This 90-Year-Old Couple Playing Bach Duets Should Be An Inspiration To All Musicians

ByQuyen Anne

Nov 5, 2023

Late fame through polished and radically reduced music: About the composer György Kurtág.

It was a whopping surprise when Milan’s La Scala announced in 2018 that György Kurtág had written his first opera! Not a few people in the contemporary music scene hardly believed this would happen any more. Work on the score dragged on for a total of eight years, and Kurtág even allowed a premiere planned for the Salzburg Festival to fall through. But finally the work was complete, and the Hungarian doyen handed over the score, nearly 400 pages long, to Markus Stenz, who was to conduct the first performance. 15 November saw the curtain rise at the legendary La Scala for Kurtág’s Beckett opera »Fin de Partie«, which became a resounding success with international critics and audiences alike. In October 2023, the monumental work is also performed at the Elbphilharmonie.

Once more, Kurtág had pulled off the balance between daring, blazing expressiveness and familiar references to tradition à la Monteverdi: a stylistic blend with which he has been appealing to the wider public and contemporary music insiders alike for years, indeed decades.

In the video (below), Pianists György Kurtág and his wife Márta play together transcriptions made by Kurtág himself of Bach’s choral prelude Das alte Jahr vergangen ist BWV 614, his Duet BWV 804 and a movement from Bach Actus tragicus.

Bach Actus tragicus

Actus tragicus is a funeral music originally. It’s original name is Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (God’s time is the very best time), BWV 106, also known as Actus tragicus, is an early sacred cantata composed by Johann Sebastian Bach in Mühlhausen.

Austrian composer Franz Schubert said in his diary: “Johann Sebastian Bach has done everything completely. … He was a man through and through.”

Bach’s music doesn’t need romanticism, expressionism, colors of individual emotion because it’s a serene praise to god, should be played with a transparent state of mind. But, it can be effectively interpreted many ways. Here’s romantic version of his baroque music performed by so insanely talented old couple as if Chopin had transcribed it. It’s warmer and more touching.

However, Bach loved to have his music interpreted on many instruments and sung, and the Baroque era was noted for its expressiveness that made people cry as compared to earlier Renaissance music.

György Kurtág is one of the most highly regarded composers of the past half-century. He was born in Romania in 1926, moved to Hungary in 1946 where he spent many years teaching at the Franz Liszt Academy. He also composed for the Berlin Philharmonic in the mid 1990s when he had period of time in Germany.

In 1947, He married Márta Kinsker, another very accomplished pianist, and together recorded several CDs and DVDs over the years and performed many duets.

This video “old couple play Bach”, taken from a live concert in Budapest, shows the result of 70 years of musical collaboration and reveals the depth of their musical understanding with Such humility and musicianship.

It is truly beautiful watching old couple play Bach and make music together at their age, It will bring tears to your eyes and should be an inspiration to all musicians!

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