Hungary Traditions and Music


Founded on the values ​​of peasant civilization, the local folklore has very ancient origins, but it remained alive even with the advent of Christianity, despite the inevitable changes and adaptations: the complex of customs on the occasion of the feast of St. John is still current (24 June), in which bonfires are lit on the hills around the town; along the banks of the Danube, on the other hand, flaming wheels are thrown into the river to prevent summer floods. On Palm Sunday a puppet made of rags and straw is burned and then thrown into the river, a symbol of the past Lenten fast; Santa Lucia is under the sign of magic; you can throw grain to the chickens to produce a lot of eggs, but you don’t have to sew or give money; at Christmas, young people go from house to house begging and singing Christmas hymns. In the czárdás gypsy complexes perform traditional music with violins and cimbalons. The craftsmanship is still very much alive, famous for the very rich costumes of the various regions, adorned with fine embroidery that recall floral motifs. The tanning of the skins and the processing of fine leathers are important: the characteristic cloak worn by the Magyar shepherds is made up of seven tanned but unprocessed hides. The lace is also refined, especially the matyo, made with colored thread. § Ceramics prefers terracotta decorated with floral motifs; sculpture on wood and bone is still widespread, as are cabinet-making and joinery. Hungarian cuisine, in which savory meat and starchy dishes excel, is rich in traditions that go back thousands of years. Its distinctive feature are the sweet and sour flavors and the use of spices, first of all paprika, prepared in numerous varieties and present in all the most typical dishes. A particular dish is gulyás (goulash), an excellent meat stew, characterized by paprika. Other typical dishes are meat soups, potato-based soups, sauerkraut flan with sausage, paprika chicken with sour cream and meat stew cooked in lard with a side of vegetables. Among the desserts, often garnished with cream, the palacsinta (very similar to the crêpe) and the strudel, in addition to the focaccia with poppy seeds, are worth mentioning. The wines are well represented, with a predominance of red: excel Toro’s Blood of Eger, the Szekszard Kadarka, the leanika and the famous Tokaj. Other consumer beverage is beer and spirits, in particular the famous fruit brandies and brandy.


According to estatelearning, Hungary has one of the most original and richest folk songs and dances in the world. B. Bartók and Z. Kodály have the merit of having revealed in the early years of the century. XX – through a systematic work of collection and analysis – the real characteristics of the most authentic popular musical culture. This is mainly composed of unaccompanied vocal pieces, both monodic and polyphonic, with marked modal structures and reference to fixed melodic models; the rhythm is extremely mobile and is divided into two main categories, the first of which refers to dance and march patterns, the second is modeled on the patterns of the “spoken”. Among the most popular folk instruments are the zufolo (furulya), the zither (citera), the harp (doromb), the German lira (tekerö), the fife (tilinkó), the bagpipe (duda) etc. The csimbalon and the violin are typical instruments of the Gypsy orchestras. In cultured music, Gregorian chant was introduced towards the century. XI. Both the troubadours (including Peire Vidal), both the Minnesänger (including Oswald von Wolkenstein) and finally the Meistersingers (such as Michel Behaim) had contact with Hungary and on their models in the late Middle Ages companies of musical poets (regös) who composed mainly epic and chronical songs. But a full musical flourish only occurred at the court of Mattia Corvino (1458-90), who inaugurated a splendid tradition of patronage also in the musical field. The first specifically Hungarian musical expressions, however, are recorded under Turkish rule (1526): among the first notable composers are the lutenists S. Tinódi (1505-56) and B. Bakfark (1507-76). At the same time an abundant repertoire of polyphonic religious songs and instrumental dances (in particular for harpsichord) developed. Among the most prominent personalities, in the century. XVII, includes J. Kájoni (ca. 1630-87). In the sec. XVIII several characteristic dances were developed, among which the verbunkos (recruitment), originally a soldiers’ dance, consisting of a slow introductory part (lassu) followed by a second joyful part (friss). In this period there was a phenomenon destined to last until the whole of the nineteenth century: on the one hand the musicians of the Germanic cultural area (including Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert etc.) used stylistic modules mediated by Hungarian music; on the other hand, the increasingly strong influence of the German symphonic style on Hungarian composers. The synthesis of the two moments is conspicuously present also in composers with nationalistic aspirations, such as J. Ruzitska (1789-1869) author of the first Hungarian SingspielBéla futása (1822; The flight of King Béla), F. Erkel (1810-93), author of the national anthem and works of national subject, and F. Liszt (1811-86). It is still evident in authors such as E. (Ernst) Dohnányi (1877-1960), Ö. Mihalović (1842-1929) and in the early production of the founders of a modern Hungarian style, exemplified on the documents of national folklore and fueled by the meditation of the most current compositional experiences: B. Bartók (1881-1945) and Z. Kodály (1882-1967). At the end of the nineteenth century the Hungarian operetta was also born, with F. Lehár (1870-1948) and with I. Kálmán (1882-1953). The Hungarian musical situation, supported by a widespread didactic organization and excellent structures in the field of opera and concert, is characterized by great vitality also in the compositional field: of note, among the musicians after Bartók, L. Lajtha (1892- 1963), P. Kadosa (1903-83), S. Veress (1907-1992), G. Ligeti (b.1923, active in Germany since 1956), Z. Durkó (b.1934), A. Bozay (b. 1939), I. Lang (b. 1933), G. Kurtag (no. 1926). In the capital, important events dedicated to this sector of cultural life take place every year, among which the cycle of open-air opera and ballets on Margaret Island, the Spring Festival and the Art Weeks in autumn stand out. Hungarian orchestras are internationally renowned and Budapest is home to prestigious musical institutions, such as the Hungarian National Philharmonic, the Madrigalensemble, the Frank Liszt chamber orchestra and the Schola Ungarica.

Hungary Traditions