Born: Feb 1, 1907 in Cluj-Napoca
Dead: Mar 6, 1992 in Berne
Genre: Chamber Music, Concerto, Orchestral Music
All Music Guide
Sandor Veress is considered to be the most significant Hungarian composer of the generation following Bartok and Kodaly. His emulation of Bartok goes far beyond imitation. Since his life was not only marked by the wars and catastrophes of this century, but also by loneliness, his work has received only little acclaim up to now. As a composer he always went the way he felt absolutely committed to in solitude.
The starting point of his composing technique lay in a combination of melodic phrases from Hungarian folk songs with a contrapuntal manner of composition acquired from 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 in his 1st String Quartet he thus made use of a composition set of twelve tones, which was, however, orientated to a tonal centre, i.e. a central tone, not a harmonic tonic. In the compositorial examination of twelve-tone music that Veress felt compelled to undertake after his emigration such a centre is always maintained. But its effect on the composition is now indirect and more differentiated. However, Veress would not go beyond the limits of the half-tone; he never took quarter tones or vague pitches into consideration as structural elements.
Sandor Veress' work is many-sided. One main emphasis lies on arrangements of songs for choirs (strongly influenced by folk music) and on demanding chamber music, either for traditional or ad hoc ensembles. Works such as his Musica concertante for twelve solo strings and Orbis tonorum for chamber ensemble transcend the limitations of chamber music. Another extremely varied group comprises his concertos for various instruments: the violin, the piano (including Hommage a Paul Klee), the oboe (Passacaglia concertante), the clarinet, for string quartet or for two trombones (his last finished work). Yet another group consists of orchestral works: two symphonies, a Sonata per orchestra and Threnos in memoriam Bela Bartok. There are also two large-scale works for choir and orchestra, Psalmus Sancti Augustini and Glasklangespiel, as well as two ballets (thou both require congenial choreography). Veress finally wrote two works for one voice, Cinque Canti on poems by Attila Jozsef (voice and piano) and Elegie nach Walther von der Vogelweide (voice and chamber orchestra). Here neither the choice of texts nor their arrangement was left to chance by the composer.
The task of making Veress' works known to a wider public is left to the future. His music has a weight all of its own. Its originality and significance can be appraised either in its own right or in connection, and in comparison, to other great works of this century, be they in the tradition of Bartok to Lutoslavsky and Kurtag, part of the Second Viennese School (esp. Webern) or Stravinsky, Hindemith et al.).
Andreas Traub (tr, Thomas Ruetschi)