August 5, Birthday of Betsy Jolas (b. 1928)

Born in Paris between WWI and WWII, Betsy Jolas grew up in an enviable milieu. Her mother was a well-known translator and her father founded the literary magazine, “transition,” which published James Joyce’ Finnegan’s Wake as a “Work in Progress.” Her studies at the Paris Conservatory were interrupted by WWII and she and her family decamped to the US, where she completed her studies at Bennington. After the War, in 1946, her family returned to Paris, where Jolas continued her studies at the conservatoire with Darius Milhaud, Simone Plé-Caussade and Olivier Messiaen. She replaced Olivier Messiaen at the conservatory and has been on the faculty there since 1975. She has won many prizes and is both a Chevalier in the French Légion d’Honneurand and is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Points d’aube

String Quartet No. 3

D’un opéra de voyage (1967)

Quatuor II for soprano, violin, viola & cello


POINTS D`OR concerto for saxophone(s) & 15 instruments

April 25, Birthday of Szőnyi Erzsébet (b. 1924)

There is scant information on Wikipedia about Hungarian composer, Szőnyi Erzsébet except to say she has composed a lot including 8 operas. More information can be found on the website for the International (Zoltán Kodály) Society. Many of her works appear on Youtube, however, and maybe her music represents the evolution of classical music that Zoltán Kodály and Béla Bartók. This ranges from transcriptions of folk melodies into quite complex chamber music. Enjoy.

Hárfás kvintett
Zeneiskola koncertje
Trio Concertino
koncert II. rész

Miklós Rózsa: String Quartet No. 1, Op. 22 – IV. Allegro Feroce

This is day 18 of the A-toZ Challenge in which I attempt to blog every day (excepting Sundays) during the month of April. During this month, I am curating a collection of “classical” music pieces, which are lesser known or by lesser known composers (to me at least).  Today’s composer is Miklós Rózsa (1907 – 1995).

Miklós Rózsa was a Hungarian composer better known for the 100+ high-quality soundtrack he cranked for films.  Among his work in that field were Spellbound, El Cid, and Ben Hur.  As a youth, I was completely spellbound by the last two films and had copies of those recordings.  I loved the pageantry of Ben Hur, especially, but little did I know Rózsa led a double life as as serious composer as well.  In fact, before getting intrigued by film in 1934, he had a promising career as a serious composer and an early composition Theme, Variations, and Finale, Op. 13, (1929) was conducted by such notables as Charles Munch, Karl Böhm, Georg Solti, and Eugene Ormandy.

After he made his names in film, he became quite sought-after, but he was able to stipulate in his contract with studios that he be given 3 months off every year, which he could devote to his “serious” musical pursuits.

Even though my dad was the son of Hungarian immigrants and boasted of famous Hungarians, I never heard him mention Rózsa .  And, I’ve never listened to Rózsa’s serious music either until today.  Pity, because this fourth movement of his String Quartet Number 1, it quite interesting.  Rózsa had good relationships with and wrote pieces for many famous musicians of his day including Heifitz (violin) and Starker (cello).  I hope you like today’s piece.

György Ligeti: Atmospheres

This is day twelve of the A-toZ Challenge in which I attempt to blog every day (excepting Sundays) during the month of April. During this month, I am curating a collection of “classical” music pieces, which are lesser known or by lesser known composers (to me at least).  Today’s composer is György Ligeti, (1923–2006)

Ligeti was born in Transylvania, Romania to Hungarian Jewish parents.  His family moved to Hungary when he was six.  During the summers his family sent him to Budapest where he studied with Pál Kadosa, and he was heavily influenced by Bartok’s music.  During World War II, he and his brother were sent to labor camps for being Jewish and his parents ended up in Auschwitz, where his father perished.

After the War, he retuned to Budapest and studied at and graduated from the Liszt Academy of music, under Zoltan Kodály, among other well known teachers and composers.  Like Bartok he also conducted ethnomusicology research on folksongs.  When the Soviets invaded Hungary in a violent takeover of the country, Ligeti fled with his family to Vienna, where he became a citizen of Austria.  There he fell with the burgeoning group of anti-tonal composers including Karlheinz Stockhausen.  When he fled Hungary, Ligeti lost a good number of his earlier compositions, but he said he was completely devoted to 12 tone music.  Eventually he broke with narcissistic group of avant-garde composers and from then on composed prolifically.  He moved  to Hamburg where he taught at the Hochschule School for Music and Theatre.  In later years he turned to more tonal music.

I first heard today’s piece around 1968 when it was used in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001, a Space Odyssey.”  Kubrick also used some of Ligetti’s piano music, Musica Ricerata, in his last movie, “Eyes Wide Shut.”  “Atmospheres” is a powerful piece and I think a perfect choice to show bring an emotional drama to the sterility of space travel and the soullessness of science depicted in the movie.

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