Museums in Budapest celebrate the contributions of great Hungarian musicians. The greatest composer of Hungarian music of the 19th century, and one of the country's most famous sons, is undoubtedly Ferenc (Franz) Liszt (1811-96). Although Liszt maintained a deep interest in Hungarian culture and musical traditions, as evidenced by his well-known Hungarian Rhapsodies, he is well known for creating the musical idiom known as the symphonic poem with his Les Preludes (1848). He served as the first president of Budapest's Academy of Music, which is named after him. To top it all off, Liszt was also one of the great virtuoso pianists of his century.
If Liszt was the towering figure of 19th-century Hungarian music, Béla Bartók (1881-1945) and Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) were the giants of the early 20th century. The founders of Hungarian ethnomusicology, Bartók and Kodály traveled the back roads of the country in the early 1900s, systematically recording not only Hungarian and Gypsy folk music, but also music of the whole Carpathian Basin region. Peasant folk music had been an important part of the region's rural culture for hundreds of years, but by the early 20th century, there were not many musicians playing and the music was in danger of being lost. In addition to saving a wealth of music from oblivion, Bartók and Kodály made some important discoveries in their research, noting both the differences and the interrelationships between Hungarian and other folk-music traditions (especially Gypsy music), which had fused considerably over time. Both men were composers, and the influence of the folk music they so cherished can easily be heard in their compositions. Kodály established the internationally acclaimed Kodály Method of musical education and lived to become the grand old man of Hungarian music, while Bartók died relatively young in the United States, an impoverished, embittered refugee from fascism.
Concerts are given at the museums; pick up Budapest's free bimonthly Koncert Kalendárium, available at most four- and five-star hotels, and tourist information centers, or online at www.koncertkalendarium.hu.
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