Zoltán Kodály

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Kodály, Zoltán


Born Dec. 16, 1882, in Kecskemét; died Mar. 6, 1967, in Budapest. Hungarian composer, musicologist, folklorist, teacher, and public figure. One of the founders of the modern Hungarian national school of music. Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1945; president, 1946–49).

From 1900 to 1095, Kodály was a student in the philosophy department at the University of Sciences in Budapest. At the same time, he studied composition under J. Koessler at the Academy of Music. In 1907 he became a teacher of music theory at the academy; from 1908 to 1940 he was a professor of composition there. Kodály trained several generations of Hungarian musicians. While serving as the vice-president of the Academy of Music, Kodály in 1919 (during the existence of the Hungarian Soviet Republic) drafted plans for democratic reforms in music with B. Bartók. After the establishment of the Horthy regime, he was forced to interrupt his teaching activity until 1921.

In 1905, Kodály began collecting and studying Hungarian musical folklore (he compiled approximately 3,500 Hungarian folk songs and dances). He and B. Bartók were the most important researchers of Hungarian folk music. Kodály published collections of variants of folk tunes and a great deal of material concerning ethnology and musical folklore. His most significant research works include Pentatonic Scale in Magyar Folk Music and Magyar Folk Song.

Kodály’s best musical works, which include the opera Háry János (1926), Psalmus Hungarius (for tenor, chorus, and orchestra; 1923), symphonic variations (1939), orchestral dance music, choral works, and chamber music, are based on unique interpretations of national melodies, which are combined with contemporary musical expression. Kodály conducted his own works in Hungary and abroad. His music is distinguished by its pulsating energy and by the originality of its harmony, which is enriched by the use of a pentatonic scale and elements of mode and meter from Hungarian folk music.

Kodály became the president of the Hungarian Association of Musicians in 1947; he also served as the chairman of the Hungarian Musicology Society. He was awarded honorary doctorates at the universities of Cluj, Budapest, and Oxford. In 1958, Kodály was appointed the chairman of the music section of the Hungary-USSR Society. He was awarded the Kossuth Prize in 1948, 1952, and 1957.


Zoltan Kodai. Budapest, 1952. (Collection of articles.)
Martynov, I. Zoltan Kodai: 1882–1967. Moscow, 1970. (Bibliography, pp. 239–48.)
Emlékkönyv Kodály Zoltán. Budapest, 1953.
Young, P. M. Z. Kodaly: A Hungarian Musician. London, 1964.
Eösze, L. Kodály Zoltán. Budapest, 1971.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.