Akkord A-1026A Budapest, 2006



Biography: The native village of the composer Mihály Mosonyi called Boldogasszony (Frauenkirchen) was a well-known place of pilgrimage as early as the 14th century. Since 1921 it has belonged, together with the western strip of the one-time Kingdom of Hungary, to Burgenland in Austria.[1] He was born on 4 September 1815 and baptised Michael Brand after his German-speaking grandfather and father.[2] As the fourth child of a poor village furrier, he soon had to earn a living. At the age of fourteen he was already sacristan at the county seat Magyaróvár. Some years later he enrolled at the teachers’ training college of Pozsony, the former Hungarian coronation city (Pressburg in German, now Bratislava, the capital of the Slovak Republic). Aged twenty, he obtained a job as a tutor to the children of Count Péter Pejachevich and his wife Countess Franciska Esterházy at Rétfalu near Eszék in Slavonia (Osijek, Croatia). There he laid the foundation of his independent existence and improved his musical skills through zealous self-education. In 1842 he moved to Pest[3] where he lived as a music teacher to his death. He got married at the age of thirty-one and took part in the 1848–1849 War of Independence as a member of the National Guard. When his wife died in 1851 his personal bereavement and the nation’s tragedy brought about a crisis both in his life and work.

In his first stylistic period (1837–1849) elements of German romanticism permeated gradually into his musical idiom inherited from Beethoven and Schubert. His first works already show his excellent sense of proportion and form-creating skills. He composed in this period three masses, two symphonies, an overture, a piano concerto, a sonata for piano duet, a string sextet, seven string quartets, two piano trios, several choruses, and made arrangements. At the time of his moving to Pest, Hungarian elements were still rare in his music. In his second period (1853–57) his music became increasingly individual and modern, enriched with Schumannian features. The works he wrote then include his fourth mass, a dozen of songs, some choruses, piano works, and arrangements. His personal acquaintance with Liszt, the failure of his romantic German opera (Kaiser Max auf der Martinswand) and the success of his Hungarian fantasia for piano with the title Pusztai élet (Puszta Life) contributed to a further change of style.[4]

The Hungarian music of the time was based on the verbunkos. This style roots in the so-called Werbung, the recruiting of soldiers accompanied with music during the reign of Maria Theresia (18th century). Except for György Antal Csermák (1774[?]–1822), the early verbunkos masters were not accomplished music theoreticians but virtuoso violinists of exceptional skills who had a natural genius for shaping melodies and improvisation, such as János Bihari (1764–1827) and János Lavotta (1764–1820). After the death of the trained musicians Márk Rózsavölgyi (1789–1848) and Béni Egressy (1814–1851) the genre verbunkos had no outstanding representatives. Although the Hungarian musical idiom had developed, it lacked musically trained, committed reformers. It was then that Michael Brand, a German composer of Pest achieved overwhelming success with his verbunkos fantasy Puszta Life in 1857. [5]

His change of style was a conscious decision. After preparations of about a year, the composer and writer on music appeared with a new, Hungarian name Mihály Mosonyi in 1859. He composed his two Hungarian operas (Szép Ilonka [Pretty Helen] 1861, Álmos 1862), his fifth mass, three cantatas and four symphonic poems. Numerous songs, sacred and secular choruses, piano works and arrangements of lasting value date from this period.[6]

Mosonyi’s work as a writer on music, moreover, as a general educator of the public unfolded in Zenészeti Lapok, the first significant Hungarian-language musical journal. Its owner and editor-in-chief was Kornél Ábrányi sen. (1822–1903), a writer on music, composer, pianist and teacher. The editorial board consisted of the music publisher Gyula Rózsavölgyi (1822–1861), the nephew of the above mentioned composer Márk Rózsavölgyi, the music historian, critic, ethnomusicologist, teacher and writer István Bartalus (1821–1899) and Mosonyi, who was the most versatile of the three. He wrote leading articles, feuilletons, treatises, essays on music policy, analyses, concert critics and reviews. He edited with pedagogical consideration in mind, some of the young composers’ first attempts at composition both in their original and corrected forms and even arranged the valuable ones in his own works. He participated with unbroken zeal in the work of editorial office from the foundation of the journal (3 October 1860) to 1866.[7]

