Photo: László Lugosi Lugo

Erzsébet Szőnyi passed away

Erzsébet Szőnyi – the well-known composer, choir conductor, pedagogue and an Artist of the Nation, whose musical works are performed all over the world – passed away on 28 December 2019, aged 96. HAA regards her passing as losing one of its own. The funeral service is to be held at 10 a.m. on 25 January 2020 at Farkasrét Cemetery.
She was a student of Zoltán Kodály and became one of his most important and long-time collaborators. She studied at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest and the Conservatoire in Paris, among others with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen. She was a leading professor of the Liszt Academy and from 1970 to 1974 vice-president of the International Society for Music Education. She also served many years as general adviser on methodology for the International Kodály Society. She was selected as a member of HAA in 2011, she was an honorary member of the International Kodály Society and received numerous awards: e.g. the Erkel Award (1959), the Hungarian Republic Medal (1993), the Apáczai Csere János Award (1994), the Bartók-Pásztory Award (1995), the Excellent Artist Award (2000). In 2006 Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania awarded her with a Doctor Honoris Causa and she was also given the Kossuth State Award in Hungary. Her several methodological publications has been translated into various languages. During her active years she widely traveled the five continents for conferences and workshops. It can be regarded as a success of her work as pedagogue and public figure that the preservation of folk music based on the Kodály Method was included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list by the UN intergovernmental committee for the world's cultural heritage. 
During her long life Erzsébet Szőnyi worked tirelessly for the most authentic transmission and the high-quality application of Zoltán Kodály's artistic and pedagogical principles.
She met Kodály when she was still a member of the Erzsébet Szilágyi Grammar School choir. At that time Kodály's interest was already primarily focused in the field of Hungarian music education, and in particular on the reform of Hungarian school music education. She studied folk music in Kodály's class at the Academy of Music, and in 1945, during the Kodálys extended stay in the countryside, she took over her master's classes for a whole academic year.
According to her own confession, the pedagogical experiences of the months spent at the Conservatoire in Paris during the 1947-48 academic year, to which Kodály very much encouraged her to obtain, further strengthened her conviction that in Hungary the path stoned by Kodály should be followed.
The start of her university teaching career coincided with the start of the Hungarian solfege education reform based on Kodály's principles. As a solfege teacher at the Academy of Music, as well as her experiences teaching at the preparatory classes of the Academy helped her to gain a wealth of experience in teaching solfege from beginning to advanced level.
All of these experiences are summarized in the four volumes of Musical Writing and Reading published in 1954, to which Kodály wrote a preface at Szőnyi's request. For the end of Lesson 100, Kodály himself composed a three-part singing exercise that would later become No. 29. of the Tricinia volume. The book has been translated into English, Japanese, Italian and Portuguese languages as well.
In her role as a university professor and Chair of the Music Education and Choral Conducting Department at the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music for more then two decades, and as a result of her international activities as well as her numerous scientific publications about Kodály-inspired music education, she became the most prominent heir to Kodály's music pedagogical legacy both in Hungary and throughout the world.
Her pedagogical, creative and public lifework remains an inspiration for many generations following hers.
László Norbert Nemes – director
Kodály Institute of the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music

"… I have finished my course, I have kept the faith…" (2 Timothy 4:7)

With deep grief, but in resignation to the will of God we inform all those who loved and respected her that Erzsébet Szőnyi the late wife of Gémes Lajos composer with the Kossuth State Award, the Artist of the Nation and regular member of the Hungarian Academy of Arts fortified by the sacraments gave her soul back to her Maker on 28 December 2019.
The funeral service is to be held at 10 a.m. on 25 January 2020 at Farkasrét Cemetery (99 Németvölgyi Street, Budapest, 1124) according to the lithurgy of the Roman Catholic Church.
At 12 a.m. on 25 January (after the funeral) we are to offer the holy Mass for the repose of the soul of our dearly departed loved one at the Parish Church of the Blessed Virgin (1 Mészáros Street, Budapest, 1016).
Hungarian Academy of Arts, Ministry of Human Resources, Council of Törökbálint, Music Academy of Franz Liszt regard her passing as losing one of their own.
She is mourned by: her family, friends, colleagues, students, admirers, Lajos Bárdos Society, KÓTA, International and Hungarian Kodály Society, Hungarian Composers' Union, and several musical organizations.
January 14, 2020