György Kurtág (b. 1926) is widely regarded as one of the foremost composers in the second half of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first. Born in Romania, he received crucial training in Paris from Olivier Messiaen and Marianne Stein. He was also shaped by his broadening contact there with the music of Webern and such challenging literary works as the plays of Samuel Beckett. After many years in Hungary, teaching at the Budapest Academy of Music, Kurtág settled near Bordeaux with his wife Márta. The two regularly perform duo-recitals of his music. In 2006, his ... concertante ... (2003, for violin, viola and orchestra) won the coveted Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.
This unique set of interviews with Kurtág, alone or with his wife, gives a fascinating insight into the composer's personality, which is marked by shyness but also an unquenchable thirst for impressions of every kind (artistic, natural and human). The two speak with disarming openness about their lives -- the background against which masterpieces like Messages of the Late Miss R. V. Troussova (1976-80, for soprano and chamber orchestra) or Stele (1994, for orchestra) were written.
The analysis of certain of Kurtág's works, especially of ... concertante ..., shows the way that his mind works: no system, no dogma, no formulae -- rather, basic human emotions expressed through means that speak directly to the listener's innermost feelings.
The Hungarian music publisher Bálint András Varga has spent nearly forty years working for and with composers. He has published several books, including extensive interviews with Lutoslawski, Berio, and Xenakis.
Balint Andras Varga is a master at interviewing composers. - MUSIC LIBRARY ASSOCIATION NOTES [Peter Laki] Click here for the complete review
Offers telling insights . . . [on the] linkage between teaching and communicating, teaching and composing. . . . Reach[es] to the core of Kurtag's essential expressionism. . . . [Kurtag's] tributes to [Ligeti] provide . . . the shrewdest, clearest-eyed judgment of his friend's achievements. "Mementos of a friendship" . . . is as artfully assembled as any of Kurtag's compositions. --MUSICAL TIMES [Arnold Whittall]
Like many of Kurtág's finest pieces, [this book] is short but densely packed. In three extended interviews with Varga, the composer provides piercing insights into a vast range of music and addresses his own work with startling clarity, candor, and humility. He also delivers three tributes to his longtime friend György Ligeti, revealing more of Ligeti's psychology and creativity than any commentator in print. --THE NEW YORKER [Alex Ross] Read the full review at http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/alexross/2009/10/gyorgy-kurtag.html
An important introduction to the music and the personality of this unique composer. --Pierre Boulez
A uniquely sensitive look at Kurtág's extraordinary work, character, and personality. --Kent Nagano, general music director of the Bavarian State Opera and Orchestra and music director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra
This book provides a fascinating and unique insight into the life, mind, and personality of the Hungarian composer György Kurtág [.] this volume surely will play a significant role in enhancing and enlightening the way we experience Kurtág's music, both as listeners and as scholars. MUSIC & LETTERS, May 2011