 In February 1870 Mosonyi was invited to a conference discussing the plan of the Academy of Music in Pest. However, he did not live to see the opening of the Academy on 14 November 1875, even though he could have been a pillar of that institution of music education. He died of pneumonia, aged fifty-six, on 31 October 1870.[8]


The Description of the Works. The first two cycles of the present volume were still written under the name Brand. The composition Drey Klavierstücke (Three Piano Pieces) op. 2 is the composer's first surviving work for piano solo[9] printed, similar to all pieces in the present volume, by Rózsavölgyi in Pest. This cycle appeared in three volumes in 1855. The first piece entitled Gebet nach überstandener Gefahr (Prayer After Danger Endured) is a representative of Mosonyi’s significant church music output both in size and contents. Apart from the drawing on the title page, the titles of the second and third pieces Bei dem Brautkranz winden and Abschied der Braut aus dem Elternhause (Bridal Wreath and The Bride’s Farewell to the House of Her Parents) also bear out that this cycle was meant to be a wedding present. The work Zwey Perlen (Two Pearls) op. 3 was printed in two volumes in 1856.[10] Its composition may have been inspired by the concerts of Clara Schumann (1819-1896) given in Pest in February of the same year. The Neue Zeitschrift für Musik of Leipzig reported that after her last concert Mosonyi presented the artist with a bouquet in which there was a smaller laurel wreath dedicated to Robert Schumann’s genius. Clara accepted the flowers of admiration amidst cheering from the audience, with tears in her eyes,[11] because her husband Robert Schumann (1810-1856) had long been staying in the asylum of Endenich by that time. The setting of op. 3 no. 1 evokes Schumann's piece written in commemoration of Mendelssohn with the title Erinnerung (Album für die Jugend: op. 68 no. 28: 4 November 1847 Felix Mendelssohns Todestag). In his op. 3 no. 1 Mosonyi paid tribute to Schumann in much the same way.[12] The title Die bethaute Rose (Dewy Rose) may equally allude to the bunch of flowers and Clara’s tears. The intimate duet of no. 2 Die Thrän' im Auge (Dewy Eyes) seems to express the tragic love of Clara and Robert as well as Mosonyi's love to his early deceased wife Paulina Weber (1820-1851). All five pieces are composed in ternary song form with varied return and a short thematic coda. Their musical idiom and message are strikingly more modern than Brand’s works written under the inspiration of Viennese romanticism a few years earlier. Op. 3 no. 2 seems to anticipate the tone of the mature Brahms.

In 1857 the Emperor Franz Joseph and the Empress Elisabeth visited Pest-Buda. It was an event of crucial importance after the War of Independence (1848–49) and eight years of absolutism demonstrated well by the great number of remarkable works created for the occasion. They were all honouring the Empress who was known for her sympathy with the Hungarians and not the unpopular Emperor. This was the case, for example, with the opera Erzsébet (Elisabeth: a romantic treatment of the marriage of Saint Elisabeth of Hungary) composed by three composers: the first act by Franz Doppler (1821–1883), the second act by Ferenc Erkel (1810–1893) and the third by Karl Doppler (1825–1900). The music publisher Rózsavölgyi printed a representative album with the title Erzsébet-Emlény comprising a work each by twelve composers written for the visit. Mosonyi’s fantasy Pusztai élet (Puszta Life)[13] still published under the name Brand was the third piece in the collection and the composer’s first work using exclusively Hungarian musical elements.[14] As a gesture for the occasion there appears in it, from bar 123 onward, the imperial anthem Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser (Haydn) in Hungarian disguise as a cimbalom imitation, with augmented seconds[15]. Mosonyi later said of this work: “It was after the experiments in this album that I became convinced, as a matter of fact, that the Hungarian music was veritably destined for forming an independent, separate and original branch of the tree of all musical arts.”[16] The choice of title may have been influenced by the designation of a baulk called Puszta way lying to the west of the composer's native village of mixed German-Hungarian population.[17]

