From an early age Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) expressed delight in the Magyar folk music that surrounded him, while simultaneously developing an interest in mainstream European chamber music.
After polishing his compositional skills in Paris, where he studied with Widor and made the acquaintance of Debussy, he returned to Budapest, aligning his awareness of the latest compositional trends with a continuing interest in folk music. He edited and published collections of folk-songs, many of which had been gathered during his trips around the countryside with his compatriot Béla Bartók.
The Dances of Galánta, written in 1933, is an orchestral evocation of the town’s long established gypsy band. Kodály grew up there and loved the music of the “verbunkos” dance with its melodic syncopation, ornamentation and wide leaps. (The dance had been used in 18th and 19th century Hungary by the recruiting sergeant and his hussars for potential enlistees – the message being that the life of a soldier is endless fun.)
In the course of the five movements the listener is treated to various manifestations of the “verbunkos” style, in which slow figures alternate with fast ones and swagger gives way to foot stomping. The clarinet is given a prominent part reflecting the role of the single-reed tárogató in Hungarian folk music. Everything is filtered through the composer’s colourful brand of brilliantly orchestrated modernism.
Hear this infectious Hungarian music performed by the Brighton Phil on Sun 26 March at Brighton Dome, under the baton of Conductor Laureate Barry Wordsworth. Tickets from £12-£37 from Brighton Dome Ticket Office (012723) 709709 or www.brightondome.org