György Kurtág and his eightieth birthday, sixteen years ago

György Kurtág ,the undoubtedly greatest composer still alive, turned 80 years old in February 2006, which was celebrated all over the world.

A ‘Kurtág 80 Festival’ was even created in Budapest, during which some of his works had their premieres.  

“…Concertante…” for violin, viola and orchestra had been created back in 2003, but in 2006 Kurtág completely revised it.  The composition, dedicated to Hiromi Kikuchi and Ken Hakii and realised in collaboration with these artists was awarded the prestigious Grawemeyer Award.

It is a wonderfully beautiful work, with many whispering tones and dream images, which gently fades out in a hushed epilogue, almost like a candle. Without a doubt, it is a true masterpiece, and the performance on this CD is so perfect and beautiful that it simply couldn’t be more wonderful. It will bring tears to your eyes.

In “Zwiegespräch”, with its strong Hungarian accents and its discernible influences of Mahler and Webern, the Keller Quartet’s lyrical sound is literally “enhanced” by a synthesiser played by György Kurtág junior.

The second CD ends with a few “Játékoks” (“Games”), played by Kurtág himself together with his wife Márta, but before that, you can dream away at “Hipartita” for violin solo.

Quirel from the Játékoks:

German firm ECM had not forgotten Kurtág’s 80th birthday either.
In February 2006, they released a new recording of ‘Kafka-Fragmente’, arguably his most important work.

The composition was created in the years 1985 – 1986, in close collaboration with the violinist András Keller, a Kurtág promoter pur sang, who advised him in the technical instrumental issues. In 1987, Keller, together with Adrienne Csengery, took care of the premiere at the Festival of Modern Music in Witten.

Adrienne Csengery and András Keller:

Kurtág based his piece on fragments from Kafka’s diaries and letters, which he wove together into an hour-long beautiful and finished entity. Those fragments, forty in total, were spread randomly over four movements. Their order was determined on an exclusively musical basis, the texts were subordinated to the music

Kurtág was always strongly attracted to Kafka. Ever since his childhood, he collected all the texts which he thought could be “composable”. There is also a certain similarity between the two: their Central European Jewish roots, their high degree of self-criticism and their long periods of inactivity.

The small fragments are very different in atmosphere, text and music are symbiotically linked. This performance can hardly be bettered – it is a monumental birthday present.

William Kinderman on Kurtág’s Kafka-Fragmente, for soprano and violin, posted by king permission of William Keinderman