In the last one and a half years of his life Ernő Lendvai frequently entertained the thought of giving a succinct summary of his analytic method in a sort of school-book. His unexpected death prevented the realization of his plan. Upon the request of his wife, Erzsébet Tusa, the editors of this volume undertook this rather difficult task.
Ernő Lendvai‘s professional career spanned some four and a half decades. As is known, he began as a Bartók scholar, analyzing Bartók‘s works in his first essays (from 1947) and books (from 1955). From the early ’70s on, he extended his field of research first toward Kodály and later toward romanticism, particularly toward the music of Verdi and Wagner, and in his last paper (1992) he put a scene of Mozart‘s Magic Flute under scrutiny. His method thus gradually evolved into an almost overall analytic system.
The book is aimed, on however limited space, to present his theoretical statements as fully as possible. In one of our last meetings he said such a summary could aptly be based on his article ’Symmetries of Music’ (in: SYMMETRY Vol. 1, 1990 VCH Publishers, Inc.). Obviously, that was the most appropriate title to be given this book as well. The study, however, had to be substantially enlarged because some problems were completely missing from it and others were only touched on sketchily.
We selected passages from two major synthetizing works, ’The Workshop of Bartók and Kodály’ (Editio Musica Budapest, 1983) and ’Verdi and Wagner’ (International House Budapest, 1988). The former, containing articles written chiefly in the ‘60s and ‘70s, was mainly used in the first half of this book, the latter in the second half. In addition, we borrowed some passages and chapters from essays published elsewhere.
With slight omissions, Lendvai‘s study ’The Quadrophonic Stage of Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta’ was also included in the abridged form he prepared for the New Hungarian Quarterly, because, on the one hand, we wished to illustrate his way of analyzing a large form, and on the other, because it addresses an intriguing and special problem that is not discussed anywhere else.
We present in full professor Lendvai‘s last essay prepared for publication (The ’Sprecher’-scene of The Magic Flute) which first appears in this volume. The manuscript being untitled, we assigned it the title by which the author referred to it.
This volume is not at all a critical edition. Our task was to unify sections of studies published on the same topic at various points of time and space and to avoid repetitions. Always choosing the most compact and complete wording, at times we borrowed a passage or just a sentence from somewhere else. Appendices and notes containing significant theoretical statements were included in the body of text, but the ones deemed dispenseble were omitted. What entitled us to apply this procedure was that the author himself did the same to different versions of his studies.
It cannot be stressed enough, however, that there is not a single sentence, half sentence or even adjective that Ernő Lendvai would not have put down in the same context (the unavoidable editorial notes or references are added in footnotes and marked /ed./).
That applies to music examples and figures as well. Not even the bibliographic data were complemented (apart from the correction of obvious misprints). The selection of music examples was governed by the desire to best enlighten the theoretical statement on the one hand, and to represent as many composers as possible on the other.
The great temporal distance between the studies and the transformation and extension of the author‘s research field (e.g., the use of relative solmization) explains the differences (but not contradictions!) in style and partly in outlook between the first chapters of the volume (Axis System, Nature Symbolism, Harmonic Principles, The Quadrophonic Stage), and the later ones. This difference can sometimes be detected within a chapter as well (e.g., Authentic and Plagal Thinking). The same explanation applies to the preponderance of certain composers in some chapters (e.g. Bartók and in part Kodály in the starting chapters, Verdi and Wagner in the second half), and to the restriction of certain statements to one composer or another. That could not be avoided – nor was it our desire to do so.
The essays were translated by Mónika Pálos, Judit Pokoly and the author (and possibly by other, unknown translators), but it was impossible to determine who translated what. The Mozart study was translated by Judit Pokoly.
Thanks are due to the Kodály Institute of Kecskemét
and specifically to deputy director Mihály Ittzés for the
publication of this volume. He was the one to organize Ernő Lendvai‘s
first, and regrettably last, seminar in June 1992 where he could personally
meet a younger, unbiased generation open toward a new approach. It was
a source of delight both for him and for the participants.