A Tribute to 1956


On stage four musicians. The pianist is on the left, the two reed-men on the right and the “singer” in the m iddle on top of a white table. The flutes begin shaping voices in a slow, silent way and soon the distorted (untuned?) piano joins them. The singer sits still facing the audience and then suddenly starts to recite his text without words. This is a ritual of instruments and voice telling a secret story.

György Szabados composed this musical tribute to the 1956 revolution back in 1984. The 30-minute piece gained its first unrestricted public performance in October 1991, 35 years after Hungary's heroic effort. The composer labels his work a historical song, deriving its form from the 15/16th centuries when the Turks ruled Hungary. The unusual hidden style and non-European metalanguage of the piece reflects 1956 and the age when it was composed at the same time describing an era when the real face of the revolution was still covered by a cobweb of lies. Hence the controlled out-of-time means of expression, the mixture of con-temporary music, jazz and far-eastern elements, and the dramatic intonation. Szabados is not fighting only with the past because at the end of the composition the musicians step out of their roles to beg forgiveness for their long silence.

The Secret Story of the Events is not an easy piece to perceive. Nor was it for the heroes of 1956 to adapt themselves to the long decades of repression after the restoration. The composer-pianist and his men, Mihály Dresch, István Grencsó, reeds, Tamás Kobzos Kiss, voice, did their best to deliver their message to a mindful audience.

(Jazz Forum 1992/1)