The 1859 defeat at Solferino shook the Habsburg Empire and forced it to make concessions. All of a sudden the Hungarian cultural scene oppressed by strict censorship so far and practically doomed to stagnation came suddenly to life. The centenary celebrations of the birth of Ferenc Kazinczy (1759–1831) provided a good opportunity for expressing the nation’s longing for freedom. As a matter of fact, Kazinczy was more than a writer, poet and translator. At one time of his life he was an ardent supporter of the ideas of the enlightened Emperor Joseph II, later a political prisoner in the ill-famed dungeon in Kufstein, then a leading personality of the language revivalist movement and of contemporary literary life. Mosonyi used a poem by Kazinczy when he composed the cantata Tisztulás ünnepe az Ungnál a 896. esztendőben (The Festival of Purification at the River Ung in 896) (in fact, his third symphony)[18] and also wrote a work for piano in his honour Hódolat Kazinczy Ferenc szellemének (Homage to the Genius of Ferenc Kazinczy).[19] It was Michael Brand’s first piece published under his Hungarian name Mihály Mosonyi chosen after his place of birth. Mosonyi’s attraction to Kazinczy seems to be inevitable since he played a similar role in Hungarian musical life as Kazinczy’s had done in literary life in his own time. The composer drew a striking portrait of the poet and language revivalist.[20] The work is a Hungarian Lamento e Trionfo in verbunkos style. The middle section of the bridge form of the slow part evokes the atmosphere of the slow main subject of Liszt's symphonic poem Hungária.[21] A year later Mosonyi orchestrated his highly acclaimed piano work. It was the first symphonic piece in music literature to include the Hungarian cimbalom in the orchestra: in bars 2 and 66 of the work Mosonyi inserted long solo cadences.[22] The material of the symphonic poem is, for that matter, identical with that of the piano fantasy.

Magyar zeneköltemény (Hungarian Musical Poem)[23] is dedicated to ÁgnesRosti who was perhaps Mosonyi's pupil and wife to Baron József Eötvös (1823-1871), a writer, politician, and minister of culture for a while.[24] Written in variation rondo form in which the rondo theme returns differently each time, Mosonyi's work was printed in April 1860. A peculiarity of the notation of the piece is the graphic representation of tempo changes[25] not to be found anywhere else until the twentieth century. The diagram provides a key to the Hungarian rubato playing style that has practically disappeared from the performing practice of Hungary as well.

Count István Széchenyi (1791-1860) died on 8 April 1860.[26] He was a writer, politician, and statesman who exerted a decisive influence on his time. He aimed at transforming Hungary to an economically strong and independent country. By means of his splendid reform policy, he achieved more in this respect than anyone else. He was already regarded and appreciated as the greatest Hungarian by his contemporaries. His death shook the whole nation. Mosonyi's piano work Gyász hangok Széchenyi István halálára (Funeral Music on the Death of István Széchenyi) appeared three weeks later.[27] It means he must have written it in the space of a few days (or, as legend has it, on a single day)[28], in the mood of general mourning. The basso ostinato of the funeral music inspired Ferenc Liszt (1811-1886)[29] as well. Mosonyi orchestrated Gyász hangok without any changes in the year of composition yet. His first biographer Kornél Ábrányi sen. (1822-1903) remembered it as follows: “This masterpiece expressed the nation’s grief of those days so impressively and with such dramatic force that it made Mosonyi the nation’s celebrated composer all of a sudden.”[30]


Except for the arrangements and the two cycles written for educational purposes, the present edition contains all of Mosonyi’s known and available works for piano solo[31]

The performing questions of the verbunkos style are treated in detail in the epilogue to the new edition of Mosonyi’s composition Studies for Piano for Development in the Performance of Hungarian Music (Budapest, 1996).

