Composer. He and Bela Bartok were Hungary's leading composers of the 1900s. Both men were profoundly influenced by their country's folk music, though Kodaly's style was more romantic and accessible than Bartok's. His most famous works were all based on folk material. The "Psalmus Hungaricus" (1923), for chorus and orchestra, was written to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the unification of Buda and Pest as the nation's capital. The comic opera "Hary Janos" (1926) has as its hero a well-known folk character, an outrageous teller of tall tales. Kodaly adapted a popular orchestral suite from this opera in 1927. "Dances of Galanta" (1933) were derived from gypsy tunes of his native region. He was also an outstanding teacher and his Kodaly Method of musical instruction is taught throughout the world. Kodaly was born in Kecskemet, Hungary. His parents were amateur musicians. In 1900 he was sent to Budapest to study science but enrolled in the Liszt Academy of Music instead. Around this time he began his lifelong friendship with Bartok, who encouraged him to seek inspiration in folk music. From 1905 Kodaly accompanied Bartok on several ethnomusicological field trips and together they collected thousands of folk songs and dances. He taught at the Liszt Academy from 1907 to 1942 and became assistant director there in 1919. Kodaly's immense fame in his country saved his life during World War II. When the Nazis occupied Hungary he was ordered to divorce his Jewish wife; not only did he refuse to do so, he helped find refuge for dozens of fleeing Jews. Kodaly was eventually arrested for underground activities but his countrymen raised such an uproar that the Gestapo was forced to release him. He devoted his last years mainly to teaching and writing music for children, and he visited the United States in 1965 and 1966. Kodaly's other important compositions include two String Quartets (1909, 1918), the opera "The Spinning Room" (1932), "Te Deum" (1936), "Variations on a Hungarian Folk Song, 'The Peacock'" (1939), Concerto for Orchestra" (1940), "Missa Brevis" (1944), and a Symphony (1961).
Bio by: Bobb Edwards