June 8, 1929. Szombathely
They used to refer to themselves as a fortunate generation. Certainly it is not because they lived through the greatest conflagration of the world as young men, were witnesses of crushing of a revolution and lived most of their lives in an authoritarian political system. Their generation was fortunate professionally as they learned ethnomusicology from Kodály and music history from Szabolcsi. In the course of their years of study they received an incentive affecting their whole life which meant dedication at once: fulfill the expectation of their masters by giving the best of their knowledge. Today, at the millennium that generation is in its seventies but the representatives of them, following their artist and scientist professor predecessors' example still take an active part in the life of science and continue their researching work although they already have a large and respectable life achievement.
László Vikár is doubly dedicated to the case of folk music: on one hand because he is a pupil of Kodály, on the other hand because he is from the family of Béla Vikár. He was born in 1929 at Szombathely, got into the class singing teacher and choral conductor division of the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest. His professors were Jenő Ádám and Zoltán Vásárhelyi. After receiving his choral conductor and music teacher degree (1952–1956) he chose the musicology division as his interest turned to ethnomusicology and folk music research. After graduation he continued his studies as a scientific aspirant of Kodály (1956–1959), then scientific associate and secretary at the Folk Music Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences between 1960 and 1973, (Folk Music Division, Institute of Musicology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, from 1974), senior research fellow from 1973, leader of the Folk Music Department between 1977 and 1991, Deputy Director of the institute between 1981 and 1984, scientific advisor from 1991. He has been teaching folk music at the Academy of Music since 1970, initially as a lecturer, later as an adjunct, docent between 1982 and 1997, and professor of the institution from 1997. He has been lecturer of the Calgary University (Canada) since 1985. He defended his candidate's thesis in 1961 and was awarded Doctor of Musicology in 1989. His memberships of the Complex Committee of Uralistics (Finnugor) at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Society of Musicology mark his reputation in scientific life. He had numerous social functions throughout his life: he was vice president of International Kodály Society (1975–93), vice president of Hungarian Kodály Society (1978–84), Executive Chairman of Hungarian National Committee, ICTM (1970–95). He was awarded the Széchenyi Prize in 1995, as an acknowledgement of his work.
Vikár's interest in the East was already reflected in his first publication dealing with the relations of the Chinese and Hungarian folk music, published in 1955. This might have played a role in that Kodály directed his aspirant towards the research of folk music of relative nations. He has collected thousands of Cheremis, Chuvash, Votyak, Mordvin, Bashkir and Tatar melodies and prepared them for publication working with his linguist colleague, Gábor Bereczky. The scientific interest and love for folk music would not have been enough for the accomplishment of that huge work. Stubborn persistence and desperate will were needed for the pair to reach the locations of the field work behind the Ural, fighting with the bureaucracy of the Soviet Union of the 1960s and 70s, on literally pathless roads, among extraordinary difficulties and severe weather conditions. They summarized the results of their collecting trips in four thick volumes with exact notation of the melodies, Hungarian translation of the texts, and analytical studies on the melodies: Cheremis Folksongs (1971), Chuvash Folksongs (1979), Votyak Folksongs (1989), Tatar Folksongs (1999). They fulfilled their mission: by their publications the musical folklore of the above mentioned peoples became accessible for the international ethnomusicology and the Hungarian representatives of the science could formulate their opinion on the relation of the Hungarian and relative peoples' folk music, possessing an appropriate number of authentic data.
László Vikár professes – similarly to the great predecessors – that one of the main tasks of ethnomusicology is collecting and a necessary condition for becoming an ethnomusicologist is the personally done fieldwork at the location.
Vikár has collected more than 8000 folksongs among Hungarians and other peoples starting in 1952. He recorded the melodies of relative peoples in the largest number but he has been to China, Mongolia, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Finland and in Transylvania, Northern Hungary and Transdanubia among Hungarians. The experiences and results of his collecting trips are preserved in a vast amount of smaller studies and recordings.