Zoltan Kodaly

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Zoltan Kodaly, (pronounced Co-die,) (1882-1967) was a Hungarian composer, almost exclusively known around the world for the orchestral suite from his opera "Hary Janos". He was far more than that. With Bela Bartok he is one of the foundations of twentieth century Hungarian music.

He was a country boy, seeped in the musical traditions and idioms of his folk and was mainly self-taught – piano and string instruments and the start of composition. He went to the Academy of Music in Budapest when he was eighteen. Five years later he had met Bela Bartok and the pair had started collaborating in the collection and cataloguing of folk music. They also composed. Whereas Bartok was to write mainly “pure” music, allowing his own idioms to invade, Kodaly stayed close to the roots of his upbringing. His music has no less quality for that.

He wrote some orchestral music that is played today: the above Hary Janos Suite (from one of the three operas he would compose) and other pieces based on Magyar themes. His chamber music is of higher quality and deserves more attention than it gets. Two string quartets, works for individual or paired violins, organ and piano music, a wind quartet, a trio serenade for two violins and viola that is the equal of any for those instruments, and an uncompromising sonata for solo cello as fine as any.

His real love, and worth, is the large body of works for voice – nearly all choral works and mostly based on the folk music of his country; although there are songs for solo voice with piano or organ. Much of his choral writing is on sacred themes or is liturgical, many are for children’s voices. He is one of the great writers of choral music of the twentieth century.