(b Banská Bystrica, 28 Feb 1875; d Banská Bystrica, 11 May 1937). Slovak composer and teacher. His given name was Viliam Figuš. A graduate of the teachers’ institute in Banská Štiavinca, he studed at the Budapest Music Academy from 1911 to 1914; as a composer he was self-taught. Before permanently settling in Banská Bystrica (1907), he taught in various towns in the Austro-Hungarian empire, assiduously collecting folksongs wherever he went and considering ways of adapting them. In Banská Bystrica he taught at the evangelical school and then, from 1921, at the teachers’ institute; he was also active as a choirmaster, conductor, organist and music administrator.
He focussed on folksong adaptation, song and choral composition and small character studies. Initially he set Hungarian texts and folksongs but later identified strongly with the music of Slovakia. Characterized by a simple, homophonic style, his folksong adaptations draw particularly upon the authentic, rustic models of central Slovakia; he was one of the first composers to recognize the potential of their intrinsic modal strata. His style’s mode of expression is akin to that found in Mendelssohn’s or Schumann’s chamber works. His composed songs (the most remarkable being the cycle Sny, ‘Dreams’, 1903–33) also showing a prevailing illustrative trend, for the most part inspired by folksong. After 1918 he began writing more technically demanding works, as in the excellent Šesť skladieb (‘Six Pieces’) for organ (1937). Detvan, his only opera, suffers from incoherence as a result of an eclectic Romantic style of music and inserted folksong quotations.
stage and instrumental
Stage: Detvan (op, 3, E.B. Lukáč, after A. Sládkovič), op.64, 1922–6, Bratislava, 1 April 1928; Pod Poľanou [Under Poľana] (dance scene), op.109, T, chorus, orch, 1937
Inst: Náladové obrazy [Capricious Pictures], op.46, vn, pf, 1916; Pf Qt, E, op.48, 1918; Pestré lístky [Gay Leaves], op.54, pf, 1921–33; Z mojej mladosti [From my Youth], suite, op.56, orch, 1921–34; Str Trio, G, op.58, 1921–36; Poľné kvietky [Meadow Flowers], 2 vols., op.96, pf, 1933 [folksong arrs.]; Sonata, e, op.97, vn, pf, 1934; Slovenská sonáta v dórickej stupnici [Slovak Sonata in Dorian Mode], op.103, pf, 1935; 6 skladieb [6 pieces], op.107, org, 1937; Str Trio, e, op.108, 1937
Choral: Náboženské sbory [Sacred Choruses] (Slovak poets), op.10, chorus, 1903–36; Pieseň pokoja, lásky a mieru [Song of Calmness, Love and Peace] (P. Országh Hviezdoslav), op.29, S, female chorus, pf, 1906, arr. S, female chorus, orch, 1920; Az egri leány [The Girl from Eger] (ballad, J. Arany), op.30, solo vv, chorus, pf, 1907, arr. solo vv, chorus, orch; Slovenská pieseň (Országh Hviezdoslav), op.36, solo vv, chorus, pf, 1913, arr. solo vv, chorus, orch, 1917; Mixed Choruses (Slovak poets), op.60, 1922; Male Choruses (I. Krasko, M. Konopnická-Horín, M. Rázus), op.49, 1914–26; Ecce sacerdos magnus, op.90, chorus, org, 1932, arr. chorus, orch
Song cycles (1v, pf): Sny [Dreams] (Slovak poetry), 4 vols., op.8, 1903–33; Dalok [Songs] (Hung. poets), op.6, 1910; Po poliach a lúkach [Across the Fields and Meadows] (Slovak poetry), vol.i, op.53, 1920; Mati moja! [My Mother!] (F. Ruppeldt, P. Országh Hviezdoslav), op.85, 1932, arr. 1v, orch; Jesenné piesne [Autumn Songs] (Slovak poetry), op.95, 1934; Po poliach a lúkach, vol.ii, op.83, 1935; Vlastenecké piesne [Patriotic Songs] (Slovak poetry), op.100, 1935; Žiale a radosti [Sorrows and Joys] (V. Roy), op.99, 1937
Folksong arrs.: Slatinské ľudové piesne [Folksongs from Slatina], 5 vols., opp.28, 35, 39, 40, 41, 1v, pf, 1895–1915; Slovenský sborník [Slovak Collection], 2 vols., opp.51a and 57, chorus, 1919–21; 1000 slovenských ľudových piesní, 10 vols., 1v, pf, 1925–7; Ľudové balady [Folk Ballads], op.101, 1934
MSS in SK-Mms
Principal publishers: Academia, B. Klimo, Matica slovenská, Tranoscius, J. Závodský
I.Hrušovský: Slovenská hudba v profiloch a rozboroch [Slovak music in profiles and analyses] (Bratislava, 1964), 79–96
J.Potúček, ed.: Viliam Figuš-Bystrý: k problematike slovenskej hudby a hudobného života [Figuš-Bystrý: on the problems of Slovak music and musical life] (Bratislava, 1972) [writings, studies and reviews]
E.Muntág: Viliam Figuš-Bystrý: Život a dielo (1875–1973) [Figuš-Bystrý: life and works] (Martin, 1973) [incl. list of works]
D.Dobrík, ed.: Viliam Figuš-Bystrý: Banská Bystrica 1975
(It.: ‘to spin the sound/the voice/the tone’; Fr. filer le son).
A direction in singing to ‘spin out’ a long note, usually pianissimo, without any change in dynamics. Verdi uses this direction at the end of Violetta’s aria ‘Addio del passato’ in La traviata, where the phrase ‘un filo di voce’ is attached to the final a'', its soft dynamic emphasized by the preceding direction, allargando e morendo. At the end of the sleep-walking scene in Macbeth, Verdi uses this term over the final four notes, rising to d''', indicating that the phrase should be sung without a crescendo and, probably, with little or no vibrato.
The term is also used for wind instruments and (meaning without a change of bow) for string instruments, the direction usually implying that the note is to be sustained quietly and without any gradation in volume. L’Abbé le fils (J.-B. Saint-Sevin) defines the term this way in his Principes du violon (1761).