Szőnyi, Erzsébet

April 25, 1924 Budapest - December 28, 2019 Budapest

Composer, music pedagogue. Her style cannot be classified in any of the trends of 20th-century Hungarian music history, and her approach is characterized by both conservatism and openness to new trends. She was a world-renowned mediator of Kodály's method of music education.

She began her studies at the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest in 1942, where she was a student of Lajos Bárdos, János Viski, Leó Weiner and Zoltán Kodály. From 1947 she studied for a year with a French State Scholarship at the Conservatoire in Paris, where Tony Aubin, Olivier Messiaen and Nadia Boulanger were her masters.

From 1945 to 1981 she was professor at the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music, and from 1960 to 1981 she headed the Department for high-school singing teachers and choral conductors. Encouraged by Kodály, she took part in the reorganization of music pedagogy in Hungary.

She was also significant in public life: from 1978 to 2003 she was the co-president of the Hungarian Kodály Society and the Bárdos Lajos Society, between 1992 and 1996 she was the vice-president of the Hungarian Chamber of Music, and from 1996 she was the co-president of the Hungarian Music Forum. She was a member of the Kodály Musical Training Institute in Hartford (USA), an honorary president of the French Kodály Society and KÓTA (Association of Hungarian Choirs and Orchestras), an honorary member of the International Kodály Society and the Polish Chopin Society. Erzsébet Szőnyi was a member of the Music Department of the Hungarian Academy of Arts since 1992, and an honorary doctor of the Duquesne University in Pittsburgh (USA) since 2006.

In recognition of her work as a composer and music teacher, she received the Erkel Prize in 1959, the Bartók-Pásztory Prize in 1995 and 2004, the title of Outstanding Artist in 2000, the Kossuth Prize in 2006, and the Prima Prize in 2011, in 2014 she becama Artist of the Nation. 

Her main works include 4 operas, musicals, ballet music, children's pieces, oratorios, cantatas, orchestral works (among other: Divertimento 1 and 2, Musica Festiva, Allegro per orchestra), works for piano and organ, chamber works, works for solo instruments, songs, choral works. Her works were recorded by Hungaroton.

She regularly published articles and studies in domestic and foreign journals. Her books: The Methodology of Music Literacy I-IV. (1954, published in Hungarian, English, Japanese, Italian, Portuguese), Kodály's Principles in Practice (1973, published in English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Thai), The educational ideas of Zoltán Kodály (1987).

Photo: Gyula Czimbal / MTI