Zoltán Kodály (16th December 1882–6th March 1967) was a Hungarian composer, ethnomusicologist, educator, linguist, and philosopher.
Kodály was one of the first people to undertake the serious study of folk song. Around 1906 he and fellow composer Béla Bartók published several collections of folk music together, and they both show the influence of folk music in their own compositions.
Kodály later studied with Charles Widor in Paris. There he absorbed influences of the music of Claude Debussy. In 1907 he moved back to Budapest, and gained a professorship at the Academy of Music there. He continued his folk music-collecting expeditions through World War I without interruption.
Kodály had no major success until 1923, when his Psalmus Hungaricus received its premiere at a concert to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the union of Buda and Pest (Bartók's Dance Suite had its premiere on the same occasion.) Following this success, Kodály travelled throughout Europe to conduct his music.
Kodály subsequently became very interested in the problems of music education, and wrote a good deal of educational music for schools, as well as books on the subject. Some commentators refer to his ideas as the "Kodály Method", although this seems something of a misnomer, as he did not actually work out a comprehensive method, rather laying down a set of principles to follow in music education.
He continued to compose for professional ensembles also, with the Dances of Marosszék (1930, in versions for solo piano and for full orchestra), the Dances of Galánta (1933, for orchestra), Variations on "The Peacock" (1939, commissioned by the Concertgebouw Orchestra to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary) and the Missa Brevis (1944, for soloists, chorus, orchestra, and organ) among his better known works. The suite from his opera Háry János (1926) also became well known, though few productions of the opera itself take place.
Kodály remained in Budapest through World War II, retiring from teaching in 1942. He died in Budapest in 1967, one of the most respected and well known figures in the Hungarian arts.
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