1 February 1907
Cluj-Napoca, Cluj, Romania
4 March 1992 (aged 85)
Sándor Veress (born February 1, 1907 in Kolozsvár, died March 4, 1992 in Bern) was a Hungarian composer and a lynchpin figure in Hungarian musical culture between the generations of Béla Bartók and György Ligeti. He studied composition with Zoltán Kodály, carried out ethno-musicological fieldwork of the Csángó-Magyars in Romanian Moldavia, and worked as Bartók's assistant at the Hungarian Academy of Science in Budapest. He would go on to teach the likes of György Kurtág, Ligeti, and Heinz Holliger. In 1949, Veress would leave Hungary for Switzerland, becoming Professor of Musical Ethnology and Music of the 20th Century at the University of Bern.
The bedrock of Veress's compositional technique lay in Hungarian folk songs, combined with a contrapuntal manner of composition acquired from Old Italian vocal polyphony. This led Veress to a free handling of intervals and to the combination of half or whole tones independent of tonality. As early as his first String Quartet he made use of a set of twelve tones, which were orientated to a tonal centre, i.e. a central tone, not a harmonic tonic.
Veress worked in many genres, including arrangements of songs for choirs (strongly influenced by folk music); chamber music, (such as his Musica concertante for twelve solo strings and Orbis tonorum for chamber ensemble); concertos for violin, piano (Hommage à Paul Klee), oboe (Passacaglia concertante), clarinet, and two trombones (Tromboniade, his last finished work); string quartets; two symphonies and a Sonata for orchestra; large-scale works for choir and orchestra (Sancti Augustini Psalmus and Das Gasklängespiel); two ballets; and works for solo voice (such as the folkloristic cycle Canti Ceremissi).
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