Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
György Kurtág

György Kurtág: Three Interviews and Ligeti Homages

Compiled and Edited by Bálint András Varga
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 186
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    György Kurtág
    Book Description:

    György Kurtág (b. 1926) is widely regarded as one of the foremost composers in the second half of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first. Born in Romania, he received crucial training in Paris from Olivier Messiaen and Marianne Stein. He was also shaped by his broadening contact there with the music of Webern and such challenging literary works as the plays of Samuel Beckett. After many years in Hungary, teaching at the Budapest Academy of Music, Kurtág settled near Bordeaux with his wife Márta. The two regularly perform duo-recitals of his music. In 2006, his . . . concertante . . . (2003, for violin, viola and orchestra) won the coveted Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. This unique set of interviews with Kurtág, alone or with his wife, gives a fascinating insight into the composer's personality, which is marked by shyness but also an unquenchable thirst for impressions of every kind (artistic, natural and human). The two speak with disarming openness about their lives -- the background against which masterpieces like Messages of the Late Miss R. V. Troussova (1976-80, for soprano and chamber orchestra) or Stele (1994, for orchestra) were written. The analysis of certain of Kurtág's works, especially of . . . concertante . . ., shows the way that his mind works: no system, no dogma, no formulae -- rather, basic human emotions expressed through means that speak directly to the listener's innermost feelings. The Hungarian music publisher Bálint András Varga has spent nearly forty years working for and with composers. He has published several books, including extensive interviews with Lutoslawski, Berio, and Xenakis.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-724-7
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Bálint András Varga
  4. Note on Place Names
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction: A Portrait Sketch of György Kurtág in Three Sittings
    (pp. 1-3)

    Indeed, this book cannot aspire to be more than a portrait sketch. Experience with work on our interviews, once their texts had been securely saved on the computer, taught me that the guiding principle governing Kurtág’s life—penetrating below the surface, penetrating ever deeper—was also true of this genre. There was no subject, no scrap of memory, no experience that, once considered in a new context, did not conjure up further important details that demanded inclusion in the material. The range of associations cajoled from his subconscious was fascinating.

    That was one aspect of our encounters that rendered them...

  6. One Three Questions to György Kurtág (1982–1985)
    (pp. 4-11)

    Bálint András Varga (BAV):Has listening to a piece of music brought about a fundamental change in your musical thinking?

    György Kurtág (GYK):I was eleven or twelve years old when the experience that turned me into a musician occurred. Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony was playing on the radio, and when my parents told me what it was we were listening to, I was amazed that adults could recognize classical music! Sometime after that, I was alone at home and again listening to music on the radio. I realized that they were playing the “Unfinished” Symphony. I asked for and was...

  7. Two The Three Questions Again (1996)
    (pp. 12-36)

    More than twenty years after publishing the interviews with eighty-two composers, I thought it would be revealing to approach them again to see whether the views they had expressed were still valid. In response, Helmut Lachenmann completely reworked his replies, turning them into a veritable essay; Henri Dutilleux made several alterations to the text; Boulez toned down the edges of his critical remarks regarding the music of Morton Feldman; and Wolfgang Rihm, Hans Werner Henze, and many others saw no need for revision. I had hoped that a second edition of the book could be brought out, also including younger...

  8. Three Key Words (2007–2008)
    (pp. 37-88)

    The title of this third interview, recorded in November 2007 and April 2008 in the Kurtágs’ Budapest apartment, has been chosen to serve as a hint to the method I used in formulating my questions. We did not have sufficient time at our disposal to discuss every single composition or indeed all the pivotal works. Instead, I decided to concentrate on just a few pieces written over the past years and to examine them through the means of key words, that is, characteristic features that apply to Kurtág’s music in general. Also, I thought it best to approach the compositions...

  9. Four Mementos of a Friendship: György Kurtág on György Ligeti
    (pp. 89-114)

    Friendship—the sharing, the opening of one’s innermost self; the give-and-take of ideas, experiences, and help; the courage to express criticism and the courage to accept it—is a gift. It is one that has enriched György Kurtág’s life and, through his decades-long friendship with György Ligeti, become part of music history.

    Debussy and Ravel, Britten and Tippett, Stravinsky and Schoenberg, Shostakovich and Prokofiev: history has witnessed several pairs and peers among great composers working alongside one another without becoming friends—indeed, in some cases, with rivalry and animosity rendering any close contact impossible. Bartók and Kodály offer a counterexample:...

  10. Five A Brief Biography of György Kurtág
    (pp. 115-116)

    György Kurtág was born on February 19, 1926, at Lugos (Lugoj in Romanian) in the Bánát region of Romania. He has been a Hungarian citizen since 1948 and has held dual Hungarian and French citizenship since 2002.

    Kurtág started playing the piano at age five with lessons from Klára Vojkicza-Peia. In subsequent years, music-making with his mother was an important source of inspiration: they played arrangements for piano duet of symphonies by Haydn and Beethoven as well as overtures by Mozart. The first genuine pedagogue in his life, the piano teacher Magda Kardos at Temesvár (Timişoara), exerted a lifelong influence...

  11. Personalia
    (pp. 117-126)
  12. List of Works
    (pp. 127-146)
  13. Discography
    (pp. 147-150)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 151-156)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 157-160)
  16. Index
    (pp. 161-166)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 167-171)