(b Nagykanizsa, 15 Dec 1905). Hungarian composer and teacher. After starting his career as a pianist, he went on to study composition with Weiner and Siklós at the Budapest Academy of Music (1921–7). From 1927 to 1929 he was co-répétiteur for the chorus at the Városi Színház (Municipal Theatre), Budapest; he left to study composition in Rome with Respighi (until 1931). Between 1932 and 1936 he earned his living as a composer and conductor of film music in Budapest, Vienna and Copenhagen (he composed film music regularly until 1973). He taught composition in Budapest at the municipal high school (1935–41), and from 1941 to 1943 at the conservatory in Kolozsvár (now Cluj-Napoca, Romania), where he became director in 1943. At the same time (from 1941) he was chorus master at the opera in Kolozsvár, then in 1945 at the Budapest Opera. From 1946 to 1948 he was director of the music school in Székesfehérvár, and from 1949 to 1975 professor of composition at the Budapest Academy of Music, where, among many others, he taught Ligeti, Kurtág, Petrovics, Szokolay, Bozay and Durkó. His awards include the Franz Joseph Prize (1934), the Kossuth Prize (1950) and the Erkel Prize (1960).
Whereas most of his contemporaries were more or less influenced by Bartók and Kodály, Farkas, because of his time spent in Rome with Respighi, had a wider horizon. The indirect influence of Respighi’s own teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov, coupled with the direct influence of Stravinsky, is evident in the virtuosity of Farkas’s instrumental writing and the richness of his orchestral palette. Rome also aroused his interest in the culture of the past, the visual arts and literature, and this became the basis of his broader perspective. There he first encountered, and gradually assimilated, fluency of expression and graceful, well-balanced structure. Back in Hungary for a short time in 1934, he participated in the collection of folksongs, which revealed to him another musical tradition and resulted in several folksong arrangements.
Farkas has benefited greatly from his practical experience as a teacher, co-répétiteur and chorus master, and from his involvement with theatre, radio and film music. He refined his craft through practice and this, beyond the knowledge of the possibilities of instruments or the human voice, can be heard in his enormous musical output: not only do ideas first used in his film music appear in later works, but most of his compositions exist in several (sometimes in more than five) versions. One of the most important characteristics of Farkas is his interest in both new and old genres. His works include operas and operettas, ballets and Singspiels, pastoral and marionette music, as well as musicals and a scenic play. In addition, he has composed numerous instrumental, vocal and orchestral works, both sacred and secular. His inspiration comes from a wide variety of sources; Gesualdo, old Hungarian folk ballads, Stravinsky and 12-note music have all influenced his creative style, though ultimately he has forged his own – a uniform, individual, national and international idiom that draws on Italian neo-classicism, Hungarian folk music and a softened, Latin version of dodecaphony. He is a true experimenter, but his imagination, his technical competence and his taste have ensured that his experimentation has not led to incoherence. He is not an extreme reformer, preferring to explore new possibilities of synthesis.
A bûvös szekrény [The magic cupboard] (op, 2, G. Kunszery), 1938–42; Furfangos diákok [The sly students] (ballet, 1, G. Oláh, after M. Jókai), 1949, rev. 1956 [suite, 1950]; Csínom Palkó (radio play, A. Dékány), 1949, rev. as oc, 3, 1950, 1960; Vidróczki (radio ballad, E. Innocent-Vincze), 1959, rev. as 3-act op, 1963–4; Panegyricus (scenic play, 3, J. Pannonius, L. de Medici and M. Gyárfás), 1971–2; Egy úr Velencéből [A man from Venedig] (op, 2, S. Márai), 1979–80; incid music for c40 stage and radio plays; over 70 film scores
Cants.: Cantata lirica (J. Dsida), chorus, orch, 1945; Cantus Pannonicus (Pannonius), S, chorus, orch, 1959; Laudatio Szigetiana (orat, K. Vargha), nar, 6 solo vv, chorus, children’s chorus, orch, 1966; Tavaszvárás [Waiting for the spring] (G. Juhász), Bar, chorus, children’s chorus ad lib, orch, 1966–7; Bontott zászlók [Unfurled flags] (L. Kassák), S, Bar, male chorus, orch, 1972–3; Aspirationes principis (K. Mikes, P. Ráday, F. Rákóczi), T, Bar, orch, 1974–5; Omaggio a Pessoa (F. Pessoa), T, chorus, orch, 1985; Kölcsey szózata (F. Kölcsey), T, chorus, orch, 1992–3
Masses: In honorem Sti Andreae, chorus, org, 1962, orchd 1968; In honorem Sti Margaritae, chorus, org/str, 1964–8, arr. female chorus, org/str, 1992; Missa hungarica, chorus, org, 1968; Requiem pro memoria M., chorus, orch, 1992; Missa brevis, male chorus, org/str orch, 1994–5
Songs: Pastorali (A. Keleti), 1v, pf/chbr orch, 1931, rev. 1968; Fagyöngy [Mistletoe] (L. Szabó), 5 lieder, 1932, orchd; Gyümölcskosár [Fruit basket] (S. Weöres), 12 mélodies, 1v, (cl, pf trio)/pf, 1946–7, arr. 1v, cl, va, pf, 1972, 1v, wind qnt, 1980; Kalender (M. Radnóti), 12 miniatures, S, T, pf, 1955, arr. S, T, chbr ens, 1956; A vándor dalai [The wanderer’s songs] (M. Füst), 3 songs, 1v, (fl, va, vc)/pf, 1956; Hommage à Alpbach (P. von Preradovic), 3 lieder, 1968; Autumnalia (D. Kosztolányi, Juhász, Z. Jékely, J. Pilinszky, G. Illyés), 1969–74; L’art d’etre grand-pere (V. Hugo), 4 mélodies, 1985; Orpheus respiciens (S. Csoóri, Petrarch, C.P. Baudelaire, L. de Camoes, R.M. Rilke, A. Machado, O. Wilde, G. de Nerval), 1993; many other songs, over 200 folksong, spiritual, historical and popular song arrs.
Over 200 works for children’s/female/male/mixed vv