Ferenc Erkel Operas Critical Edition

Issued by the

Institute for Musicology of the

Hungarian Academy of Sciences

and the

Széchényi National Library, Budapest


Published by

Rózsavölgyi és Társa, Budapest

General editor:
Tibor Tallián

Hungarian National Music and Ferenc Erkel

Hungarian romantic musical idiom as a stylistic entity, was one of the most significant contributions of the Eastern periphery to European music history in the era that saw the budding, blossoming and withering of musical nationalism in its primary form. As attested by a great number of pieces and movements in this style by Schubert, Weber, Brahms and of course by Liszt – not to mention the hundreds of phantasies, rhapsodies and other instrumental pieces written and published by lesser known composers in and outside of Hungary – style hongrois enjoyed a wide popularity in the 19th century.

In view of the overwhelming attraction of opera for both musicians and the public in the decades of musical romanticism, the idea of adapting the Hungarian national musical style to contemporary operatic forms inevitably had to be born in the 1830s. As an important criterium in the process of adaptation, appropriate sujets had to be drown from national drama, which had such epic characteristics as to allow for their fitting into the dramaturgical mould of the then fashionable Italian and French opera. On the other hand, they also had to represent in a form comprehensible for the audiences the main political and emotional issues that dominated the national consciousness.

The task of amalgamating the national musical style and appropriate national subjects with the formal types of contemporary opera was solved in the oeuvre of Ferenc Erkel (1810 Gyula – 1893 Budapest) with a consequence that was to remain unparalleled in 19th century Hungarian music history both as regards its intrinsic musical and dramatic values, as well as its duration: from 1840 on, the year that saw the first performance of Erkel’s Bátori Mária on the stage of the Hungarian National Theatre in Pest, during a period which extended over forty years, eight full operas and a single act in a composite work by Erkel, Franz and Karl Doppler, were premièred under his name on the stage of the Hungarian National Theatre, and its successor, the Royal Hungarian Opera House, opened in Budapest in 1884. Bátori Mária, the first national tragic opera has enjoyed a remarkable success with the public. However, its acclaim was to be hugely surpassed by that of Hunyadi László (1844) and Bánk bán, the paradigm of Hungarian national opera, first staged in 1861, after a complicated process of composition that extended over fifteen years.

Operas produced during the later decades of the long life of the composer include Erzsébet (1857, composed with Ferenc and Károly Doppler), Sarolta (1862),  Dózsa György (1867), Brankovics György (1847), Névtelen hősök [Unknown heroes] 1880, and István király [King István] 1885. The manuscript scores witness an increasing participation of Ferenc Erkel’s sons first in the instrumentation, later also in the composition. In most of the operas staged from 1862 on the Erkel workshop followed ambitiously and not without success the outstanding trends in international opera, and thus contributed significantly to the modernisation of 19th century Hungarian national music style and dramaturgy. Precisely the growing distance towards national romanticism may have accounted for the rather cool reception given to them by contemporary Hungarian audiences.


Ferenc Erkel’s Operas on Stage and in Print

Both Hunyadi László and Bánk bán have to the present day preserved their outstanding place in the repertory wherever opera in the Hungarian language has been given. The later operas of Erkel have fared with lesser success at the time of their first productions and later. Occasional revivals in Budapest and Kolozsvár do show that this negligence is to a great part unjustified.

In spite of repeated attempts to stage Hunyadi László and Bánk bán on non-Hungarian stages, cultivation of Erkel’s oeuvre remained confined to the territory of Hungarian musical culture which encompasses not only present-day Hungary but Transylvania, Slovakia and the northern territories of Serbia as well. This state of affairs is to a great part to be ascribed to the limited accessibility of Erkel’s music in notation. Up to the year 2002, not one of his operatic scores has ever appeared in print. Vocal scores have scarcely been published either, except for the two constantly popular pieces Hunyadi László and Bánk bán which around 1900 were published by Rózsavölgyi. These publications show a respectable technical standard, however, the versions they contain show the operas in the form that they have taken by the late 19th century during the long decades and hundreds of performances in the Hungarian National Theatre, and the Royal Opera House in Budapest.

The idea of a complete edition of Ferenc Erkel’s operas first emerged in the early 1960s. Composer and musicologist Jenő Vécsey, head of the Music Collection of the National Széchényi Library, prepared four operas and all of Erkel's overtures for publication as part of a project initiated by Ferenc Bónis, then of the Institute for musicology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. However, the publication of the series did not begin, and Vécsey's scores have remained in manuscript.

