Hungarian Dances and Songs

Our first concert for 2014 features the compositions of Hungarian 20th century composers, including György Ligeti and Béla Bartók. Joining Sirius member, Ian Sykes (clarinet), are Paul Myers (piano) and Martyn Hentschel (violin) to perform Bartók’s Contrasts for violin, clarinet and piano. Paul and Martyn will also perform Bartók’s Romanian Dances for violin and piano. Other music on the program include Sholem-alekhem, rov Feidman! for clarinet and piano by Bela Kovacs, Old Hungarian Dances for wind quintet by Ferenc Farkas, and the Trio for flute, clarinet and bassoon by Zoltán Székely. So what is the connection between all these composers? Many were influenced by each other, but all have a common interest in the folk music of their country of origin.


Hungarian Parliament in Budapest


György Ligeti (1923 – 2006)

Six Bagatelles for flute/piccolo, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn (1956)

Ligeti was born in Transylvania, Romania to a Hungarian Jewish family. In 1944, following the German occupation of Hungary, Ligeti was sent to a forced labour brigade, while the rest of his family were interred in concentration camps. Following the war, Ligeti studied at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, studying with Zoltan Kodaly and Ferenc Farkas amongst others. Similarly to earlier Hungarian masters such as Kodaly and Bartók, Ligeti pursued his studies into Hungarian folk music in Transylvania. After fleeing to Vienna in 1956, Ligeti explored many compositional trends, experimenting with 12-tone serialism, electronic music and minimalism, before developing his own unique style, which he dubbed “micropolyphony”.


The Six Bagatelles for wind quintet, originated from Musica Ricercata (1953), 11 pieces for piano. Ligeti structured the suite around the number of tones used; the first piece is restricted to just two notes of the chromatic scale, the second using three notes and so on to the final piece in which all 12 notes of the chromatic scale are present. Shortly after the work’s completion, Ligeti arranged six of the pieces for wind quintet. The Bagatelles were performed first in 1956, but not in their entirety – the last movement was censored by the Soviets for being too “dangerous”. The work finally received its first complete performance in Stockholm 16 years after its composition.


A Bagatelle suggests a mere trifle; however, these six pieces are diminutive in length only. Each piece inhabits its own sound world, creating a suite of contrasting moods, from playful, sorrowful to downright crazy. While Ligeti’s admiration of folk music is clearly shown in the Bagatelles, so are characteristics of the avant-garde for which he would later become well known for, particularly his experimentation with form and tonality. The Fifth piece is dedicated to the memory of Bela Bartók. His influence on Ligeti, along with that of Stravinsky, is evident throughout the suite.

Notes by Ian Sykes


When: Saturday 26th April, 7.30pm
Where: Glebe Justice Centre (formerly Glebe Cafe Church), corner St John’s Rd & Colbourne Ave Glebe
Tickets: Available at or at the door
$30 adult/$20 concession/$10 child

BYO food/drinks/alcohol
Tea, coffee and refreshments available

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