Zoltan Kodaly (1882-1967)


01A Maverick20150601

This week Donald Macleod surveys the life and work of one of Hungary's greatest musicians - Zoltán Kodály. As composer, educationalist, musicologist, scholar, and passionate champion of indigenous folk music, Kodály worked tirelessly throughout his life in the service of music making. Born in rural Hungary at a time when the railways were still a relatively new presence in the landscape, Kodály lived his life in the face of a storm of technical, cultural, and political change. A near contemporary of Béla Bartók, with whom he became collaborator and lifelong friend, Kodály devoted his own artistry to the service of his nation and its people, developing radical techniques for teaching music to children. Donald Macleod is joined by Kodály scholar and teacher David Vinden to discuss Kodály's life and legacy, and to enjoy some of his vividly evocative music.

Donald Macleod and Kodaly scholar David Vinden focus on the composer's life and legacy.

01The Mission20090727

Donald Macleod explores the music of Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly.

He traces the composer's early life, and how his experiences growing up in the Hungarian countryside and as a young man in Budapest, as well as his friendship with Bela Bartok, shaped his desire to change Hungarian music for ever.

Evening Song

Ars Nova Kamarakorus

Katalin Kiss (conductor)

Private recording - not commercially available

Dances of Galanta

Budapest Festival Orchestra

Ivan Fischer (conductor)

Philips 462 824-2, Tr 1


Chamber Choir of Pecs

Aurel Tillai (conductor)

Hungaroton Classic HCD 31524, Tr 14

Lovely is the Forest

Maria Basilides (mezzo-soprano)

Bela Bartok (piano)

Hungaroton HCD12327 CD1, Tr 8

Nine Piano Pieces (excerpts)

Adam Fellegi (piano)

Hungaroton Classic 31540-41, CD1 Trs 8-11, 14

String Quartet No 1 (1st mvt)

Kodaly Quartet

Hungaroton HCD 12362-2, Tr 1.

Donald Macleod explores Kodaly's early life, including his youth spent in the countryside.


Zoltán Kodály's early life took him from rural Hungary to Budapest, then on to the glamour of 1900s Berlin and Paris. Donald Macleod traces the course of the journey.

A sense of happy adventure seems to have characterised the early life of Zoltán Kodály. Born into an idyllic childhood in rural Hungary, he claimed to have learnt to sing before he could talk. At 16 he left home for university in Budapest, where he met the woman who would become his wife and the man who would become his lifelong friend, Béla Bartók. Together Kodály and Bartók were in the vanguard of a new breed - musicologists - as they set out into the depths of the Hungarian countryside capturing for posterity the sounds of the folk music they heard. Kodály's adventures continued with study visits to Berlin, where he encountered the brilliance of the Joachim String Quartet, and to Paris, where the music of Debussy made an indelible impression. In conversation with Kodály expert David Vinden, Donald Macleod looks at the formative years of this unique and maverick composer.

Donald Macleod traces the course of Zoltan Kodaly's early life.

02War And Revolution20090728

Donald Macleod examines how the First World War and the subsequent traumatic events in Hungary led to a time of compositional silence in the career of Kodaly in the early 1920s, a period that signalled a complete transformation of his musical output.

A Red Apple Smiles (Two Folk Songs from Zobor)

Gyor Girls' Choir

Miklos Szabo (conductor)

Hungaroton HCD 12948

Cello Sonata, Op 8

Janos Starker (cello)

Philips 422 302-2, Trs 1-3

Psalmus Hungaricus, Op 13

Andras Molnar (tenor)

Hungarian State Chorus

Bela Bartok Children's Chorus of Gyor

Budapest Festival Orchestra

Ivan Fischer (conductor)

Hungaroton SLPD 31324, Tr 1.

A Red Apple Smiles (Two Folk Songs from Zobor); Cello Sonata, Op 8; Psalmus Hungaricus.

03A Folk Hero20150603

Few composers have championed their nation's folk music as passionately as Zoltán Kodály. Talking to scholar David Vinden, Donald Macleod picks out some gems.

"Real art is one of the most powerful forces in the rise of mankind, and he who renders it accessible to as many people as possible is a true benefactor of humanity." So said Hungarian composer, Zoltán Kodály. As a young man growing up in the early years of the twentieth century, he identified, with almost religious zeal, his duty to celebrate the folk music of his native country. Kodály captured it on primitive recording devices, transcribed it, and arranged it for children's choirs; but perhaps even more importantly, elevated it to the status of concert hall art music. In doing so, particularly in the years following the first world war when Hungary was economically decimated, Kodály played a vital role in helping a nation to rebuild itself in the wake of a devastating conflict.