In the present edition the editor’s additions are distinguished by grey colour. The critical notes can be found after the English translation.

I owe acknowledgements to the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music, Research Library for Hungarian Music History (Budapest) for making available the music editions serving as sources of the present edition.

I offer thanks to all my collaborators for their generous work making this edition possible and last but not least to all sponsors contributing to this edition.


István Kassai


Budapest, Easter 1997-Advent 2000


Translated by Erzsébet Mészáros



Ábrányi K., id. (1872): Mosonyi Mihály élet és jellemrajza. Corvina. Pest.

Bónis F. (1960): Mosonyi Mihály. Gondolat. Budapest.

Bónis F. (1961): Mosonyi Mihály magyar operái.    In: Szabolcsi B., Bartha D. (szerk.):Zenetudományi tanulmányok az opera történetéből. Akadémiai Kiadó. Budapest. Vol. 9.

Bónis F. (1962): Die ungarishen Opern Mihály Mosonyis. In: Studia musicologica. Tom. II.

Bónis F. (1989a): Mosonyiana I–III. In: Magyar Zene 2.

Bónis F. (1989b): Mosonyiana IV. In: Magyar Zene 3.

Bónis F. (1989c): Mosonyiana V. In: Magyar Zene 4.

Bónis F. (1995): Mosonyiana II [VI]. In: Magyar Zene 1.

Bónis F. (2000a): Mosonyi Mihály. Magyar zeneszerzők. Mágus. Budapest. Vol. 10.

Bónis F. (2000b): Mozarttól Bartókig. Püski. Budapest.

Bónis F. (2001): Mihály Mosonyi. In: The New Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Macmillan. London. Vol. 17.

Bónis F. (2002): Mihály Mosonyi. Hungarian Composers. Mágus. Budapest. Vol. 10.

Gmasz, P., Gmasz, S. (o. J.): Chronik Stadtgemeinde Frauenkirchen. Frauenkirchen.

Gollowitzer, M. (1973): Adatok Mosonyi Mihály családjának történetéhez. In: Bónis F. (szerk.): Magyar zenetörténeti tanulmányok Mosonyi Mihály és Bartók Béla emlékére. Zeneműkiadó. Budapest.

Hoffer, P. P. (1961): Mihály Mosonyi. In: Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Bärenreiter. Kassel. Vol. 9.

Káldor J. (1936): Michael Mosonyi. (Phil. Diss.). Dittert. Dresden.

Kassai I. (2001): Adalékok a Mosonyi-kutatáshoz. In: Bónis F. (szerk.): Magyar zenetörténeti tanulmányok Erkel Ferencről, Kodály Zoltánról és korukról. Püski. Budapest.

Kassai I. (2003): Utóhang/Nachwort/Epilogue. In: Mosonyi Mihály: Transcriptions for Piano. Kassai István (Private edition, distributed by Akkord. A-1047). Budapest.

Kassai I. (2005): Három dallamtörténeti adalék. In: Bónis F. (szerk.): Magyar zenetörténeti tanulmányok a nemzeti romantika világából. Püski. Budapest.

Legány D. (1994a): Mihály Mosonyi Symphony & Piano Concerto. Naxos Marco Polo. 8223539. CD notes.

Legány D. (1994b): Mihály Mosonyi Piano Works. Vol. 1. Naxos Marco Polo. 8223557. CD notes.

Legány D. (1994c): Mihály Mosonyi Piano Works. Vol. 2. Naxos Marco Polo. 8223558. CD notes.

Legány D. (1994d): Mihály Mosonyi Piano Works. Vol. 3. Naxos Marco Polo. 8223559. CD notes.

Legány D. (1998a): Mihály Mosonyi Piano Works. Vol. 4. Naxos Marco Polo. 8223560. CD notes.

Legány D. (1998b): Mihály Mosonyi Piano Works. Vol. 5. Naxos Marco Polo. 8225022. CD notes.

