FOLK ELEMENTS IN TWENTIETH-CENTURY HUNGARIAN MUSIC
Sender, Daniel Lee
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At the beginning of the twentieth century, composers Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály collected thousands of folksongs from the rural regions of Hungary. In an effort to preserve a part of their culture that they feared would be lost, they not only transcribed and catalogued these folksongs, but also incorporated the folk traditions they encountered into their own compositional style. This dissertation deals with violin music written by Bartók, Kodály and their Hungarian contemporaries that have in common the use of rhythms, modes, melodies, figurations and playing techniques sourced in folk traditions. The use of the Hungarian folk idiom in classical music was not exclusive to the twentieth century. From the late eighteenth century until the first decades of the twentieth century, composers utilized aspects of a popular eighteenth-century form of Hungarian folk music called verbunkos. What makes the use of folk music unique in the twentieth century is that, thanks to the work of Bartók and Kodály, composers found inspiration in the more authentic “peasant music.” Unlike the popular, urban verbunkos music, peasant music was the product of the more secluded village-music tradition, largely untouched by the influences of city life. In addition to stimulating a new focus on peasant music, Bartók and Kodály fully assimilated the folk idiom into their compositional toolkits, creating a new style of folk-inspired art music that influenced a generation of Hungarian composers. The new style included characteristic elements of both peasant music and the verbunkos tradition, such as ancient modes and scales, accompanimental and melodic rhythmic patterns, ornamentation, and phrase structures sourced in folk song. To demonstrate the implementation of the folk idiom by twentieth-century Hungarian composers, three recital programs were given at the University of Maryland that included works by Béla Bartók, Sándor Veress, Leo Weiner, Zoltán Kodály, Ernő Dohnányi, Zoltán Székely and György Kurtág. The works can be divided into two main categories: settings or transcriptions of folk material (e.g. Bartók’s Hungarian Folksongs) and compositions using classical forms that include the Hungarian folk idiom (e.g. Bartók’s Contrasts). Recital collaborators include Li-Tan Hsu, Evelyn Elsing, Elizabeth Brown, Shelby Sender and Samantha Angelo.