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Ferenc Farkas by LaszlÚ Gombos, musicologist

Ferenc Farkas (1905–2000) was an outstanding representative of 20th-century Hungarian music, a many-sided and popular composer, legendary professor of the Budapest Academy of Music. Fascination for harmony and beauty imbued the master’s whole being and activities. He was receptive to all kinds of novelties but had the capacity to absorb the various influences and inspirations as well as transmit them through his compositions to the widest possible layer of music lovers’ in an understandable and enjoyable way. During his eight-decade-long career he acquired exceptional popularity and was honored at the end of the last century as the doyen of Hungarian music.

The secret of Ferenc Farkas’s wide-ranging success lies, apart from his personality, perhaps in his versatility. Throughout his long life he was working and studying incessantly. He performed many kinds of duties and profited from his experiences in his art as well. After studies with Leó Weiner and Albert Siklós at the Budapest Academy of Music, he deepened his knowledge by Ottorino Respighi in Rome from 1929 to 1931. In the meantime he was coach and conductor at the Municipal Theatre, played the piano with various theatrical orchestras in the 1930s and collected folk music. Simultaneously, he composed incidental and film music, made arrangements, rehearsed and conducted. After 1941 he was teaching at the Music School of the Capital and the Conservatory of Kolozsvár (now Cluj-Napoca) where he held the post of director as well. He was choral conductor of the National Theatre of Kolozsvár, later that of the Budapest Opera and organized concerts with his own contribution. Having founded the Conservatory of Székesfehérvár in 1946, he directed it for some years. From 1949 onwards he was professor of composition at the Academy of Music for twenty-five years, the master of György Ligeti, György Kurtág, Sándor Szokolay, Emil Petrovics, Miklós Kocsár and Zoltán Jeney, to name only a few. He wrote numerous articles, gave lectures and was regularly invited to sit on the jury of Hungarian and international competitions.

The variety and scope of Farkas’s activities had an effect on the diversity of the style and genres of his music as well and explains why he composed for such diverse performing forces as perhaps none of his contemporaries. Writing for almost all instruments from solo to octet, works of about hundred kinds of settings are known, including vocal and orchestral music, masses,  oratorios and incidental music.

This article was last updated on Fri, Mar. 18 2011

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