A new undertaking to publish a critical edition of this important corpus of Hungarian musical heritage was embarked upon in 1998. With the support of the Office for Higher Education Programme, the Office of the Government Commissioner for the Hungarian Millennium, the Hungarian Scientific Research Fond, the Pro Musicologia Hungarica Foundation and the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music, in 2002 the first volume of the series Ferenc Erkel Operas was published by the Institute for Musicology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Széchényi National Library, Budapest, in the edition of the publishing house Rózsavölgyi and Co. The first volume contains in two parts the score of Erkel’s first opera Bátori Mária. In the second volume which appeared in 2006 with the generous support of the National Research and Development Programme, the score of Hunyadi László, Erkel’s most popular romantic opera was published in three parts. The score of Bánk bán will appear in 2008 at the latest. For the bicentenary of Ferenc Erkel’s birth in 2010, the publication of Sarolta, his first comic opera is planned. Later volumes will appear after 2010.


Critical Edition - Schedule of Publication


Volume 1: Bátori Mária, opera in two acts, 1840
(edited by Miklós Dolinszky and Katalin Szacsvai-Kim, appeared in 2002).

 Intro     Facsimiles   Samples    CDs    Libretto    Order  


Volume 2: Hunyadi László, opera in four acts, 1844
(edited by Katalin Szacsvai-Kim, appeared in 2006).

 Intro    Facsimiles   Samples    CDs    Libretto    Order  


Volume 3: Bánk bán, opera in three acts, 1861
(edited by Miklós Dolinszky, to be published in 2008).

 Intro    Facsimiles   Samples    CDs    Libretto    Order  


Volume 4: Sarolta, comic opera in three acts, 1862
(to be published before 2010).

 Intro    Facsimiles    Samples    CDs    Libretto    Order  


Volume 5: Dózsa György, opera in five acts, 1867
(to be published after 2010).

 Intro    Facsimiles    Samples    CDs    Libretto    Order  


Volume 6: Brankovics György, opera in four acts, 1874
(to be published after 2010).

 Intro    Facsimiles    Samples    CDs    Libretto    Order  


Volume 7: Névtelen hösök [Unknown heroes], opera in four acts, 1880
(to be published after 2015).

 Intro    Facsimiles    Samples    CDs    Libretto    Order  


Volume 8: István király [King István], opera in four acts, 1885
(to be published after 2015).

 Intro    Facsimiles    Samples    CDs    Libretto    Order  

Volume 9: Erzsébet, opera in three acts, composed with Ferenc and Károly Doppler, 1857, to be published cca 2020).

 Intro    Facsimiles    Samples    CDs    Libretto    Order  


Critical Edition - Editorial Policies

The Complete Edition of Ferenc Erkel’s Operas is based on a critical study of all available sources, with special attention tothe performing materials, i.e. orchestral, choral, and vocal parts used at the Hungarian National Theatre, and in the Budapest Opera House, where the operas were premièred and played under the direction of the composer, first conductor of these institutes from 1838 on.

The operas appear in their last form, as approved by the composer. The scores include all emendations and insertions added to the work that originate with or were approved by Erkel. Melodic variants in the vocal parts which got firmly established, are given as ossia. Cuts that on the evidence of contemporary sources were applied during the performances of the opera under Erkel’s direction, are marked Vide. The original Hungarian words of both text and stage directions are included in the score. The Appendices comprise early versions substituted by later insertions, items surviving in fragmentary form, insertions that cannot be assigned to any unambiguous place in the work, and finally, the score of the banda. The Hungarian libretto and its modern English translation in prose will also be published in the Appendices, along with the contemporary German translation of the libretto, which is in some cases available.

The edition does not aim at reconstructing the compositional process. Compositional drafts or sections that do not appear in the sources used for productions, i.e. that never reached the state of performing, are not printed. The volumes do not contain the composer's own arrangements of any parts of the operas or their piano scores.

For the sake of better legibility, facilitation of practical use and preservation of the homogeneous nature of the score, editorial alterations will not be distinguished typographically. The only exceptions are items in square brackets which do not occur in any of the sources but are indispensable for the understanding of the musical context.

All musically significant differences between the edition and its sources, and the deviations among the sources themselves are listed in the critical notes to be published separately. Wherever necessary, footnotes in the score call the reader's attention to relevant critical notes. The critical notes, preface, introduction and various editorial additions are published in Hungarian and English.

On preparing the edition of the score, special care was taken in retaining contemporary notation practices which were standardised to the least possible extent. Unavoidable changes include using the present standard order of instruments in the score, modernising and unifying the designation of instrumental and vocal parts, and eliminating the C-clefs from the vocal parts. Clef changes have occasionally been shifted and outdated abbreviations tacitly modified. Similarly, the spelling has been modernised in the score and the libretto.

Additions are solely made for the sake of stressing tendencies that are discernible in the sources. No new dynamics marks or articulation signs have been introduced and the standardisation of identical or analogous places with regard to dynamics and articulation has been avoided. All editorial alterations will be documented in the critical notes.


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