Dec 162018

Today is the birthday (1882) of Zoltán Kodály, Hungarian composer, ethnomusicologist, pedagogue, linguist, and philosopher.  Kodály was born in Kecskemét and learned to play the violin as a child.

Though from a musical family, Kodály’s initial inclination was towards literary studies. Because his father was a railway official, the Kodály family wandered a lot: from 1884 until 1891 they lived in Galánta (later to be immortalized in the orchestral dances Kodály based on folk music from the area), then moving to Nagyszombat, where Kodály studied violin and piano and sang in the cathedral choir – an early introduction to the importance of choral singing. He explored the scores in the cathedral music library, and taught himself the ‘cello to make up the numbers for his father’s domestic quartet-evenings. He was also already composing: in 1897 the school orchestra played an overture of his, to be followed by a Mass for chorus and orchestra a year later.

His higher education began at the University of Sciences in Budapest in 1900, but the call of music proved too strong and in 1902 he enrolled at the Academy of Music, taking a doctorate in 1906 with a thesis entitled “Strophic Construction in Hungarian Folk Song”. He was now composing prolifically – and he had already begun his fieldtrips, collecting folksongs in the Hungarian countryside At around this time Kodály met fellow composer and compatriot Béla Bartók, whom he took under his wing and introduced to some of the methods involved in folk song collecting. The two became lifelong friends and champions of each other’s music.

Kodály (R) and Bartók

As with Bartók, Kodály’s own music was colored by the joint influence of Hungarian folk song and of Debussy and French impressionism (he spent some months in Paris, where he attended Widor’s lectures). On his return to Budapest in 1907 he was appointed teacher of theory at the Academy of Music, and a year later he began to teach composition. He was to teach there for the rest of his life: upon his retirement as a professor, he was brought back as the Director of the Academy in 1945.

Kodály’s works show originality of form and content, an unusual blend of the western European style of music, including classical, late-romantic, impressionistic and modernist traditions, and, on the other hand, a profound knowledge and respect for the folk music of Hungary (including the ethnically Hungarian parts of modern-day Slovakia and Romania, which were then part of Hungary). Partly because of the Great War and subsequent major geopolitical changes in the region, and partly because of a naturally somewhat diffident temperament in youth, Kodály had no major public success until 1923. This was the year when one of his best-known pieces, Psalmus Hungaricus, was given its first performance at a concert to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the union of Buda and Pest (Bartók’s Dance Suite premiered on the same occasion.)

Kodály’s first wife was Emma Gruber (née Schlesinger, later Sándor), the dedicatee of Ernő Dohnányi’s Waltz for piano with four hands, Op. 3, and Variations and Fugue on a theme by E.G., Op. 4 (1897). In November 1958, after 48 years of harmonious marriage, Emma died. In December 1959, Kodály married Sarolta Péczely, his 19-year-old student at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music with whom he lived happily until his death in 1967 at the age of 84 in Budapest.

In 1966, Kodály toured the United States and gave a special lecture at Stanford University, where some of his music was performed in his presence.

Throughout his adult life, Kodály was keenly interested in the problems of many types of music education, and he wrote a large amount of material on teaching methods as well as composing plenty of music intended for children’s use. Beginning in 1935, along with his colleague Jenő Ádám, he embarked on a long-term project to reform music teaching in Hungary’s lower and middle schools. His work resulted in the publication of several highly influential books. The Hungarian music education program that developed in the 1940s became the basis for what is called the “Kodály Method”. While Kodály himself did not write down a comprehensive method, he did establish a set of principles to follow in music education, and these principles were widely taken up by schools (mostly in Hungary, but also in many other countries) after World War II.

Pörkölt is a traditional Hungarian pork stew, flavored with paprika, of course – lots of it. Choose the Hungarian paprika you like (see ) making sure that under no circumstances you use generic paprika from the supermarket.  Kodály came from the region of Hungary that is a major producer of pork, and not far from the main paprika-producing region.



5 slices bacon, diced
2 large onions, peeled and diced
¼ cup Hungarian paprika
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp ground black pepper
5 lb boneless pork chops, cubed
1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes, with liquid
⅔ cup beef broth
2 cups sour cream
2 (6 oz) packages wide egg noodles


Place the bacon in a large, deep, dry skillet, and cook over medium-high heat until evenly browned (about 10 minutes). Drain, and reserve the drippings. Add the onions to the bacon and cook together until the onion is translucent. Remove the skillet from heat and stir the paprika, garlic powder, and pepper into the bacon mixture. Transfer the mixture to a large stockpot.

Heat a small amount of the reserved bacon drippings in the skillet again over medium-high heat. Cook the pork in batches in the hot drippings until evenly browned on both sides. When browned stir into the bacon mixture.

Heat the bacon drippings in the skillet. Sauté  the bell pepper in the hot drippings until softened and fragrant. Drain and stir the cooked pepper into the bacon mixture.

Pour the tomatoes with liquid and beef broth into a stockpot and place the pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until the stew begins to thicken, stirring occasionally, about 90 minutes. Stir the sour cream into the stew just before serving.

Meanwhile, cook the egg noodles, drain, and ladle the stew over the drained noodles in a serving bowl to serve.

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