Ernő Lendvai was born in 1925 in Kaposvár, Hungary. He studied at and graduated from the Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest as a pianist.
His pedagogical and artistic activities encompassed many aspects of music. He served as professor and director at various conservatories of music in Hungary. In addition, he was active as a sound engineer at the Hungarian Broadcasting Corporation, as a musical editor, as well as a conductor and pianist. His exceptional sense of technical sciences and especially of acoustics was well utilized and developed during his activity in broadcasting. Proof of this is his book "Toscanini and Beethoven", which actually is an analysis - in his expression: a reconstruction - of Symphony No. 7, based on the recorded sound. In his scientific endeavours he thus was never out of touch with live music. This seems to be one of the reasons that his publications effected a great many active musicians, conductors and composers alike.
Already in the 1940s, he had intuitively discovered - as if "struck by spiritual lightning" - the most important concepts and musical laws found in Bartók's music, in particular with respect to tonal systems and the Golden Section. Many today already familiar musical terms like Axis-System, Alpha-Chords, Acoustic Scale etc., were coined by Ernő Lendvai (in "Bartók stílusa", Zeneműkiadó 1955; Béla Bartók: An Analysis of his Music, London Kahn & Averill 1971), who later expanded his research to Kodály ("Bartók és Kodály harmóniavilága", Zeneműkiadó 1975;"The Workshop of Bartók and Kodály" Editio Musica 1983) and also into the Romantic Era with special emphasis on Verdi and Wagner ("Wagner has moved and captured me - I analysed him out of revenge "). In this respect he clarified a number of unsolved questions using the concept of Polymodal Chromaticism, a term created by Béla Bartók. By means of the Polymodal Chromaticism, he created among others the - so to say - "vocabulary" of the different keys, reflected in their several possible relationships, in the "field of force" of Verdi's Don Carlos. (In this “decoding”, the opera-texts rendered not only help, but proof, as well.) He also achieved the note by note analysis of Verdi's Falstaff (in "Verdi és a 20. század", Zeneműkiadó 1984 ; "Verdi and Wagner", International House 1988). In this new light, for some romantic harmonies, in the past seemingly quite problematical (e.g. the famous Tristan-chord), a new, convincing solution is revealed. Lendvai's discoveries extend back even to Mozart and Bach. In one of his last writings, he analyses the "Sprecher"-scene of Mozart's Magic Flute, on the basis of his former discoveries. The system – the manifold and multidimensional connections of the 12 tones revealed by Ernő Lendvai – seems to be primarily encoded in European music, as the ideal to which this whole musical culture aspired to.
Today, any approach to Bartók’s music is highly supported by Lendvai’s theoretical analyses. His concept can be characterized by the liberation from one definite tonality, postulating in every moment the total presence and interdependence of the encompassing tonal system. He opened new doors to a "multidimensional" analysis in the field of music that makes possible an integrated interpretation of a wide spectrum of European music. Moreover, he highlighted basic differences between Western and Eastern music, thus providing our musical culture with a more comprehensive understanding.
Ernő Lendvai's publications have been translated into seven languages so far. The Japanese translation alone has reached eleven reprints.
As a translation of the entire first volume of the new Complete Hungarian Lendvai-Edition, this book is intended for the English speaking reader. It presents - for the first time in English - the very first discoveries of the author, which were finalized in 1947. Although the scope of later works expanded to cover more and broader topics, the basic principles of Lendvai's thinking were already perfectly set out in this volume, thus revealing the electrifying primeval power of a quasi-vulcanic eruption.
so far published volumes of the Complete Hungarian Lendvai-Edition are
The bibliography at the end of this volume makes it obvious why the portraits appear on the cover. They are the musicians whose accomplishements stimulated Lendvai the most.
I would like to thank the following people for their contributions and support for this book:
of all Professor Miklós Szabó for his tireless meticulous
and continuous consultations, and
also Ms. Maria and Antonia Eliason for their devoted care towards the stylistic