Academic journal article Studia Musicologica

Sauer's, Godowsky's, and Backhaus's Budapest Recitals in the Reviews of Géza Csáth (1906-1912)

Academic journal article Studia Musicologica

Sauer's, Godowsky's, and Backhaus's Budapest Recitals in the Reviews of Géza Csáth (1906-1912)

Article excerpt

Géza Csáth1 (1887, Szabadka, Austria-Hungary - 1919, Kelebija, Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes), a neuropsychiatrist, writer, music critic and composer, is one of the most distinguished Hungarian representatives of modern literature. Known to the wider public mainly for his short stories estimated as masterpieces,2 he also wrote over 530 music critiques and articles he published in daily and weekly newspapers as well in some specialized journals.3 Most of these texts have a predominantly informative character, and their goal is to report on musical events and performances of foreign artists in Szabadka (today: Subotica, Serbia) and Budapest. However, the critiques gave Csáth also the opportunity to express his support for modernism and his ideas on national style in Hungarian music.

What can immediately be noticed while reading the music critiques of Géza Csáth is his special sensitivity to the performing practice of the pianists who gave concerts in Budapest. Because of that, his critiques, which are the subject of research in this work, can also be read as a unique phenomenology of the changes in the domain of modern piano performance, which became fully evident only after the author's untimely death. Although Csáth did not explicitly deal with the aforementioned issue in his texts, the authors think that - partly because of his acquaintanceship with the young Béla Bartók who, like Wilhelm Backhaus, represented the modern piano interpretation of the twentieth century - Csáth was undoubtedly aware of the changes happening in the contemporary pianists' technique and performance style.

Concert life in Budapest in the second half of the nineteenth and at the beginning of the twentieth century

The social conditions necessary for the development of artistic music in Hungary, especially in Budapest, improved during the second half of the nineteenth century. An important incentive was the unification of Óbuda, Buda, and Pest in 1873, making the Hungarian capital an economic center which "was very quickly able to compete with the other capital on the Danube, Vienna."4 However, as it has already been observed, even before the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 some consolidating factors could already be found in the Hungarian music life. The most important one among them was the activity of the celebrated musicians Franz Liszt, Ferenc Erkel, Mihály Mosonyi, Robert Volkmann, Ede Reményi, and Kornél Ábrányi.5

The development of concert life in Budapest was supported by the establishment of adequate institutions: the Pest-Buda Music Association (1836), the National Conservatory (1867), the Hungarian Theater (1837; later National Theater), the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra (1853),6 the Hungarian Royal Academy of Music (1875; today: Franz Liszt Academy of Music) and the Hungarian Royal Opera House (1884).7 In 1865, Budapest got a new concert venue, the Vigadó Concert Hall, where concerts of the most important Hungarian musicians and orchestras started to take place. Young composers also presented their works and world renowned guests gave concerts there. "The professionalism of the Hungarian musical public life that received them did not fall short of the achievements of other European capitals; as the millennium approached, Budapest was no longer on the fringe of Europe, what Wagner had dismissed as an "unmusikalische Stadt," but henceforth a favored destination on the concert tours of world-famous artists."8 The establishment and the development of the Hungarian music institutions were accompanied with the education of the audience. Music publishing was spreading,9 and music critique, an equally important factor in music life, was emerging.10 Daily newspapers and specialized journals were reporting with an increasing regularity about concerts and music events, which greatly contributed to the profiling of the music audience.

During the second half of the nineteenth century, important premieres of music pieces took place directed by Ferenc Erkel and Hans Richter, while Erkel's son, Sándor Erkel, invited world-famous composers such as Karl Reinecke, Karl Goldmark, Camille Saint-Saēns, Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler, Edmund von Mihalovich, Charles-Marie Widor, and Antonín Dvorak11 to conduct the Philharmonic Orchestra's performance of their works. …

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