Biography of Kodály Zoltán:
Zoltán Kodály was born into the music-loving family of an official of Hungarian Railways. His father’s career meant a number of moves which had a decisive influence on the young Kodály’s musical development. During an 8-year stay in Galánta he became imbued with the village people’s musical traditions which were to influence him for the rest of his life. The family subsequently moved to Nagyszombat where Kodály attended the Archiepiscopal High School and where the cathedral’s extensive music library was available to him, enabling him to teach himself not only to play the violin, cello and piano but also to acquire a sound foundation in musical techniques and an extensive theoretical and historical overview of the art form. He was also a keen follower of the unfolding interest in folk music, reflected in the publications at that time (1890s) of a number of folk song collections. Kodály’s subsequent collaboration with Béla Bartók in the field of folk song collection needs no detailed mention here. Their work has been of inestimable value not only to Hungarians interested in the roots of their folk culture but to the music-loving public world wide, who also became familiar with it. Notwithstanding the highly successful work the two men did together, their careers diverged considerably. As a composer, Kodály enjoyed a steadily growing international recognition: Toscanini, Mengelberg, Ansermet and Furtwängler all conducted his new works throughout Europe and even further afield during the ’20s and ’30s. He began to receive special commissions, for example for the 50th Anniversary of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Chicago Philharmonic. Concurrently Kodály was also an increasingly respected and successful educator in the field of music. His veritable crusade to provide all young people with a sound basic musical education resulted in a great body of work for schools and choirs, both mixed and single sex. He lectured, conducted, taught - often involving his advanced pupils as well. He published, wrote as a critic and laid the foundations for a universal musical education system where singing as a group activity ensured that children became musically literate, learnt to co-operate and understood the need for verbal as well as musical communication. The "Kodály Method" is now his permanent legacy, used and respected world-wide where the value of producing musical literacy among the young is recognised. Kodály was one of this century’s true musical renaissance men. His many-sided interests musical, linguistic, folk and broadly cultural, and educational were all informed by the strong backbone of his ethnic consciousness. Much of his music is imbued with Hungarian folk idioms though none sacrifices its musical integrity to it. The collection of folk songs initially with Bartók but later worked on on his own, has left a corpus of some 100,000 songs and inspired folk song collectors all over the world. Kodály was an inspirational character whose understanding of the connections between the musical and verbal, together with historical and social aspects of our culture resulted in an oeuvre that will long outlive many of his contemporaries and be a delight to performers and audiences far beyond his native Hungary.