Farewell to Zoltán Jeney

Farewell to Zoltán Jeney
Zoltán Jeney, an outstanding personality in Hungarian composing, passed on October 27 at the age of 76.

He studied composition with Ferenc Farkas at the Budapest Music Academy, then continued his studies with Goffredo Petrassi in Rome in 1967-68. In 1970, together with Péter Eötvös, Zoltán Kocsis, László Sáry, Albert Simon and László Vidovszky, he founded the New Music Studio in Budapest, an exceptional workshop of experimental music in Eastern Europe. He began to teach at the Budapest Music Academy in 1986, between 1995 and 2011 he was head of the Department of Composition, and from 1999 to 2013 he was the head of the Doctoral School, influencing several generations of young Hungarian composers.

His works include all genres of music: His earned first international success with Soliloquium 1 for flute at the Gaudeamus Festival in Utrecht. Since the 1980s, his compositions have been regularly performed in Sweden, the Netherlands, North America and elsewhere. His main work is the three-hour oratorio Funeral Rite, which was completed in nearly twenty years, and was first performed in 2005 in full shape. His last great work, the cantata Aus tiefer Not, written on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, received the Artisjus Prize in 2018.

He was one of the leading personalities of the experimental art movement that evolved in Hungary in the 1970s and 80s. In his early compositions, as elements of form, melody, rhythm and the tone system, he made frequent use of non-musical basic materials such as text quotations, chess game moves, solitaire game moves, telex text rhythms and other systems. From the 1980s onwards he began once again to apply counterpoint methods reminiscent of the Baroque and pre-Baroque periods, and in addition, there appeared in his music an archaic style of tone production that in its declamation and melody formation drew on both Gregorian traditions and those of Hungarian folk music. Although in technical terms, all his works pass on and sum up the basic principles developed in earlier decades of his activity, his works written in the last decades of his life have already overtly contained the emotional freedom and sensual immediacy that he deliberately concealed behind rigorous constructions.

In 1993 he was elected a member of the Széchenyi Academy of Literature and Art. From 1993 to 1999 he was a board member of the International Society of Contemporary Music and from 1996 to 1999 he was vice president. In recognition of his work as a composer, he was awarded the Erkel Prize in 1982, the Artist of Merit in 1990, the Kossuth Prize in 2001, the Bartók-Pásztory Prize in 1988 and 2006. In 1985, he was a research professor at Columbia University in New York. From June 1988, he spent one year with the DAAD Fellowship in West Berlin, and in 1999 he was a visiting professor at the Northwestern University Music Faculty in Chicago. Between 2000 and 2002, he collaborated with the City of London Composition DLA program.

He had close contact with UMP Editio Musica Budapest for over fifty years since the publication of his first work in 1968, but many common plans have not yet been realized and must be completed in his absence, in line with his spirit.

His oeuvre will be taken care and we will keep him in our memory.