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250 hurdy-gurdies


Szerényi Béla The famous architect, who is in fatherly friendship with Béla Szerényi, sent this salutatory address to the event entitled ‘250 hurdy-gurdies’, which was read out at the outing by me. It was also the writer of this report who was privileged to be the host of the evening. János Nagy, whose name appeared in the list on the invitation card, could not come because of an illness, just like the wife of the instrument-maker master, the singer Judit Kóta. In both cases the sudden problem was caused by the illness of their children. In the end, Mihály Borbély, Pál Havasréti, György Lányi and Béla Szerényi gave a concert at the evening. Their music was virtuosic and innovative, the room was excellent: the Gothic Saloon of the Museum of History is not only nice but also has good acoustics. I like such kinds of concerts, they have a friendly atmosphere. Although it was a full-house evening, their playing was free and ‘conversational’, we could call it a togetherness, in the full sense of the word.

250 masterful instruments is an astonishing number, behind which I discover a deeper sense. Szerényi has an integrative personality, he brings together traditions and the latest endeavours. The instrument-maker master, who started his career as the heir of the Bársony legacy, continued on with the work started by Mihály Bársony. The tree planted by the master grew huge foliage and burst into bloom. In a vertical sense, Szerényi dip out of the deep roots of popular culture besides Bársony’s traditions, the whole Hungarian culture is part of his activity. He was driven by this vertical growth to the alteration of the instrument, both in its framework and its tonality. As for its shape, the special instrument is built around the wheel that is placed at the instrument’s geometric harmonic division by its maker. koncert The chromatic developments help the expansion of the instrument’s the bibliography. Szerényi is not afraid to use electric accessories, either. The instrument complemented with piezzos can have a role in the electronic sounds of our age. The horizontal character of the master’s career also mirrors this integrative approach. He is an excellent instrument-maker; his works are much sought after all around the world. Besides, he is a prominent renderer of his instrument; nowadays he is giving concerts with János Nagy’s FSCO. Essentially, he has played with all folk music groups, and on many recordings. The unity of instrument-maker and musician shows an attitude that was known at the age of Monteverdi and before, the unity of artist, composer and instrument-maker, hunting for acoustic phenomena, and modificating the instruments for the performances and works in progress. This era saw the end of the mutability and innovative features of the instruments.

An amateur extracts inspiration from a wide spectrum. The wider the spectrum is, the more confused the result will be; separate parts come together in an inconceivable chaos to make up a cluster called a creation. Inspired composers with a sense of vocation have the ability of creating a concentrated, organized product, however wide is the spectrum he extracts from and however widely he builds the extracted elements into his art. Inspiration is a state, in which the artist redefines the applied elements from the aspect of the production, valuing it in a new context. This new context is the internal cohesion of the work of art. Béla Szerényi draws inspiration from an extremely wide and deep spectrum, but as an inspired artist with a vocation he has a right to do it, the result always be an organized work of art, may it be applied art, music playing, or visual music, i.e. instrument-making.

koncert Exploiting the cultural memories in connection with the hurdy-gurdy, the historical researches of Béla Szerényi are remarkable. The academic works of the composer started in the villages at the southern part of the Great Hungarian Plain, built on real connections and experiences.
The personal experiences and contacts became parts of Szerényi’s art; this timeless heritage is present either when he plays jazz with the FSCO, or when he plays Bartók or Bach on the hurdy-gurdy. Moreover, behind the modern features, the visual identity of the Great Plain shows up, either in a jazz hurdy-gurdies with piezzo, or in a traditional, authentic instruments.

Szerényi Béla


It counted as a gesture when after playing a piece, he thanked his father his help and asked him to stand up, and he was applauded. However, for me, the crown of the evening was when Béla Szerényi introduced a blind boy to the audience, he told us that he is a hurdy-gurdy player, and told some words about his life. He said that the boy was fired from his workplace because of his blindness. Then Szerényi took his own hurdy-gurdy, and handed it to the boy: ‘use it, it belongs to you from now on’, he said. Another masterwork found its place in the same way that evening. There was no choky pathos in the gesture; he only let the instrument go, together with the moment.

Máté Domonkos, a publisher of the Hangszer és Zene Magazin
Photos: Béla Somoskövy