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Centre and Periphery, Roots and Exile

Interpreting the Music of István Anhalt, György Kurtág, and Sándor Veress

Friedemann Sallis, Robin Elliott, and Kenneth DeLong, editors


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$85.00 Hardcover, 480 pp.

ISBN13: 978-1-55458-148-1

Release Date: September 2011



This book examines the impact place and displacement can have on the composition and interpretation of Western art music, using as its primary objects of study the work of István Anhalt (1919–2012) György Kurtág (1926–) and Sándor Veress (1907–92). Although all three composers are of Hungarian origin, their careers followed radically different paths. Whereas, Kurtág remained in Budapest for most of his career, Anhalt and Veress left: the former in 1946 and immigrated to Canada and the latter in 1948 and settled in Switzerland. All three composers have had an extraordinary impact in the cultural environments within which their work took place.

In the first section, “Place and Displacement,” contributors examine what happens when composers and their music migrate in the culturally complex world of the late twentieth century. The past one hundred years produced record numbers of refugees, and this fact is now beginning to resonate in the study of music. As Anhalt himself forcefully asserts, however, not all composers who emigrate should be understood as exiles. The first chapters of this book explore some of the problems and questions surrounding this issue.

Essays in the second section, “Perspectives on Reception, Analysis, and Interpretation,” look at how performing acts of interpretation on music implies bringing the time, place, and identity of the musician, the analyst, and the teacher to bear on the object of study. Like Kodály, Kurtág considers his work to be “naturally” embedded in Hungarian culture, but he is also a quintessentially European artist. Much of his production—he is one of the twentieth century’s most prolific composers of vocal music—involves the setting of Hungarian texts, but in the late 1970s his cultural horizons expanded to include texts in Russian, German, French, English, and ancient Greek. The book explores how musicologists’ divergent cultural perspectives impinge on the interpretation of this work.

The final section, “The Presence of the Past and Memory in Contemporary Music,” examines the impact time and memory can have on notions of place and identity in music. All living art taps into the personal and collective past in one way or another. The final four chapters look at various aspects of this relationship.

Friedemann Sallis obtained his PhD in musicology under the direction of the late Carl Dahlhaus at the Technische Universitt Berlin. His writings include a book on the early works of György Ligeti and numerous articles. He is the co-editor of A Handbook to Twentieth-Century Musical Sketches (2004).

Robin Elliott taught at University College Dublin for six years before assuming the Jean A. Chalmers Chair in Canadian Music at the University of Toronto in 2002. He has edited several books, including two with Gordon E. Smith: Istvan Anhalt: Pathways and Memory (2001) and Music Traditions, Cultures, and Contexts (WLU Press, 2010).

Kenneth DeLong is a professor of music history at the University of Calgary, Alberta. He has published extensively on Romantic Czech music. He is also a music critic for the Calgary Herald and Opera Canada. Recent publications include chapters in The Unknown Schubert, edited by Barbara M. Reul and Lorraine Byrne Bodley (2008), and Henry Irving: a Re-Evaluation of the Pre-Eminent Victorian Actor-Manager, edited by Richard Foulkes (2008).


“This volume of essays elegantly weaves together personal accounts, documentary studies, musical analyses, and reflections on performance and aesthetics, providing a vivid picture of how Anhalt, Kurtág, and Veress (re)defined their identities—musical, political, and personal—in the context of the places where they chose or resigned themselves to live. Readers both familiar and less familiar with this repertory will enjoy the wide range of new perspectives and sources presented. A most inspiring read.”

— Christoph Neidhöfer, Schulich School of Music, McGill University

“The value of Centre and Periphery, Roots and Exile is threefold: this superbly edited collection of essays overcomes narrow specialization in demonstrating the key importance to contemporary music of Anhalt, Kurtág, and Veress. Fresh new sources are explored; the tensional relation of music and nationality is probed. Above all, the authors succeed in drawing us into the fascinating world of these composers, whose rich cross-cultural perspectives and ingenious re-engagement with music of the past assume enhanced relevance for us today.”

— William Kinderman, School of Music, University of Illinois

Centre and Periphery contains a wide variety of approaches that collectively provide valuable insights into the three composers and their work. Since over half the book is devoted to Anhalt, it is especially important as a contribution to the growing body of Anhalt research.... The editorial work is top notch, with beautifully typeset musical examples and reproductions of manuscript pages.... Rounding out the presentation are biographies of all the contributors as well as a first-rate index.”

— Edward Jurkowski, University of Lethbridge, CAML (Canadian Assoc. of Music Libraries) Review

“The strength of this probing collection lies in the way the various approaches to place and displacement offer insights into interpreting key works by these three composers.”

— Pamela Margles, The WholeNote

Centre and Periphery, Roots and Exile

Table of Contents

Related interest


Cultural studies



By the same editor

Mapping Canada’s Music: Selected Writings of Helmut Kallmann, Helmut Kallmann; John Beckwith and Robin Elliott, editors

Music Traditions, Cultures, and Contexts, Robin Elliott and Gordon E. Smith, editors

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Eagle Minds: Selected Correspondence of Istvan Anhalt and George Rochberg (1961-2005), Alan M. Gillmor, editor