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From Boulanger to Stockhausen


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Bálint András Varga makes available here for the first time in English nineteen extended interviews with some of the most notable figures in music from the past fifty years, as well as lively snippets from interviews Varga conducted with thirteen other equally renowned musicians. The interviewees include singers Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Cathy Berberian; pianists Alfred Brendel and Arthur Rubinstein; violinists Isaac Stern and Yehudi Menuhin; conductors Claudio Abbado and Sir Neville Marriner; composers György Ligeti and Karlheinz Stockhausen; and legendary pedagogue Nadia Boulanger. Of special interest is an interview with the reclusive composer György Kurtág, here published for the first time in any language.
From Boulanger to Stockhausen concludes with a poignant memoir by Varga of his experiences growing up in a Jewish family in Hungary during World War II and the early years of Communist rule. Varga's recollections also include details about his many interviews with some of these remarkable musicians, and about his employment at the Hungarian state radio station and then in the music-publishing industry, which brought him to, among other places, Vienna, where he now lives.

Interviewees: Claudio Abbado, Georges Auric, Cathy Berberian, Nadia Boulanger, Ernest Bour, Alfred Brendel, Aaron Copland, Sir Neville Cardus, Antal Doráti, Adám Fischer, Iván Fischer, Géza Frid, Sir William Glock, Sylvia Goldstein, Alois Hába, Ralph Kirkpatrick, György Kurtág, Walter Legge, György Ligeti, Witold Lutoslawski, Sir Neville Marriner, Yehudi Menuhin, Eugene Ormandy,Vlado Perlemuter, Arthur Rubinstein, György Sándor, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Isaac Stern, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Wolfgang Stresemann, Walter Susskind, Hans Swarowsky, Joseph Szigeti, Tibor Varga.

Bálint András Varga has spent more than forty years working for and with composers. His previous books include György Kurtág: Three Interviews and Ligeti Homages and Three Questions for Sixty-Five Composers, both published by the University of Rochester Press.


There are wonderful gems between the covers. Serious musicians -- professionals and otherwise -- are apt to find Varga's conversational approach refreshing. Equally welcome are the many informative footntotes. The memoir, covering both personal and professional aspects of Varga's life, is as touching as it is informative. INTERSECTIONS: CANADIAN JOURNAL OF MUSIC

Keeping us in touch with now-deceased public figures [Strauss, Elgar] and their memories is a significant part of this book. . . The dialogues cover a nice mix, ranging from internationally renowned musicians who have been kindly treated by posterity to those who will be known but whose standing, even when alive, was somewhat peripheral. To have Alois Haba, Ernest Bour and Hans Swarowsky in their own words makes this hardback of particular value. It all helps light up the past. The way Varga sets the scene for each interview . . . helps the reader "eavesdrop" on the conversation. Varga's own reminiscences, occupying some 100 pages, make for interesting reading. BBC MUSIC MAgazine

This selection of interviews from 1966 to 2008 includes material of value for piano lovers, such as an account from the violinist Tibor Varga of Bartók's performances of Bach: Intriguing book. INTERNATIONAL PIANO MAGAZINE

Covering 50 years of great music-making, [. . .] essential reading. [Five stars: highest rating] CLASSICAL MUSIC MAGAZINE

A living link with the 20th century's leading composers and musicians. BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE

An important document for new generations of musicians and music lovers. --Riccardo Chailly, Gewandhauskapellmeister, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig

This is a book of voices. We hear great musicians speaking with fresh immediacy, each of them introduced by a pen-portrait at once incisive and sympathetic. But we hear also the intimate voice of the one who observes and listens, the author of this astonishing book, in a moving memoir of a childhood in communist Budapest and a working life promoting the music he loves. --Paul Griffiths, author of The Substance of Things Heard: Writings about Music (URP 2005)

Bálint András Varga is one of the great listeners in the recent history of music. Surging toward sound on every silent page, this book is a major document both of the century now past and of the century unfolding. --Alex Ross, music critic, The New Yorker


First Published: 15 Oct 2013
13 Digit ISBN: 9781580464390
Pages: 410
Size: 9 x 6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: University of Rochester Press
BIC Class: AV

Details updated on 07 Mar 2016


  • 1  Part One: Interviews
  • 2  Part Two: Memoir
  • 3  Introduction
  • 4  Ancestors
  • 5  On Being Jewish
  • 6  Growing Up in Postwar Socialist Hungary
  • 7  Margit
  • 8  Tapespondence
  • 9  Birth and Demise of a (Counter)revolution: A Boy's-Eye View
  • 10  Broadcasting 1
  • 11  Broadcasting 2
  • 12  Editio Musica Budapest
  • 13  Interviewing: An Obsession
  • 14  Ich war ein Berliner
  • 15  Moving to Vienna
  • 16  Universal Edition
  • 17  Back Catalogue
  • 18  The Psychology of Promotion
  • 19  Farewell and After
  • 20  Notes in Retrospect
  • 21  Index

Three Questions for Sixty-Five Composers

Three Questions for Sixty-Five Composers

György Kurtág

György Kurtág

Gunther Schuller

Gunther Schuller