Our task is to form veritable talents who possess the necessary gifts to become masters, without attending to the ungifted mediocrity.

Liszt to Giovanni Sgambati
Leó Weiner

Leó Weiner

16 April 1885, Budapest – 13 September 1960, Budapest

Leó Weiner was a composer and pedagogue of outstanding significance of the first half of the twentieth century. The beginning of his career historically coincided with Bartók's and Kodály's work, as Weiner was only three and four years younger to them respectively. Regarding school and master, he grew up in the same workshop as them: he could also declare himself a pupil of the outstanding professor of composition, Hans Koessler at the Academy of Music.

At the beginning of his composing career he appeared like a comet at the sky of Hungarian composition in the first decade of the century. His early symphonic works such as the Serenade (1906) and the Carneval (1907) gave evidence of remarkable maturity, romantic sense of color and musical humor. Striking presence of his works was still effective in the 1910's: the incidental music of Csongor és Tünde [Csongor and Tünde] was received by the contemporary audience as one of the most poetic composition of new Hungarian music. In his early masterpieces of chamber music he created a unique synthesis between the tradition of Mendelssohn, Brahms, Schumann and the Hungarian music style of the turn of the century (in two of his string quartets and sonatas for violin and piano). Although, because of the expansion of the new Hungarian music style – Bartók and Kodály- becoming prominent in the meantime, Weiner experienced a gradually increasing creative dilemma and became an advocate of conservative approach based on tonal grounds. In his compositions from 1931, proceeding to a new direction, he also changed voice and style based on sources of Hungarian folk music, primarily through individual arrangements of instrumental folk music sources (the five-volume piano-series of Magyar parasztdalok [Hungarian Folksongs], orchestral divertimentos, etc.). All works of his second period enrich the history of current Hungarian composition as masterpieces of musical mastery and knowledge.
The pedagogic side of the life achievement of Leó Weiner is even more complex, resulting even more success. He had been teaching diverse subjects through his fifty years professorship at the Academy of Music: music theory from 1908, composition between 1913 and 1921, chamber music from 1923/1924, coaching of the orchestra of the institution (not having a permanent conductor) in 1927/1928, and he crowned the unparalleled richness of his five-decade teaching career with coaching of string quartets in the last decade of his life. The performing artists' training of Weiner prevailed in every instrumental segment in the 1920s already: the effectiveness of the education of wind quintets especially worth mentioning, which, according to contemporary critics resulted in the improvement of the general level of wind performance practice in Hungarian concert life. Weiner's knowledge of music literature at the compositional level, the analytical, thorough knowledge of style of the musical excerpts enriched the artist generation which grew up by his guidance with unequaled artistic sight and practical presentation of the solution. His musical understanding provided insight primarily to the interpretation of Viennese Classics: Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. He continued teaching which gave primary purpose to his life until almost the last day of his existence: he taught young artists preparing for and achieving striking success at international competitions at his home after retiring. He presented the knowledge of the artistry of musical interpretation to the outstanding future performers of Hungarian musical art through the five decades of his teaching career: the greatest excellences of international musical life – conductors, instrumental soloists, string quartets and chamber musicians - declare him their master, the teacher providing them with the secrets of the principles and practice of music making. From the endless line of Weiner students let some names stand here to enhance the impact of this great master: György Solti, Antal Doráti, the Léner Quartet, the Bartók Quartet, the Weiner Quartet, Tibor Varga, Dénes Kovács, János Starker, György Kurtág and the Weiner-Szász Chamber Orchestra named after him.
B. M.