Artúr Harmat

June 27, 1885. Nyitrabajna – April 20, 1962. Budapest
Harmat Artúr (Fotó: Zeneakadémia képgyűjteménye - Vajda M. Pál fotó)When Artúr Harmat established the Church Music Department at the Academy of Music in 1926 he solved a problem of European significance, as only the universities of Freiburg and Strasbourg had church music departments at this time in Europe.
 
Artúr Harmat came into connection with church music in his youth and studied that with Ferenc Kersch the choral conductor of the Basilica at Esztergom, whom he really respected. ‘I imbibed the love for real musica sacra at the choir gallery of the Basilica of Esztergom and gained the basis for my further development.' – as he wrote in 1913. Then he was an active participant of the ‘Sacred Music Association' in Nyitra already, where he was appointed voice teacher and organist at the high school and then was elected choral conductor of the association. In the meantime he pursued studies at the Academy of Music in Budapest, where he earned first a degree as a high school voice teacher and then in composition under the guidance of Viktor Herzfeld. During his studies abroad he was a student of Albanus Schachleitner abbot of the Emaus monastery in Prague, who taught Gregorian chant, and attended the courses of Dominicus Johner in Beuron and Max Ast in Berlin.
 
In 1912 he joined the newly organized team of voice teachers in the capital by the invitation of Pongrác Kacsoh.  He led the Palestrina Choir from 1921, that was a significant member of Hungarian musical life until its merging to the Budapest Choir. From the Székesfővárosi Felsőbb Zeneiskola (Higher School of Music of the Capital) he got to the Academy of Music in 1924, where he was a professor of liturgy, Gregorian chant, decrees of sacred music, Hungarian folk hymns, harmony, counterpoint, instrumentation and choir conducting practice. He was entrusted to set up a High School Class Singing Teacher Division in 1926 (this plan came true in 1929), and at the request of Kunó Klebelsberg Minister of Religion and Public Education, he could also begin to organize his old dream the Church Music Department the same year, as a result of which the Sacred Musician and Choir Master Divisions of the Academy of Music started in the fall of 1928.
 
Artúr Harmat, the teacher and choral conductor had been associate director for the high spirited Mihály Bogisich prebend of the Hungarian National Cecília Association for two years already, and was an ecclesiastic art council member, who worked constantly organizing concerts in churches, at the Academy of Music, in Budapest and in other regions. He led the choir of the City Center Main Parish between 1922 and 1938, and the one of the St. Stephen Basilica from 1938 to 1956. In his tireless work he considered Ferenc Kersch an example throughout, who getting ahead of his age reorganized the choir of the main cathedral and carried out the liturgical and musical decrees of the church.
 
In 1929 he became a member of the board of directors of the Internationale Gesellschaft für Erneuerung der Katolischen Kirchenmusik in Frankfurt, under the auspices of which association, he organized foreign performances of many Hungarian compositions with a pretty success. He was the vice-president of the Magyar Zeneművészek Szabad Szervezete (Free Association of Hungarian Musicians) until 1950 when the Művészeti Dolgozók Szakszervezete (Arts Workers' Union) was established. In 1948 he was elected an ordinary member of the Szent István Akadémia (St. Stephen Academy) and became the vice-president of the Bartók Béla Association the same year.
 
Artúr Harmat was one of the most committed and most devoted composers of Hungarian Sacred Music of his age. Ten Latin masses, three Te Deums, Latin and Hungarian turbas of passions, the Psalm 150 that was written for the consecration of the organ at the church of Terézváros in Budapest, several Hungarian and Latin motets are tied to his name. His highest profile mass was the ‘Missa Sancti Stephani Regis ex veteribus melodiis hungarorum saeculis ad quatuor voces inaequales (soli ad libitum), cum organo', premiered on the 28th of May in 1944 (Sunday of Pentecost) at the St. Stephen Basilica in Budapest. According to the tradition, the choir of the basilica has still been celebrating Pentecost and the day of St Stephen with that mass up to the present day.  
 
The following books take a prominent place in his pedagogical work:  Lyra Coelestis, a collection for practical ends containing arrangements of Hungarian folk hymns from the 17th and 18th centuries and another one with the title Szent vagy Uram (Holy is the Lord) finished in 1931, or his Counterpoint the two volumes of which were published in 1947 and 1956, that the author dedicated to ‘musicologists, music writers, church musicians, conductors and chapel masters', and which should still not be missed from the tables of any worthwhile church musicians up to this day.
 
Artúr Harmat, the creator and leading personality of Hungarian Musica Sacra died in 1962.
 
T. K.

 

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