We celebrate György Kurtág’s 95th birthday – with a four-day festival

György Kurtág is 95. The birthday of the world famous Hungarian composer will be celebrated through four nights by the Budapest Music Center, the Franz Liszt Academy of Music and the Müpa, and the audience can follow the free online events of the Kurtág 95 festival. The concert on the 20th of February broadcasted on the Müpa Home platform will feature the premiere of heartfelt short films to bring us even closer to one of the most influential contemporary composer. We can also get an insight how his seven-decade-long love and co-work with his wife Márta – a simple, innocent, yet inexpressibly great wonder.

György Kurtág, who won the Hungarian Kossuth Prize twice, is considered as one of the most notable composers of the world who, with his unmistakably concise masterpieces, can express infinition with only a few notes. The premiere of his first opera happened in the Scala of Milan at the end of 2018. Italian composer Fabio Vacchi said then that Kurtág is a reference point of 20th century music, “an example of how contemporary interpretation revives tradition”. Alexander Pereira, intendant of the Scala noted that this was the most remarkable premiere there within the last 50 years.

The birthday events start with an exciting chamber music concert in the BCM on the 18th of February. Two rarely played Kurtág pieces, the Pas à pas cycle and the Ahmatova Songs will be on the programme, alongside two works by György Ligeti and one work each by contemporary composers Hankyeol Yoon and Leonardo Marino.

On the 19th February, the actual birthday of György Kurtág, the Danubia Orchestra Óbuda will play orchestra pieces by Kurtág, a cello concerto by Ligeti, and a piece by András Szőllősy at the Liszt Academy of Music. Conductor is András Keller.

The event on the 20th of February will be the most intimate one. As part of the Müpa Home Live series, we will remember György Kurtág’s wife Márta who passed away in October 2019, and the couple’s inspirational relationship. This night will feature deeply humanist, simple works by Kurtág that yet still incorporate whole worlds – and alongside that, we will also get a glimpse into the private life of the composer. With the help of 15 short films, the audience can get closer to the ever-shining, pure and enormous love and everlasting romance that kept Márta and György together.

(c) Andrea Felvégi

Their marriage was so touchingly and simply beautiful, but still so enormous and significant, that we wouldn’t be surprised to see monumental novels and romance movies about these two lives that were intertwined completely and the giant artistic legacy that this love, commitment and creative union left for posterity.

Márta Kurtág was György’s wife and interpreter of his works for more than 70 years. They went on countless concert tours where apart from the Kurtág works they also liked to play Bach chorales for four hands. Márta Kurtág always stood on her husband’s side – and sometimes behind him -, who called her “my objected superego”.

She was a supervisor of everything her husband created, and she did it in an unattainable simplicity, innocence, humbleness, perfect taste and sense of proportion. She was a muse, a co-artist and a strict observer-reviewer. It is worth watching the video that György Kurtág recorded on the death anniversary of Márta, with the Adagio movement of Mozart’s Sonata in D major. The title is simply “For Márta” – and his play is true to the title. Simple, pure, and an eternal expression of love and romance that lives beyond death.

The heartfelt short films were made by media artist Judit Kurtág, grandchild of Márta and György. Most of these intimate footages that let us look into the most private artistic environment of the couple have never been published before. The videos are extremely valuable documents, as their granddaughter had a special perspective on their everyday life. These films bridge the musical miniatures that will be played live. Conductor of the BMC-Müpa cooperative concert is Gergely Vajda, and we will hear the UMZE Ensemble as well as musicians from various generations who have followed the life works of the Kurtág couple.

The birthday celebrations will end on the 21th of February with the Contemporary Ensemble of the Liszt Academy of Music who will bring works by Kurtág, Szőllősy (who was born 100 years ago) and Ligeti into a huge dialogue.

Interview: Zsuzsanna Deák

Translation: Zsófia Hacsek