Zoltán Kodály

December 16, 1882 – March 06, 1967

Modern Period

Born in Hungary

Zoltán Kodály was born in Kecskemét, Hungary. Because his father worked with the Hungarian Railway System, the family was transferred a lot. As a result, Zoltán learned about music from all different parts of his country as he moved around. That was the beginning of his life-long interest in folk music.

Both of Zoltán’s parents were amateur musicians, so there was also music in the house. As a boy, Zoltán learned to play the violin, piano, viola and cello. He performed in his school orchestra and at home with his parents.

As an adult, Kodály continued traveling around Hungary, collecting and studying Hungarian folk music. Much of the music he composed was based on folk songs he collected on his travels. He also created a new way to teach music to children. His system became known as the Kodály Concept (or Method), and it’s still used today by teachers around the world.

Kodály’s most popular work is the suite from his opera Háry János. Háry János was a real man who liked to sit around at the village inn telling tall tales about his youth. One of those tales had him defeating Napoleon’s army all by himself. The “Viennese Musical Clock” describes the mechanical clock Háry János claimed to have heard at the Austrian emperor’s palace.