Saturday, July 3, 2010

200th Birth Anniversary of Hungarian Composer Ferenc Erkel on Stamps

Ferenc Erkel (November 7, 1810 – June 15, 1893) was a Hungarian composer, conductor and pianist. He was the father of Hungarian grand opera, written mainly on historical themes, which are still often performed in Hungary. He also composed the music of "Himnusz", the national anthem of Hungary, which was adopted in 1844.

Erkel was born in Gyula, a son of Joseph Erkel who was a musician. The libretto of his first four operas were written by Béni Egressy. Beside his operas, for which he is best known, he wrote pieces for piano and chorus, and a majestic Festival Overture. He acquainted Hector Berlioz with the tune of the Rákóczi March, which Berlioz used in The Damnation of Faust.

He headed the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra (founded in 1853). He was also the director and piano teacher of the Hungarian Academy of Music until 1886. The Hungarian State Opera House in Budapest was opened in 1884, of which he was the musical director.

In 1839, he married Adél Adler, and they had four sons - Gyula (July 4, 1842, Pest – March 22, 1909, Újpest), Elek (November 2, 1843, Pest – June 10, 1893, Budapest), László (April 9, 1844, Pest – December 3, 1896, Bratislava) and Sándor (January 2, 1846, Pest – October 14, 1900, Békéscsaba) - who participated in the composing of his later operas. Erkel was an internationally acknowledged chess player as well, and a founder of Pesti Sakk-kör (Budapest Chess Club). He died in Budapest. A department of the Opera House was established in 1911 in Budapest which also performs operas, named Erkel Színház (Erkel Theatre) since 1953.

The stamps above are miniature sheets commemorating the 200th birth anniversary (1810-2010) of the famous Hungarian composer. One features him composing and the other his piano.