Sunday, May 25, 2008

Gustav Szathmáry

I don't know why I remembered the Hungarian composer Gustav Szathmáry last week.

Sometime ago, I encountered his work at an exhibition in Bremen, Germany. Four years ago? Five? Something like that.

I remember at the time being fascinated by his work, and reminded myself constantly that I would look into his life and work at some later date. For some reason, when the thought occurred to me to examine his work, I was never at a computer or a library. Szathmáry would wander into my thoughts at the least convenient times.

But last week, after years of forgetting Gustav Szathmáry, I remembered him while at a computer. So I looked him up. I found this - please let it play while you read this:


I recall there being a video at the exhibition, and I remember how moved I was the first time I heard the work that plays throughout the video. The clear homage to Bach's C major Prelude, simultaneously haunting and yet, in its own way, reflecting both his time and presaging the work of minimalists like Glass, Reich, and Peter Machajdík.

Beautiful, simple music, yet still of his native land. Does anyone else think of Kurtág's Játékok when they hear this music?

However, I have found virtually nothing else. How does someone like this, who writes music of such simple beauty, become so easily forgotten?

No blogger seems to have written about him. Not A.C. Douglas, not Chris Foley, not Jessica Duchen, Jeremy Denk, not not even Alex Ross. Sequenza21 has nothing, nothing, and not even the master of exhuming forgotten composers, On An Overgrown Path, has a single word on him.

So you few who come here, you are in a special place, because you are on virtually the only site that knows of Gustav Szathmáry's existence.

So what do I know? He was the lover of the German painter Paula Modersohn-Becker, and he was friends with Rainer Maria Rilke. How do I know this? That bloody exhibition. I remember it. And this is pretty much all I remember.

Oh yes, and I remember his perfectly preserved corpse. It was on display at the exhibition.

I have seen the man's body, but his body of work is nowhere to be found. Except for this PDF of one set of piano pieces of his, on some German site of no other importance whatsoever to my investigations, there is nothing left of his music.

So I turn it out to you - do any of you remember him? Or in German, Erinnern Sie sich an ihn?


Anonymous said...

exhuming never existing lovers and composers what a noble task...

Andrew W. said...

Ah, the pointless snark of the anonymous commenter, how I've missed you!

The nobility of my post here is only enhanced by your speaking truth to power! You sir, or madam, are the noble one!