MODERN ART ORCHESTRA | KODÁLY CHOIR The Peacock – Tribute To Zoltán Kodály

BMCCD333 2024

With its latest album, the Modern Art Orchestra, Hungary’s leading big band ensemble, undertakes to further interpret the choral works of Zoltán Kodály, one of the most influential figures in Hungarian folk music research and musical education. Kornél Fekete-Kovács and the MAO’s work is characterized by integrating various styles of contemporary classical music and jazz into a single artistic vision, as exemplified by their 2018 album reflecting on Bartók’s Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs. The approach of the current album is different simply in terms of the line-up: this time they have teamed up with the Kodály Choir from Debrecen. While on the Bartók recording, the dividing line between compositions and improvisations was less noticeable in the orchestra’s performance, here Kodály’s original choral works – including the iconic The Peacock – present a cross-section of the composer’s oeuvre, followed by big band and choral paraphrases of folk songs written by the orchestra members.
“For a Hungarian musician, Kodály is much more than a composer. We grew up in the music education system he developed, and although his legacy is now sadly fading, it still surrounds us today.” (Kornél Fekete-Kovács)




Modern Art Orchestra
Conducted by Kornél Fekete-Kovács

Kodály Choir
Conducted by Zoltán Kocsis-Holper

About the album

Compositions by Zoltán Kodály (CD1 - 2, 4, 7; CD2 - 2, 5, 8); Kornél Fekete-Kovács (CD1 - 1, 6, CD2 - 4, 7);
Gábor Subicz (CD1 - 3); János Ávéd (CD1 - 5); Kristóf Bacsó (CD2 - 1, 6); Gábor Cseke (CD2 - 3)

Orchestral recording at Pannonia Studio, Budapest on 3-4 April, 2022
Musical director: Zsuzsanna Dvorák; Recording engineer: György Mohai
Assistants: Dávid Kovács, Bence Bobák, Ábris Blaskó
Choir recording at Pásti street Synagogue, Debrecen
Recording engineer: Tamás Baranya; Assisant: András Turcsán, Ábris Blaskó
Overdub recording by Zoltán Zana on 28 September, 2023
Edited by Zsuzsanna Dvorák and Zoltán Zana
Mixed and mastered by Márton Fenyvesi

Artwork: Anna Natter / Cinniature

Produced by László Gőz
Label manager: Tamás Bognár

Supported by the National Cultural Fund of Hungary 


Franpi Barriaux - CitizenJazz (fr)

Olasz Sándor - (hu)

Hegedüs Zsuzsanna - JazzMa (hu)

4500 HUF 14 EUR


01 Prelude to the Night 9:23
02 Este 4:52
03 Determination 6:02
04 Sirató ének 3:25
05 Eternity 10:55
06 False Call 3:10
07 Csalfa sugár 2:12
Total time CD1 40:03; CD2 46:41


01 The Scamp 7:12
02 Mátrai képek 10:21
03 Loyalty 5:33
04 Dusk 6:14
05 Fölszállott a páva 3:08
06 The Peacock 4:53
07 Children’s Song 6:33
08 Túrót eszik a cigány 2:33
Total time CD1 40:03; CD2 46:41

The album is available in digital form at our retail partners



1. Prelude to the Night (Kornél Fekete-Kovács)
    Kornél Fekete-Kovács – flugelhorn, Áron Komjáti – guitar

2. Este (Zoltán Kodály)
    Csilla Szerelem – soprano solo

3. Determination (Gábor Subicz)
    Attila Korb – trombone, Gábor Subicz – trumpet

4. Sirató ének (Zoltán Kodály)

5. Eternity (János Ávéd)
    Kriszta Pocsai – vocal, Kornél Fekete-Kovács – flugelhorn

6. False Call (Kornél Fekete-Kovács)
    János Ávéd – tenor saxophone, Balázs Cserta – tárogató

7. Csalfa sugár
(Zoltán Kodály)


1. The Scamp (Kristóf Bacsó)
    Attila Korb – trombone, Kristóf Bacsó – soprano saxophone, Kriszta Pocsai – vocal

2. Mátrai képek (Zoltán Kodály)

3. Loyalty (Gábor Cseke)
    Gábor Cseke – piano, Kristóf Bacsó – soprano sax, Balázs Cserta – tárogató

4. Dusk (Kornél Fekete-Kovács)
    Kornél Fekete-Kovács – trumpet and flugelhorn, Gábor Cseke – piano

5. Fölszállott a páva (Zoltán Kodály)

6. The Peacock (Kristóf Bacsó)
    Kristóf Bacsó – soprano saxophone

7. Children’s Song (Kornél Fekete-Kovács)
    Milán Szakonyi – spoken word, Kriszta Pocsai – vocal,
    Kornél Fekete-Kovács – trumpet, János Ávéd – tenor saxophone

