Kodály's method of teaching music is brilliant …. All good music-making begins with the voice.

Sir Georg Solti

Conference tributes and holy mass in honour of László Dobszay’s birthday


László Dobszay’s life and work are honoured with a series of presentations and concerts given by the great Széchenyi Prize-winning music historian, folk music researcher, choral conductor and academic’s colleagues, students and family-members. The Head of the Church Music Department of the Liszt Academy, Ágnes Dobszay talked about the symposium held on 3 February.

When did the tradition of these conferences start, and what is its central theme this time? 

It is the seventh time that this commemorative symposium has been held, always on the weekend closest to 2 February, László Dobszay’s birthday. This year, I joined forces with Pál Richter in the decision to focus on my father’s folk music research activities.  He was an active folk music scholar right from the start of his professional career. In 1966-ban – after completing his solfege volume series (The World of Tones), upon Kodály’s personal invitation, he joined the staff of the Folk Music Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. In cooperation with Benjamin Rajeczky and Janka Szendrei, he mainly concentrated on the folk music collection of the institution.  


Ágnes Dobszay. Photo: Liszt Academy / Andrea Felvégi


What exact assignments did he have in the research team?

He primarily classified folk songs, conducted folk music collection trips or selected folk music tunes recorded previously by Bartók. He would often tell us what joy it meant to him to bump into an original script, Bartók’s penmanship. Thanks to the intense work on the folk music material, he became familiar with the entire collection kept at the Institute for Musicology. He encountered each folk song several times, and the being so well-verged in folk music greatly inspired him in pedagogical work and personal world of music. He could relate perfectly well to Kodály’s notion that folk music is absolutely essential in music instruction: for children, folk music is pricelessly valuable, demanding and is to be acquired with ease. This is the reason why the material of The World of Tones is also based mainly on folk songs.

What presenters and presentations are on the programme of the symposium this year?

According to the present schedule, first, Prof Pál Richter is going to talk about my father’s folk music collection work, then Bálint Sárosi – a doyen among folk musicians – will be recalling their joint collection trips.  Traditional church songs will be in the spotlight in three presentations: Ágnes Papp will be talking to us about the church songs with Gregorian roots, while Anette Papp will deliver a speech on the instruction of traditional church songs. Eszter Gaál will be delivering an abundant summary of a manuscript concentrating on funeral songs. Prof István Pávai will recall his collegial relationship with László Dobszay, and as the closing address of the day, Ferenc Sebő will be presenting his volume Catalogue of Hungarian Folk Song Types.  The event will be concluded with a brief concert given by the students of the Folk Music and the Church Music Departments, performing church songs that are connected to László Dobszay’s folk music collection activity.

Prior to the conference, your father’s birthday will be commemorated with a holy mass.

The event got entwined with the feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple (Candlemas).  The service will start at 6.30pm in St. Theresa of Avila Roman Catholic  Church. My father would hold this holiday in great honour and fervently encouraged that the tradition of the procession before the holy mass would be renewed. The musical part of the liturgy will be delivered by the Schola Academica, and the memory of László Dobszay will naturally also be recalled during the ceremony. 

As the person mainly in charge of the Dobszay-heritage, how do you feel about this situation and task?

It is by no means easy, and I wouldn’t cope with it on my own. It is us, the department and the students who are to take care of his legacy. My father worked in so many diverse fields that many people must collaborate to be able to carry on what he began. We strive to convey his legacy, his ethos and openness as well as to pass on church and general music skills that can be practised in everyday life. It is our ultimate goal to do this at the highest possible professional and artistic level, enriching thereby the education of the Liszt Academy.