I recently received a copy of Mátyás Seiber’s Yugoslav, Hungarian and Nonsense Songs for choir. This has been released on the SOMM label. It awaits review. However, I immediately noticed the Three Hungarian Folksongs (1950) on the track listing. This took me back a long way to my time as a bass in the Stepps and District Choral Society. Stepps is a village on the outskirts of Glasgow. At one concert we performed these songs. I guess that the society along with many of the members is no more. However, like all amateur ensembles it had its place in the music making of the area. I still have my copy of the Seiber songs, which I must have forgotten to return to the choirmaster!
MátyásSeiber was born in Hungary in 1905. He studied with Kodaly at the Budapest Music Academy. However, after the Great War he moved to Germany where he worked as an orchestral player, a conductor and a teacher of composition and jazz at the Hoch Conservatory, Frankfurt. In 1935 he moved to the United Kingdom as a refugee and continued to write music. He taught privately and at Morley College. Seiber's musical style is wide-ranging – it embraces serialism, Bartokian influences and film music. His most important works include the Third String Quartet and the cantata Ulysses which is a setting of words derived from James Joyce’s novel. Mátyás Seiber died in Kruger National Park on 24 September 1960.
The Three Hungarian Folksongs were written in 1950. There are all based on melodies collected ‘in the field’ by Bela Bartok. The three tunes are ‘The Handsome Butcher’, ‘Apple, apple’ and The ‘Old Women’.
There are a number of excellent versions of these folksongs on YouTube. I link to the one by The GiltspurSingers. I look forward presenting my review of the Somm CD release in these pages in due course.