8. Túrót eszik a cigány (Zoltán Kodály)

Kornél Fekete-Kovács – conductor, trumpet and flugelhorn

Kristóf Bacsó – soprano sax, alto sax, flute
Dávid Ülkei – alto sax, clarinet
János Ávéd – tenor sax, flute, alto flute
Balázs Cserta – tenor sax, flute, clarinet, tárogató
Mihály Bajusznács – bass clarinet

Balázs Szalóky – trumpet, flugelhorn
Balázs Bukovinszky – trumpet, flugelhorn
Gábor Subicz – trumpet, flugelhorn
Ferenc Magyar – trumpet, flugelhorn
Zoltán Varga – french horn

Attila Korb – solo trombone
Péter Magyar – trombone
Gábor Barbinek – trombone
Miklós Csáthy – bass trombone
Péter Kovács – tuba

Áron Komjáti – guitar
Gábor Cseke – piano
József Barcza Horváth – double bass
László Csízi – drums

Kriszta Pocsai – vocal
Milán Szakonyi – spoken word 

Anna Gáspár – manager
Ábris Blaskó – production manager
Dávid Kovács – live sound and recording assistant
Kinga Tamás – communication
Dóra Trifonov – manager 

Zoltán Kocsis-Holper – conductor

Szabolcsné Márta (soprano principal)
Judit Balogh
Andrea Baráthné Nagy
Istvánné Boda
Petra Csáky
Ágnes Deményfalvi
Erzsébet Dr. Ditróiné Szilágyi
Judit Kovács
Lilian Kovács
Andrea Muzsi
Hajnalka Pinczésné Gönczi
Csilla Szerelem
Rita Varga Katalin

Péter Gáll (tenor principal)
József Balog
Levente Berki
Máriusz Bejan Miklós
Csaba Kiss
Károly Komódi
Tamás Kurgyis
Tibor Lakatos
Ernő Kiss Huba
Vilmos Ferencz

Tünde Győrfiné Hovancsek (alt principal)
Sára Tóth-Bartók
Csilla Csőszné Erdős
Éva Deméné Köpöczi
Sarolta Deményi 
Emőke Náray-Geréd
Klára Kuruczné Szőnyi
Bernadett Szabados-Szabó
Ildikó Újvárosi
Erna Gergely
Ágnes Kurfis

Sarolta Deményi (bass principal)
Ferenc Bálint
Zoltán Berindán
Hunor Benczédi
József Csávás
Attila Daika
Zsolt Fenyvesi
György Gánóczy
Ákos Jasznik
Máté Náray
Ferenc Szűcs
Szabolcs Vígh