Donald Macleod discusses Kodaly's championing of his Hungarian homeland's folk music.

03International Acclaim20090729

Donald Macleod explores how, despite intense criticism in his native Hungary, Zoltan Kodaly began to receive an increasingly favourable reception abroad, thanks in part to the attention of conductors such as Arturo Toscanini and Willem Mengelberg.

He also considers Kodaly's relationship with Britain.

Meditation on a Theme by Claude Debussy

Adam Fellegi (piano)

Hungaroton Classic 31540-41, CD2 Tr 9

Summer Evening - revised version

Philharmonia Hungarica

Antal Dorati (conductor)

Decca 443007-2 and 008-2, CD2 Tr 3

Chi d'amor sente (Four Italian Madrigals)

Gyor Girls' Choir

Miklos Szabo (conductor)

Hungaroton SLPPD 12948, Tr 9

Concerto for Orchestra

BBC Philharmonic

Yan Pascal Tortelier (conductor)

Chandos CHAN 9811, Tr 2


Hungaroton SLPPD 12948, Tr 5

Ode to Music

BBC Singers

Stephen Cleobury (conductor)

BBC recording - not commercially available.

Donald Macleod examines Kodaly's increasing international success.

04A Patriot20090730

Donald Macleod looks at Kodaly's efforts to create stage works, a choral tradition and orchestral pieces, as well as an educational method, all rooted in native Magyar folk music.

See the Gypsy Eats Cheese

Children's Choir Magnificat

Ivan Fischer (conductor)

Philips 462 824-2 DDD, Tr 10

Love duet and Recruiting Song (Hary Janos)

Sandor Solyom-Nagy (Hary)

Klara Takacs (Orzse)

Hungarian State Opera Chorus and Orchestra

Janos Ferencsik (conductor)

Hungaroton HCD 12837-38, CD1 Tr 6, CD2 Tr 5

St Gregory Procession

Children's Choir Miraculum

Philips 462 824-2 DDD, Tr 4

The Peacock

Hungarian Workers Choir

BBC recording - not commercially available

Variations on a Hungarian Folksong (The Peacock)

Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra

Adam Fischer (conductor)

Nimbus NI 5284, Tr 8.

Donald Macleod explores Kodaly's efforts to enhance Hungary's cultural identity.

04The Internationalist20150604

In the 1930's, Kodály's reputation reached the international stage. Donald Macleod reflects on how Kodály's music captured the European imagination.

Although there are few composers whose work is located so securely within the indigenous folk culture of their homelands, Zoltán Kodály was, by the late 1920s, building himself a formidable international reputation. By now in his 40s, he had had successful premieres across Europe, and was in dialogue with colossally influential figures such as Arturo Toscanini. His difficulties with the Hungarian authorities were long behind him and, buoyed by a new publishing deal, he was at the height of his powers - responding to commissions with exciting new compositions, and able to travel Europe as a champion of Hungarian music.

How in the 1930s, Kodaly's reputation had reached the international stage.

05Kodaly And Education Matters20150605

Kodály's life was, to an unique extent, dedicated to the music education of the Hungarian people. Donald Macleod discusses his legacy with David Vinden.

"It is our firm conviction that mankind will live the happier when it has learned to live with music more worthily. Whoever works to promote this end, in one way or another, has not lived in vain." The words of Zoltán Kodály: a composer whose commitment to the celebration of his nation's culture, and the education of his nation's children, was virtually unparalleled. In the closing programme of this week's series, Donald Macleod talks to Kodály scholar and teacher David Vinden about Kodály's role as a music educationalist, and about how his much fêted teaching 'method' works.

05 LASTThe Final Years20090731

Donald Macleod explores Kodaly's life in Hungary under communist rule following the Second World War - years in which the composer finally achieved the status of a cultural statesman in his own country.

Children's Dances (No 1)

Adam Fellegi (piano)

Hungaroton Classic 31540-41, CD2 Tr 10

Hymn of Zrinyi

Benjamin Luxon (baritone)

Brighton Festival Chorus

Laszlo Heltay (conductor)

Decca Ovation 421 810-2, CD2 Tr 8

Symphony in C

Philharmonia Hungarica

Antal Dorati (conductor)

Decca 443 006-2, Trs 4-6

King Laszlo's Men

Children's Choir Miraculum

Laszlo Durenyik

Private recording - not commercially available.

Donald Macleod explores Kodaly's final years, spent in communist Hungary.