Prof. Lajos Huszar / Hungary / - composer
About my Passion op.33. (2003-2004)
In my opinion, the religion has two possibilities of approach: 1. the approach through faith, theology, dogmatic, and 2. the emotional, esthetical, subjective approach.
With the dogmatic faith I have much problems. What can I answer to such fundamental questions like: does God exist? I say: I don’t know, but I would like if he existed. Is Jesus God’s son and saviour? I say: I don’t know, but I would like if he would be. These are some points, where my ignorance, my dubitation, my uncertain faith are brought to light.
I confess, that the emotional-esthetical approach of religion stands much nearer to my feeble human personality. I consider myself as feeble, because I am able to arrive to the religion only by means of description, emotion, enthusiasm, intuition. Since at the age of 19 years I received a Liber usualis from a priest, and I bought a Latin bible (the Hungarian bible I had since my childhood), a I am enthusiast of every liturgical text and biblical subject. I composed much choir motets, and I tried to write major religious works. My most important religious composition is the Passion (2003-4), but I consider as important the Icons to the memory of János Pilinszky (2000) too. In this year I am working on a Resurrection Oratorio.
I experimented with writing a Passion already in 1968. Of course it is not more than a childish and enthusiastic attempt: I was then only 19 years old. But some elements of this youthful work remained in the definitive Passion: 1. the triple formal division of action and music: the vigil of Jesus in the Gethsemane garden and Judas’ betrayal - Jesus in front of Pilate - the way of the cross and the death of Jesus, and 2. the so-called „neo-gregorian”, which means a melodic line accompanied by long pedal notes.
The text draws feely on the four Gospels. The idea for this blend of Gospel texts comes from an old Hungarian book which I bought in a second-hand bookshop. In my Passion, in addition to the Gospel texts, I quoted from the following sources: 1. excerpts of Old-Testament psalms, 2. the passion poems of a Hungarian Franciscan preacher, Osvaldus de Lasko, and 3. Mary’s Latin lullaby from Des Knaben Wunderhorn. I borrowed from the catholic mass the Kyrie eleison and the Agnus Dei for the opening and closing choruses of the Passion.
In the Passion I use four vocal soloists, mixed choir, organ and three percussion players. The organ usually has the function of the instrumental accompaniment. From the percussions, the soft-resonance ones colour the sonority of the organ and the choir, while the drums express the emotion of the vindictive crowd.
About the tonal system of the Passion. The note D can be regarded as the tonal centre of the piece, being the fundamental note of the opening and final choruses, of several of Jesus’ monologues, and the crowd demands Jesus’ crucifiction in the same tonality. In Jesus’ monologues the note D is complemented by the tonal substitutes B and F (according to Ernő Lendvai’s axis system). The note A-flat, which belongs to the same axis, is the dark symbol fo betrayal and death. Pilate,like ennemy and judge of Jesus, sings ont he axis E and G. The Evangelist and Mary use the tonalities A, F-sharp and E-flat.
The systems I employed
in the work, are as follows: 1. one-part melodies, 2. two-part music: „neo-gregorian” chant upon a bass accompaniment of the organ, 3. triads and other traditional, diatonic chords, 4. dissonant, chromatic chords, including the so-called Alpha-inverse, which I use for portraying the most dramatic, most tense emotions and the proximity of death.
The formal and dramaturgical unity of the Passion is underlined by several recurring motifs. 1. the symbol of Jesus’ grief, the „tristis est anima mea” motif returns more times int he Gethsemane garden scene, and at the end, 2.the crowd’s cry „crucifige illum” is heard in five different variations in the Pilate-scene, and 3. the minor chord (mostly A-flat minor) linkes with Judas’ betrayal and Jesus’ death appears in all three parts of the Passion.