Legány D. (1999): Mihály Mosonyi Piano Trios. Naxos Marco Polo. 8225042. CD notes.

Mona I. (1989): Magyar zeneműkiadók és tevékenységük 1774–1867. MTA Zenetudományi Intézet. Budapest.

Nagy I. (1859): Magyarország családai. Ráth Mór. Pest. Tom. V.

Nagy I. (1862): Magyarország családai. Ráth Mór. Pest. Tom. IX.

Ságh J. (1879): Magyar zenészeti lexikon. A szerző kiadása. Pest.

Sárosi B. (1997): Meddig terjed a népies dal határa. In. Bónis F. (szerk.): Kodály emlékkönyv 1997. Püski. Budapest.


[1] Gmasz, P., Gmasz, S., pp. 14-15.

[2] Gollowitzer, pp. 53-62.

[3] Bónis (1989a), pp. 170-171.

[4] Bónis (1960), pp. 29-72.

[5] Bónis (1960), pp. 62-72.

[6] Bónis (1960), pp. 77-264.

[7] Bónis (1960), pp. 142-162.

[8] Bónis (1960), pp. 254–264.

[9] Bónis (1960), pp. 60-61, Mona nos. 1171-3.

[10] Bónis (1960), pp. 59-60, Mona nos. 1209-10.

[11] Bónis (1989a), p. 184. For the original of the article see the German text.

[12] Kassai (2001), pp. 95-96.

[13] Bónis (2000a), p. 12, Mona nos. 1227, 1230-1231.

[14] Bónis (1960), pp. 59-60.

[15] Kassai (2001), pp. 96-97.

[16]  Bónis (1960), p. 60.

[17] Gmasz, P., Gmasz, S., p. 45.

[18] Bónis (1960), pp. 89-106.

[19] Mona no. 1471.

[20] Bónis (1960), p. 80.

[21] Legány (1994d), p. 5.

[22] Bónis (1960), p. 138. Erkel also used the cimbalom in the score of his opera Bánk bán under the influence of Mosonyi.

[23] Mona no. 1364

[24] Half a century later Eötvös was commemorated by Liszt in the second piece of his cycle Hungarian Historical Portaits

[25].Bónis (1960), pp. 119-120.

[26] Széchenyi’s immense lifework has had a lasting and imperishable influence. Even his political adversaries called him the greatest Hungarian. According to the still prevailing official position, he committed suicide although documents either for or against this manner of death are missing, only theories exist that may be interesting, logical but of no real significance. At any rate, it is not our task to deal with them. Széchenyi died, Széchenyi’s lifework ended. The cathartic effect of the news of his death put Széchenyi once again into the centre of public life. Several villages and communities held memorial services, commemorations and had masses read. His person inspired a lot of artists for creating poems, memorial speeches, objects of arts and compositions.

[27] Mona no. 1374

[28] It is, however, more probable that Mosonyi took over – naturally extended and arranged for the occasion – this funeral music from the fourth act of his opera Szép Ilonka written in those days. Gyászhangok shows thematic and motivic relationships with the opera, unlike the funeral march that came in its place. As is well-known, the latter is the musically unaltered orchestration – though transposed to B flat minor – of the seventh piece in E minor of the series of studies entitled Tanulmányok zongorára a magyar zene előadásának képzésére (Studies for piano for the development in the performance of Hungarian music).

[29] In the fourth, central piece of his Hungarian Historical Portraits compiled in 1885 Liszt based the portrait of László Teleki (1811-1861), a politician with tragic fate on this G-B flat –C sharp-F sharp bass. Bónis (1960), pp. 261-263. The opening piece of this cycle is a portrait of Széchenyi, while its last movement is the staggeringly beautiful Lisztian funeral music in memory of the loyal friend Mihály Mosonyi. Bónis (1960), pp. 261-263.

[30] Ábrányi (1872), p. 59.

[31] For the full catalogue of works see Bónis (2000a), p. 26-30. For literature in German see Hoffer, Káldor. For English literature see Bónis (2001) and (2002).