Written by Márton Szives
The members of the Saker Music Company would like to honour the memory of Mrs. Márta Kurtág, a prestigious pianist, piano teacher, and the life-long muse, creative partner and personal critic of the world-famous Hungarian composer Mr. György Kurtág.
Mrs. Kurtág who influenced students every day
As an acclaimed teacher she inspired many of the students and musicians of the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest. Everywhere at the Hungarian music universities one could hear about Mrs. Kurtág’s style of playing. Pianists, teachers would recite her instructions, her point of view of playing legato, touching the instruments, caring of the sound and always pedalling with the greatest carefulness. And not even pianists! In courses, classes, masterclasses the concert-recordings of the Kurtágs is a must have when students are about to learn about creating music surgically clean and focusing attention on affection rather than instrumental motion.
"Partner in music, partner in life"
Mrs. Kurtág was mainly known as the concert partner of her husband on stage in the past seven decades of their marriage. However, her appearance as a pianist was significant in the concert life of Budapest and Europe too. There are short articles, reminiscions about her concerts at the Liszt Academy in Budapest where people recall her concerts from the 70’s and 80’s as one of the most intimate musical experience they have ever had. Also, Mrs. Kurtág was the most inspiring accompanist of the singers at the Academy. As a concert duo with her husband Mrs. Kurtág gave concerts all over the world „from Japan to Canada” as György Kurtág said it once. They shared the stage at festivals and concert halls such as at the Festival d’Automne à Paris, Cité de la Music, Opera Garnier, Piano aux Jacobins, a Théàtre du Jeu de Paume, Queen Elizabeth Hall a Jerusalem Music Center, Aldeburgh Festival, Library of Congress (Washington), Carnegie Hall, Tonhalle, the Mozart Week (Salzburg), and the Wien Festwochen. Until 2009 Mrs. Kurtág’s recordings were only with her husband – despite the fact that she had a solo career in Eastern Europe.
Splitting the repertoire
In her notes Mrs. Kurtág says: “Right from the beginning György and I divided the repertoire between us. When I played Schumann’s F sharp minor sonata, he would play Schumann’s G minor sonata; if he played the five-part C sharp minor fugue from ‘The Well-Tempered Clavier,’ I would play the five-part B flat minor fugue. If he played the Eroica Variations at his graduation concert, then a year later I played the Diabelli Variations at mine.”It was the Diabelli Variations which she recorded in 2009 alone after a long time. She writes about it for the BMC records in 2010: „(…) This piece is like a cathedral. We built it up, always and ever, with Gyuri [György, her husband] brick by brick. I played it many times on concerts, sometimes after a long brake. After these pauses, we built it up again and again and I learnt it again and again according to my actual state of development – I could always recur to it in the last forty-eight years.”
A life long collaboration
As we can see, not only the audience related to them always as „them”, as an inseparable musician couple. But one could always meet them as a couple in the building or the concert halls of Budapest Music Center, on the streets of Budapest or the concert halls of Europe playing György’s pieces. Mrs. Kurtág said about it:
“I use the plural as always, because we have worked together throughout our long lives since.”
And there was more than just playing music together. György admitted many times, that Márta [Mrs. Kurtág] was her muse, the first and strictest filter on which his compositions must have gone through. „Márta is my projected super-ego” he said. „She has the sense of proportion.”
Mr. Kurtág’s latest composition and his only opera, the Endgame bears even more Mrs. Kurtág’s fruitful and genius blessings. „At the end,” Mr. Kurtág once told to a reporter of the New York Times, “she didn’t just have thoughts on orchestration; she was composing the music.”
Love that didn't know borders
The love and intimacy of Mr. And Mrs. Kurtág was glowing through not only their duos in front of the audience, but it could be felt via the pieces and the ways they would talk about each others. Márta’s ingenious influence was strong enough to help her husband to be a composer and a human. On the 90th birthday of György, an honest but strange question came up during the celebration: Why did György came back to Hungary in 1958 when the communist era had its most fearsome and terrible times? At that time, Mr. Kurtág lived in Paris as an already famous composer, but Mrs. Kurtág had to stay at home, in Hungary.
"as a composer, It didn't matter where I was working"
Mrs. Kurtág told the audience that she was promised by the regime that she could go after her husband, but never was this promise fulfilled. Then György answered; He realised that as a composer, it did not mattered where he was working. But his family was back home in Hungary.Mr. Kurtág meant his wife, Mrs. Kurtág, with whom he has never parted company since then.
With joining to the rest of the musical community of Hungary, and the world we would like to pay tribute and honour to the memory of an outstanding pianist, musician and teacher, Mrs. Márta Kurtág.