Crew: Rozália Vass – cultural manager


To associate with great predecessors is always a difficult and risky venture, particularly if the pioneer is Zoltán Kodály – a musician who was not only a composer, but one of the creators of modern Hungarian music and of the musical life of Hungary, who took on a gargantuan share of the work of collecting and processing folk music, and in creating choral culture and the method of music pedagogy used to this day. Kodály, who was sometimes seen by his contemporaries as a messianic figure, he layed most of the groundwork, and is still here today – in all the schools, ensembles, musical programmes named after him, and as the composer of collections of solfege exercises and music. There are hardly any Hungarian musicians who would not say that Kodály’s legacy is a sweet burden, but perhaps after a glass or two of Tokaji wine (the only alcoholic drink the composer would touch) they might add that it is not easy to live up to the expectations of the tradition. Kodály was a determined young man with a sense of mission, and by the peak of his career he had  matured into an equally committed, strict master, who authoritatively demanded civilized culture and learning in all around him. ‘You do not know the musical repertoire! Acquaint yourself with it by next Wednesday, sir!’ he allegedly exhorted one of his pupils. For Zoltán Kodály, culture had meaning only in the Greek sense of encompassing physical and mental health, literature, knowledge of the visual arts, the ability to sing, and linguistic eloquence.
But how should a jazz musician approach this oeuvre? A musician who not only respects but genuinely loves the legacy represented by Kodály’s works, music pedagogy, the folk music tradition, and his educational method? Of course, Kodály did not like jazz. In an era in which the world expanded to an almost alarming degree, for Kodály the cultivation of Hungarian folk music and the creation of a Hungarian musical culture was synonymous with the advancement of the nation. Perhaps he would rather have turned his attention to the roots of jazz: black folk music, which he considered a pure source, but he left this task for others, just as he left the research into Spanish, Czech, or Russian folk music to the Spanish, Czechs, and Russians. Nevertheless, the composers of the Modern Art Orchestra, (who are also its soloists: Kornél Fekete-Kovács, János Ávéd, Kristóf Bacsó, Gábor Cseke, and Gábor Subicz) have taken the works of Zoltán Kodály as their inspiration. They had to decide what they were aiming to follow: the Kodály that can become an untouchable statue, an almost mythical figure, or the legacy whose goal is none other than to teach singing, creativity, and especially playing and improvisation?
‘Because I have detected more and more, that we this so called, highbrow musicians, a quite alone in the world, we have no public. We make music for each other. And I thought that since music is not a toy for a very few selected people, but music is a spiritual food for everybody. So, I thought how, how we could enlarge the public of serious music, which is called highbrow music, but I think that is the only true music.’ This quotation is from an interview conducted in Los  Angeles in 1966, in which Kodály spoke of the importance of music education, which should be started not just nine months before the birth of the child, but ‘nine months before the birth of the mother’. Implicit in this comment made in jest is the idea that this legacy must be passed from one generation to the next. The Peacock is not a unique enterprise
in the life of the big band jazz orchestra, for their 2018 release, which was a reworking of Béla Bartók’s Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs, they showed how a composer today can turn to the work of the giants of Hungarian music with humility and respect. With this new disc, they turn their attention to the part of Zoltán Kodály’s oeuvre held in most esteem – the choral works. Kodály became acquainted with the genre while still a student at the Music Academy in Budapest, and worked in it in every creative period of his life. Indeed, he believed that choral singing provided not only a social, shared psychological experience, but also helped ‘develop social solidarity,’ and ‘dismantled the walls between classes.’ In this album, the Modern Art Orchestra’s partner is the Kodály Choir from Debrecen, led by Zoltán Kocsis-Holper.
The album’s opening composition, Prelude To The Night, was composed by the band leader, Kornél Fekete-Kovács. Here, the flugelhorn gently invokes the mood that then appears in Kodály’s best-loved choral work, Evening: the enchanting, hallowed night, which is a trope running throughout the history of music, literature, and painting. Another composition, one by Subicz entitled Determination, features a note-by-note quotation from a work by Kodály – the syncopated theme from the singspiel Háry János, while in the pieces Eternity and Dusk we find traces of Impressionism, which exercised so great an influence on the composer. The Mátra Pictures inspired two of MAO’s composers: Kristóf Bacsó’s piece The Scamp is clearly a musical portrait of Marci Vidróczki, the famous nineteenth-century outlaw immortalized in the folk songs that Kodály used in the Mátra Pictures, while Gábor Cseke’s lyrical piece Loyalty, as well as the Vidróczki motif, uses the Hungarian folk melody beginning Madárka, madárka (Little bird, little bird).
Given this, we must also say something about the symbol of the peacock, in relation to the choral work from which the CD borrows its title, and Kristóf Bacsó’s composition. In Hungarian folk poetry the peacock was a symbol of never-ending love, and in highwaymen’s ballads it symbolized freedom. ‘A peacock takes its perch upon the county hall / A sign that freedom comes to many folk in thrall.’ This folk song was used by the turn-of-the century poet Endre Ady, and in his poem the peacock symbolizes modernity and progress. For Zoltán Kodály, Ady’s ideal was one to be followed: like the poet, he too envisioned a country that created a modern state from its own historical folk roots. ‘Before we understand other peoples, we must understand ourselves. Nothing is better suited to this than the folk song,’ he declared. The pentatonic peacock melody occurs not only in this choral work, but also in the Peacock Variations for symphony orchestra, and here the Modern Art Orchestra give it to the ringing sound of the trumpet. After a long exposition, with murky textures on the saxophones, the triumphant fanfare emerges, and a little later it becomes the subject for a lyrical improvisation – as if we were witnessing the organic unfolding of an idea in the language of music.
The creators present their ideas regarding tradition and modernity in the last jazz composition (Children’s Song). The words of the quotation derive from the Kodály interview mentioned above, and the ideas of composer Kornél Fekete-Kovács are expressed in Kriszta Pocsai’s song lyrics: does tradition enlarge or narrow our perspective? Can we transform it, fill it with life, can we touch it? The response in the chorus is: yes, we can. Kornél Fekete-Kovács encountered similar dilemmas when he examined the legacy of Zoltán Kodály, and pondered what Hungarian tradition meant for him. He believes that successive generations must not only cultivate tradition: they must contribute to it, otherwise tradition congeals, stiffens, and decays. Kodály the composer, who as a young man was the target of vitriolic reviews from old-fashioned critics, subsequently became an inescapable father-figure for those who came later: he too had trodden this path. That this CD closes with a composition not by the Modern Art Orchestra, but by Kodály, is more than a mere gesture. It signals that the composer’s oeuvre continues to be a source of inspiration. The folk song beginning ‘Csipkefa bimbója’ [Rosehip bud] was collected by Kodály exactly one hundred years ago in County Nógrád, and Bartók noted that this ancient-style song, passed down many generations, was well known by youngsters. Hearing this inspiring CD by the Modern Art Orchestra and the Kodály Choir, we can do nothing but muse on the passing of time, which cannot be halted, while scattered seeds give rise to new shoots, and the shoots in turn bear seeds to be scattered.
When the album is released, the Modern Art Orchestra will continue the series with two other episodes. These upcoming samples of their creativity will be an adaptation of Franz Liszt’s work Via Crucis, and works by György Ligeti, born one hundred years ago.

