Dear Music Lovers,
“This is truly wonderful,” wrote Béla Bartók, full of enthusiasm, in May 1918 to his friend, the Romanian professor Ioan Busitia. Universal-Edition (then still written with a hyphen) had made him an offer in January. He wrote: “After prolonged negotiations we finally agreed on all points and I signed the contract only a few days ago; all my works that are still unpublished or yet to be written will be published over the next few years.” His Hungarian publisher had not printed any of his works since 1912. In UE he had now found a new artistic home, which led Denijs Dille, founder of the Bartók archive in Budapest, to remark that Vienna was almost more important for Bartók than Budapest.
Bartók’s youth was characterised by frequent moves to different towns in a multi-ethnic country that was rapidly disintegrating. This is presumably what made the ideas of “home” and “home country” difficult for Bartók to grasp from a young age, and this vulnerability is something that affected him throughout his entire life. The political situation eventually forced Bartók to emigrate to America and then end his contract with UE in 1939, six years before his death. Jenö Takács, another UE composer (at this point we would specifically like to mention his Tarantella for piano and orchestra), recounts some highly personal memories from this time.
Zoltán Kodály, whose works “embody the Hungarian spirit in their heart and soul” (Bartók), remained in Hungary, but as a patriot rather than as a nationalist, as Mihály Ittzés clearly explains. For him, Kodály’s perspective was primarily a historical one, and it was in fact Kodály who told György Ligeti that he had to perfect his skills in transcribing Romanian folk music: “If you don’t do it, you will never become a composer.”
As well as the Bartók-Kodály relationship, Ligeti and Kurtág are two more composers from Hungary who remained closely connected as both friends and artists for their entire lives.
Ligeti’s relationship with UE was sadly only short-lived and yet it was incredibly fruitful. With Atmosphères (1961), he wrote a modern classic. We have a longer tradition of cooperation with György Kurtág and would like to draw your attention specifically to The Sayings of Péter Bornemisza (1963– 1968), one of the most original pieces of music in existence. To conclude, we are proud to present some astonishing, rare works by Franz Liszt.
We hope you will enjoy this issue.
The UE Promotion Team