Fifty years after his death, the name “Zoltán Kodály” has spread worldwide, conjuring up thoughts of music pedagogy and solfege. Many don’t realize that he was also a linguist, a philosopher, an ethnomusicologist—and a brilliant composer. One of the first CDs I ever owned included a piece that is still very dear to me: Kodály’s Dances from Marosszék (Marosszéki Táncok). Even then, I was captivated by the deeply lyrical quality of Kodály’s music, his colorful orchestrations, and the magical way his music evokes both longing and hope.
Back in 2010, I received a grant to arrange music for a small chamber ensemble with unconventional instrumentation. Hoping to familiarize more Westerners with Kodály’s music, I chose to arrange a movement from his Háry János Suite: “Song” (or, “Dal,” in Hungarian). Originally from Kodály’s Háry János, a singspiel about the tall-tales of a hussar, the lyrics of “Song” express Háry János’ tender longing to be home with those he loves.
The recording below features Asher Carlson (clarinet), Leonardo Ottoni do Rosario (violin), Emily Damrel (double bass), and Rachel AuBuchon (prepared piano). It was recorded on April 30, 2016, and edited by Dr. Michael S. Rothkopf, with additional help from Ben Singer.