Máté Csabai
Translated by Richard Robinson


(János Ávéd/Robert Herrick)

O years! and age! farewell:
Behold I go,
Where I do know
Infinity to dwell.
And these mine eyes shall see
All times, how they
Are lost i’ th’ sea
Of vast eternity:--
Where never moon shall sway
The stars; but she,
And night, shall be
Drown’d in one endless day.

Children’s Song
(Kornél Fekete-Kovács/Krisztina Pocsai)

Because I have detected more and more, that we this so called, highbrow musicians, a quite alone in the
world, we have no public. We make music for each other. And so I thought that since music is not a toy for
a very few selected people, but music is a spiritual food for everybody. So, I thought how, how we could
enlarge the public of this serious music.
Each child has learned in his family surroundings or kindergarten some little melodies. And what is more
important each child likes to improvise! Sometimes very primitive and very simple melodies. Almost
repeating short phrases several times and so on.
The next step would be the folksongs.

Children are so blameless
Feeling always fearless
Seems they’re thinking aimless
Their song must be clean!
CHOIR: Children are so sinless
ZOLTÁN KODÁLY: A complete man without music
does not exist.
CHOIR: Acting for their gladness
ZOLTÁN KODÁLY: A man without music is
CHOIR: Creating like they are tameless
ZOLTÁN KODÁLY: A little music everyday!
CHOIR: The song must be a joyful success.
ZOLTÁN KODÁLY: That is important for the child!

Legacy. Do we have to Respect legacy – define
I mean tradition does it open doors or closing
does it widen boundaries or narrowing them
can I touch it?
yes you can
can I change it?
yes you can
can I form it?
yes you can
or recreate it?
yes you can
can we make it alive or it’s frozen, stagnant, dead
can I touch it really – neeeeeh you can’t

they draw the line, they draw the circle
them ignoring you is nonverbal
But now it’s your turn
Do you give access to your essence
Do you wanna control what happens with your
does it make sense
How you learnt is how you teach
or you transform it and make it within reach use
your courage to got your back
cause you know consciousness is the new black
copy, replicate, duplicate, reduplicate, re-echo use
your voice not your echo
your soul more and less your ego
It’s your energy it’s your time
Intension pivotal
Use fearlessly what you got and give it all
Don’t lie with the truth within you
Don’t die with your music still in you
music is a spiritual food for everyone
food for your soul, food for your soul

Music gives us the opportunity to create from
And this presence provides a kind of anchor into
the realm of being.
So create from that.

that could be done that
that could be done that
that could be done that
that could be done that

Related albums