The major influence on the music of György Kurtág and Péter Eötvös can be seen in Bartók's compositions. Both composers described his music as their ”mother tongue”. Results of an interview with Eötvös, an analysis of his composition ”Kosmos” and sketches of Kurtág, lead to the conclusion that both composers' view of Bartók is heavily influenced by Lendvai's theories. Kurtág's Opus 30a serves as an example for the use of Lendvai's theory at a harmonic level.
The year 1955 has a special importance for the compositional thinking in Hungary, because it was the year in which Ernő Lendvai's studies of Béla Bartók appeared (Bartók's Style and An Introduction to the Analysis of Bartók's Works). These writings were intended to prove the modernity of his music, a modernity that was comparable to Western-European dodecaphony and serialism. Hungarian composers, attempting to liberate themselves from the dictatorical aesthetic theory of the fifties, saw in Lendvai's publications a kind of instruction book, a Kompositionslehre which could help them to renew Hungarian composition. Model scales, Bartók's harmonic formulas and the Golden Section were understood in this context as devices of modernity in new music. Young Hungarian composers had begun to follow Bartók's path as early as in the mid-twenties. Until 1955, however, this had meant only a stylistic imitation of his works: Bartók's musical language represented for them the modern manner of self-expression. The consequence of Lendvai's publications was that composers could move away from style imitation and build on some Bartókian constructional principles in their compositions. I take Endre Szervánszky's Second String Quartet (1956-57) and its manuscript sources as a case study demonstrating how the composer worked with scale models, the golden section and other elements of Lendvai's theory. As I argue, Szervánszky's work is an emblematic but also a complex case, for he strove to combine the Bartókian method with a kind of serialism.
After three decades of our personal, publicly conducted discussion with Ernő Lendvai, in 1999 at a conference organized in memory of Bence Szabolcsi, I raised again my objections related his theories. Since my lecture was given in Hungarian, and its printed version was published in Hungarian language (Muzsika 2000, Bartók-analitika 2003), I feel necessary to present some of my objetions on an international forum as well, with particular aspect to the fact that in the Bartók literature - in spite of serious criticism (Petersen, Gillies) - several analysts employ up to now Lendvai's theories in a servile way. My objections are focussed upon four points. 1. The extension of Riemann's three-function theory to the twelvetone system is a theoretical arbitrariness and an impasse. 2. The axis interpretation of the tonalities - by identification of polar keys - is in flat contradiction with Bartók's tonal thinking. 3. The pentatony interpreted as a golden section system is very much doubtful according basic experiences of the ethnomusicology. 4. The typical Bartókian chord structures - named by Lendvai α, β etc. - are phenomenologically correct, but their interpretation by Fibonacci figures is arbitrary, because the actual intervals represent another ratios.
Ligeti’s claim that his etudes are neither tonal nor atonal can be demonstrated with the functions of the fifths in the etude No. 8 “Fém.” The fifths are integrated into the musical relationships partly in a traditional and partly in a modern manner. Customarily, the interval of a fifth is added to single tones in order to establish tonal spaces and implying fundamentals. A peculiarly modern aspect is the use of fifths as parts of the overtone series.
After the political and cultural seclusion of the 1950s young Hungarian composers turned to Western European new music. While learning contemporary compositional techniques they were searching for a new Hungarian identity in music. The musicological discourse about new Hungarian music concentrated on the ‘Hungarianness’ of their music too. Composers used Hungarian literary texts, and referred to Hungarian music culture with musical allusions. They inherited the idea of the combination of the up-to-date Western European compositional techniques with the old Hungarian tradition from Kodály and Bartók, i.e. they were aware of the primacy of tradition. György Kurtág’s (1926) concerto for soprano and piano, The Sayings of Péter Bornemisza (1963–1968) represented for Hungarian musicians the paradigmatic example of new Hungarian music, modern and traditional at the same time. It was based on an old Hungarian text from the 16th-century, like Kodály’s Psalmus Hungaricus (1923). The vocal part, however, refers to Webern’s melodic concept, the piano part follows Stockhausen’s piano writing, and Kurtág quotes neither Hungarian folk music nor old Hungarian art music. The paper investigates by means of musical analysis the question why contemporaries felt that Kurtág’s piece represents unambiguously a Hungarian identity. Kurtág — as well as his contemporaries — uses symbols, allusions connected to certain words and word-paintings while concentrating on the picturesque elements of music. The source of this compositional attitude is Kodály’s oeuvre, foremost the Psalmus Hungaricus. From this angle Kurtág’s The Sayings stands for the new-old Hungarian musical tradition.
The paper examines how members of the “Cluj/Kolozsvár School” of composition, the disciples of Sigismund Toduţă, Gábor Jodál, Max Eisikovits and János Jagamas dealt with the influence of Bartók. One can find traces of Bartókian influence in the work of Transylvanian composers beginning from the 1950s, a series of hommage-compositions being written on the occasion of Bartók-anniversaries in 1965, 1970 and especially 1981. The last piece mentioned was composed in 1998. The paper focuses on the cases of five individual composers: Cornel Ţăranu, Ede Terényi, Péter Vermesy, György Orbán and Boldizsár Csíky. In addition to the analysis of certain compositions à la Bartók written by them, their declarations as well as the role of Ernő Lendvai's theories are taken into consideration. A distinction is made among (1) the arrangements of folk music melodies collected by Bartók, (2) the hommage-pieces containing quotations from Bartók's art music, and finally, (3) those longer or shorter periods in a composer's career in which Bartók's influence can be detected in a whole series of compositions.
The article examines the topic of spleen (mal du siècle) as one of the main types of organization in the expressive structures of Liszt’s compositions. A series of relevant literary works are considered, which were read by Liszt and inspired a revolution in his musical language as early as 1834. The writings of Chateaubriand, Senancour, Byron (and a forerunner, Schiller), classified by Albert Thibaudet as the literature of emigration of the first romantic generation, drastically changed the classical concept of the Sublime, while the writings of Lamennais and Lamartine, labelled as the religious literature of the second generation, offered a remedy against the deep malaise by involving the faith in God. Views of another literary historian are also employed: Paul Bénichou distinguishes the spiritual counter-revolution in royalist and Catholic poetry (Chateaubriand), the rather exceptional case of Senancour who rejected religion remaining faithful to the spirit of the eighteenth century, and the humanist Romantic movement hallmarked by Lamartine’s optimism and Lamennais’s vision of Christian democracy. The musical analyses reveals that the themes and doctrines of the intellectual party of the counter-revolution, of emigration, and of Senancour led to Liszt’s use of instrumental recitativo, of French and Italian indications to the performer expressing the mal du siècle and the “negative sublime,” and of a harmonic system extended to the twelve tones Ernő Lendvai called in the 1950s the axis system, in reference to Bartók’s music. The influence of the romantic “humanitarian” literary current is presented in the area of Liszt’s formal conception and use of isotopies. From the synthesis of the narrative strategies, including some of Liszt’s major compositions, it becomes obvious that there is a simple model, invariably going through four stages or thematic complexes (Vallée d’Obermann), which is extended with two or three further isotopies in the case of longer pieces.
where these ‘repulsions’ on the clarinets, if one may refer to them as such, take their extending-narrowing symbolism; their effect is only heightened by the tentacles of the melody stretching intervals of sixths and even sevenths.” ErnőLENDVAI, Bartók