Instructor: Krisztina UJHAZY

Text: The class does not follow any particular textbook, although there are some recommended readings. I will put together the material of the lectures from several sources, and taking notes is recommended.

Prerequisits: You need to be familiar with the basic elements of music notation. It is useful, but not required to have some experience in playing a musical instrument, playing in a symphony orchestra or singing in a choir. In addition, being somewhat familiar with 19th and 20th century European history is essential. If the group is well trained in music, we can discuss musical problems in detail. If you are more interested in the historical aspects of Hungarian music, I am willing to go more to that direction.

Description of the course: The main goal of the course is to provide a comprehensive introduction to the history of the 20th century Hungarian music, and to give an insight to the historical and political circumstances that shaped Hungarian musical culture. The first part of the course focuses on the different styles, genres and composers of the era, including the internationally acclaimed masters of Hungarian classical music such as Zoltán Kodály and Béla Bartók. The characteristics of Hungarian folk music and its impact on other fields of music will be discussed in the second part of the course. Students can gain understanding of the role of vocal, instrumental folk music and folk dance in people’s lives today. Finally, the course concentrates on popular music during the pre-war period and the communist era, up to today’s music scene. Topics include different genres, performers and the political pressure on them, especially during the communist decades, as well as the changes of the concert and festival scene after the fall of communism in 1989.


  1. Introduction. The antecedents of 20th century classical music: the romantic tradition. National identity in music, the typical Hungarian style, the birth of the first musical institutions.
  2. Franz Liszt, the first Hungarian composer of international importance. Ferenc Erkel, the father of Hungarian Natiotal Opera.
  3. Musical tendencies before World War II. The life and works of Béla Bartók. The beginnings of folk music research.
  4. Zoltán Kodály, the composer and the great educator. His influence on his contemporaries. The emergence of a strong choir tradition.
  5. The discovery of authentic Hungarian folk music by Kodáy, Bartók and their contemporaries. Types and topics of folk songs. Special musical instruments used in Hungarian folk tradition.
  6. The influence of Hungarian folk music in classical and popular music.
  7. Classical music during the communist era. Music born under political pressure, and the slow breakthrough of western tendencies.
  8. Free musicians: classical music during and after the democratic transformation.
  9. Presentations of students. Free discussions.
  10. The birth of Hungarian popular music in the 19th century. Pre-war era, the first stars. Closely monitored and filtered music scene by the communist regime in the 1960s. The beat culture.
  11. Popular music and social crisis in the 1970s. The punk scene and the show trials.
  12. Becoming free: changes in the popular music industry from the 1990s.
  13. Concert and festival trends in Hungary today.
  14. Selected parts of movies depicting Hungarian popular music scene.
  15. Presentations of students. Closing discussion.

Recommended reading:
Bence Szabolcsi: A consice history of Hungarian music. Zenemukiadó, 1955, VI, VIII
György Kroó: Hungarian music since 1945. Corvina Press, 1974
István Pávai: The history of Hungarian folk music research. 2013
Ádám Ignácz: Popular music in the first decades of the Kádár-era in Hungary (1957-1980). 2018