ERKEL, FERENC (FRANZ) (1810-1983)

Ferenc (Franz) Erkel (pron. Fair-rents Airkel) (born Gyula, Hungary on Nov. 7, 1810; died Pest, June 15, 1893), was the creator of Hungarian national opera. From his youth, he was taught music by his father. At age 24, Ferenc became the director of the Kaschau opera troupe, and went with it to Pest, where he was appointed conductor at the National Theater for its opening in 1837. He was the founder and director of the Budapest Philharmonic Concerts (1853), and first professor of piano and instrumentation at the National Musical Academy.
Among his compositional output are 10 operas which were all premiered in Budapest, among which are Bathory Maria (1840) and Hunyady Laszlo (1844) which was the first truly national Hungarian opera. It had almost 300 performances in its first 50 years. Additionally, he wrote music for plays, the Festival Overture for orchestra in 1887, as well as many songs and anthems in the national vein which became very popula, such as the Hungarian National Hymn (1845). Of "Hunyadi Induló," Franz Liszt thought so highly of this march that he transcribed it into a massive solo piano work in 1847. It is a classic example of the verbunkos folk style, indigenous of much of the music of Erkel's homeland, dance music which became infused in piano and orchestral works of both Liszt and Brahms.
Performance Note: Erkel has composed a nice march which has a good folk flavor utilizing a minor key. Although cut time is indicated, begin practicing it in 4/4 and when the musicans have it, change to the feel in 2 pulse. Pay attention to the dynamic contrasts especially when piano begins and grows into fortes. I was introduced to the work by Laszlo Marosi, former conductor of the Central Army Band of the Peoples Republic of Hungary. Working from a very soiled set of manuscript parts, I had to adapt the instrumentation, create a score (none--even a condensed one!--existed) as well as add editorial articulations, dynamics, etc. in an attempt to communicate an effective Hungarian flavor and style. Play "Hunyadi Induló" on the slower side, (q=108-112) and feel it dance!