythmie for flute/violin/voice and tenor lyre (1979), Omaggio à Luigi Nono for a cappella mixed chorus (1979), Bagatelles for flute, piano and double bass (1981), Attila József Fragments for soprano solo (1981), Seven Songs for soprano and dulcimer to poems by Amy Károlyi and Kobayashi Issa (1981), Scenes from a Novel, songs for soprano, violin, double bass and dulcimer to poems by Rimma Dalos (1981 – 1982), Eight choruss (1981/1982 – 1984), Kafka-Fragmente for soprano and violin (1985 – 1986), Three Old Inscriptions for soprano and violin (1986), Requiem for the Beloved for soprano and piano (1986 – 1987), ...quasi una Fantasia... (No. 1 for piano and instrumental groups 1987 – 1988, No. 2 for piano, cello and chamber ensembles 1989 – 1990), Officium breve for string quartet (1988 – 1989), 3 in memoriam for piano for 1-2-3 hands (1988 – 1990), Ligatura-Message to Frances-Marie (The Answered Unanswered Question), 3 versions for different forces (1989), Grabstein für Stephan for guitar and instrumental groups (1989), Ligature e Versetti for organ (1990), Hommage à R. Sch. for clarinet, viola and piano (1990), Samuel Beckett: What is the Word...for voices, piano and ensemble (1991), Transcriptions from Machaut to J. S. Bach for piano (duet and 6 hands) and for 2 pianos (1974 – 1991), Lebenslauf for 2 pianos and 2 basset horns (1992), Looking Back (Hommage à Stockhausen, a composed programme of works and transcritpions of works by the composer for trumpet, double bass and keyboard instruments (1993), Tre pezzi per violino e pianoforte (1993), Games – 2nd series for piano (1975 – 1993), Songs of Dispair and Sorrow, 6 choruses for mixed chorus with instruments (1980 – 1994), Stele for large orchestra (1994), Messages for orchestra (1991– work in progress|, Kurtág’s part (Epilog) in Requiem der Versöhnung (1995), Hölderlin-Gesänge (1993 – work in progress), Samuel Becket for baritone solo, Einige Sätze aus den Sudelbüchern Georg Christoph Lichtenbergs for soprano solo (1996), Tre pezzi per clarinetto e dulcimer, Tre altri pezzi per clarinetto e dulcimer, Signs, Games and Messages for strings (1989 – 1996), Scenes for flute (1999).