The poetry of Paul Verlaine inspired several songs by Debussy. Il pleure dans mon coeur is no. 2 in the cycle Ariettes oubliées. The same poem is used as a motto for a short piano piece by Zoltán Kodály: no. 3 in the Seven Pieces for Piano, op. 11 (Esik a városban). The paper describes the madrigalesque word painting of Kodály’s composition on the one hand, and analyzes the modes of its melodic material on the other. In a broader context, the influence of French art (the music of Debussy in particular) on the artistic development of the young Kodály is discussed, as well as the two composers’ mutual estimation of each other.
During a tour of Austria-Hungary in December 1910, Debussy met a young Hungarian Francophile composer, Géza Vilmos Zágon (1889–1918). The latter sent him the manuscript of the Pierrot lunaire, a cycle of six melodies from the collection of the Belgian poet Albert Giraud. Debussy reviews the vocal line, emphasizing that the corrections he has made almost all concern “prosodic accents.” This rereading of a work by a young composer is a unique case for Debussy and testifies not only to his openness to young composers, but also to his interest in Giraud's poems, as André Schaeffner had so rightly anticipated in 1953 in his article “Variations Schoenberg.” It also reveals Debussy's deep sensitivity to the French language verse and rhythm.
It is sufficiently well documented how Kodály and Bartók discovered the music of Claude Debussy in 1907, albeit Debussy’s music was not unknown in Hungary at least since the first performance of his String Quartet in the autumn of 1905. The present essay gives a survey of Debussy’s early critical reception in the Hungarian press from the first Budapest performances of his works until the obituaries of 1918; Debussy’s visit to Budapest at the beginning of December 1910 is discussed in detail. Though the majority of the press was not really open to Debussy’s new music, there were some supporters and knowledgeable enthusiasts of his art right from the beginning; moreover, the Royal Hungarian Opera House was going to première
Pelléas et Mélisande
as early as the 1908–1909 season but for unknown reasons this was postponed until 1926. By the end of the first decade of the 20th century, Debussy was acclaimed in Hungary as one of the most important composers of new music, though the lasting value of his art was then open to doubt. But his aesthetics was considered a model by the representatives of new Hungarian music and their devotees; as Kodály put it in 1918, ‘his compass points towards a purer art of superior quality’.
In a draft from 1935 of Enesco's Second Sonata for Piano and Cello, on one of the pages of the first movement, there is an unexpected notation: a transcription by Enesco of a country melody - a “hora lungă” (long song) from Bartók's collection, Volksmusik der Rumänen von Maramureş (Munich, 1923). The piece copied by Enesco is that of no. 23 e from the aforementioned collection. Right near this excerpt, Enesco inserts a quick sketch, written on a single staff, of the third movement from the sonata, Andantino cantabile senza lentezza. The close vicinity of the two notations is not random. Certain correspondences between the folk melody and the cello solo that opens the slow movement of the sonata are established at the level of some generative patterns that are actualized differently in the two melodic texts. A structural parallel can be traced between two piano pieces written, respectively, by Enesco and Bartók: Carillon nocturne - the last of the seven Pièces impromptus op. 18 (1916) written by the Romanian composer and piece no. VII (“à la mémoire de Debussy”) from. Bartók's cycle Improvisations sur des chansons paysannes op. 20 (1920). The analogy regards especially the harmonic language of the two pieces. The particular characteristics of this harmonic writing place the two compositions in the common realm of a post-Debussy modernity
The history of the genre of the sonata written for violoncello and pianoforte begins in 1796 with the five sonatas by Beethoven opp. 5, 69 and 102. The sonata op. 69 is a model for its special role until the 20th century: the lyrical character of the opening theme with a fantasy-like closing solo-cadenza and a fermata. Since the 1st Sonata of Brahms (1865), it was mostly young composers like Strauss (op. 6), Pfitzner (op. 1), Reger (op. 5) and Dohnányi (op. 8) who followed this tradition. As also the Sonata op. 4 by the young composer Kodály (1909) whose opening Adagio as “Fantasia” has the same conceptions: rhapsodic melody with closing cadenza and a fermata. The final return of the Adagio establishes a cyclic unity. The first performance of the sonata in 1910 with string quartets by Kodály and Bartók founded the beginning of modern music in Hungary. Also the Sonatina, originally the 3rd part of Sonata, published in 1922, has a Lento-introduction with rhapsodic-like parts wich begins a process-like evolution of composition. A relationship with the special features of the Sonata for Cello and Piano in the history of the genre includes also works by Debussy (1915) and Hindemith (1919).
A forgotten figure of the new Hungarian musical movement of the 1910s, Géza Vilmos Zágon (1889–1918) was a talented composer, pianist and music writer. He belonged among those young composers who turned toward French culture instead of the traditional German orientation and searched for new inspiration in Paris. He was, at the same time, one of the few to be personally acquainted with leading personalities of the city’s musical life: letters by Claude Debussy, Michel-Dimitri Calvocoressi, Louis Laloy, Émile Vuillermoz and Albert Zunz Mathot have survived in his legacy. During his stay in France between 1912 and 1914, he acted as the representant of the former UMZE (Új Magyar Zene Egyesület, New Hungarian Music Association), and did not only bring attention to himself as a performer of his own works, but was also instrumental in promoting those by Bartók and Kodály. In the present study, I seek to demonstrate that Zágon served as an important liaison for Bartók’s circle with some of the most influential groups of French avant-garde, the Société Musicale Indépendante, as well as Calvocoressi. In an effort to document these important relationships as well as Zágon’s activity, I publish a selection of his correspondence in original language, with French translation provided where appropriate.
Bartók’s later works from the years 1939–1945 present an impressive synthesis of his musical innovations. Beginning with the Divertimento and Sixth String Quartet (both composed in 1939), the Hungarian composer starts with a freely tonal, neo-Classical foundation. Above this initial compositional level he then superimposes Beethovenian formal structures gleaned from the latter’s opp. 53 and 135, in addition to a prominent Stravinsky quotation from The Rite of Spring, part two. In both works Bartók achieves an impressive large-scale cyclical unity, frequently through wholetone scalar integration.
The Concerto for Orchestra (1943) blends pervasive quotation techniques with analogous cyclical intervallic patterns, such as major third cells on F–A–D4. One is again distinctly reminded of the F Major Divertimento. Like the latter work, the Concerto is especially notable for its expansive codas, which function in the manner of Beethovenian second developments. Similarly, the Sonata for Solo Violin (1944) fuses neo-Bachian counterpoint with the expansive forms of the Concerto for Orchestra. Finally, the interrelated last two Concertos for piano and viola (both penned in 1945) present a cumulative synthesis of Bartókʼs later style, emphasizing the tertial (and modal) degrees of VI and flattened VI. Here, too, we encounter elaborate quotational systems that distantly recall the 1910s and 1920s music of French composers as Debussy, Ravel and Satie.
of German parents. It is also true that I admire Smetana. Yet I admire also Debussy, and that does not make me a Frenchman – commented Mahler, as leading conductor of the New York Philharmonic, to the New York Daily Tribune in 1910. 55 What is
” principles, harmony has triumphed. By the nineteenth century, harmony dominated music so strongly that melody and rhythm became increasingly impoverished. … What Saint-Saëns sought for in the Far East and in the Church modes, what Debussy found in the Russian