70 Hungarian postcards to the 70-year-old Israel

A lost foreword

Andre Hajdu -  composer, music teacher

By Sándor Silló - 2018-04-05

Translated from the Hungarian original: Bea Sara Goll

That’s what I was afraid of! That I would have to write the foreword to Andre Hajdu's poems and an epilogue to a life of which I am only familiar with the last pages.


I won’t copy the Wikipedia data here; rather, I’ll try to tell you about this last chapter.


I saw the documentary about Andre Hajdu still in Hungary. Then as a new immigrant in Jerusalem I met him after the showing of the film there. At the age of eighty-four, he was radiating energy and joy. There was a scene in the film: he was teaching composition-students at the University of Jerusalem. I have been teaching for 15 years - true, other disciplines: theater, film - but I have never seen such fresh and unrestricted lessons. I asked for permission to attend these classes, and from then on - that was in December - I was there every Monday. I would not have thought that at age 55 I would still have a Master in my life! He was a fantastic teacher! The students were dancing and floating. Every lesson was like a happening. They took turns to improvise, playing music by four hands and six hands. Sometimes Andre joined them as well; he instructed, conducted, or sang with them. Sometimes the music score was replaced by an album of paintings. They improvised to a Monet image. This small, fragile man (increasingly broken by illnesses) has mobilized incredible energies. Like a dynamo, these young people came to understand musical asymmetry, the harmony of folk music, Debussy, Stravinsky or Bartók's structural principles at the adrenaline level of creative work. The essence of music.


I would have never thought - until this day - that Freedom could be taught.


He spoke little of Pierre Boulez, one of his masters. Modernist terror attack on good taste, he told me, but to the kids he used more euphemistic terms. Darius Milhaud was his true master and of course the first one, still in Hungary: Zoltán Kodály. Folk music - from the Hungarian to the Jewish - was an inexhaustible source of inspiration that penetrated André's entire musical oeuvre. But about this - his own work – he almost never spoke.


He arrived to his lessons on time, then, dead tired, he escaped home. So we rarely could talk.


The man, he mentioned almost every time was his adolescent friend, Miklós Erdély. He wanted to watch the movie The son of Saul, as the camera work was done by Miki's son Mátyás Erdély. His illness prevented him from doing this, too. He lived five minutes from the Academy, but by then he only left home for the sake of these Monday classes. He put all his energy into these 90 minutes.


The other, always mentioned ghost was Sándor Weöres. In his youth, after the war, Andre wrote an essay on the rhythm of the poem Bóbita, which he continued in Paris ten years later, in the journal Magyar Műhely [Hungarian Workshop]. Weöres, he was already a lead-in ...


I have been auditing his lectures for a month when he came up with his idea before our class: he had left Hungary in 1956, and lived in Paris and Jerusalem. He hardly ever spoke Hungarian. Then a few years ago he spent much time talking with a Hungarian friend who was staying at his home: this opened a floodgate: he began to write in Hungarian. Texts about the Hungarian language. That’s how he called them. In fact these were poems! As opposed to conceptual languages ​​(e.g., German, English, French), Hungarian - in his view – is an older, more musical language. Its musical nature lends it a deeper expressive power. To illustrate this characteristic – it is for this purpose that he wrote his texts. But in fact, they are games, from the playground of a composer, of a ghost. He gave me some of them, choosing them shyly like a beginner poet. “Read these to see if a book could come out of it.” I was happy to tinker with these texts; I knew they were music, too. Throughout the course of our collaboration, he tried to downplay his writings, but I knew this book was very important to him. More than 600 texts in small letters, written by hand. I was permitted to read only half of them, the rest he kept even from me, his editor. “They're too personal!” that’s all he said. His condition has been continuously deteriorating. From then on, we ran a race with time. Then the material was put together. The final version was firmed up in his garden. Twenty minutes of work, then he got tired and nodded off. I waited until he woke up and we moved on. Sometimes, if he could not go on, he just said, “I trust you.” He wrote a foreword to it, but the jungle of scores and notes on his desk swallowed it. We agreed that he would look for it as we said goodbye.


The contract has been finalized; also the book cover, but we have still missed it!

The book will come out posthumous if at all: The alchemy of the Hungarian language.


It would be good to process his life work, to edit his writings. It would be nice to talk with him about Pierre Boulez, Darius Milhaud, or Zoltan Kodály. Or to take him to HaMakom, to listen to authentic Moroccan Jewish music. I imagine him in his wrinkled black trousers with the fringes of his prayer shawl showing, wearing his kippah, the believer, in the smoke of hashish, among the made-up, used up, dancing Moroccan women, smiling like a saint, or rather like a fairy-tale elf. But it would be best to still be able to attend his classes and ...


May his game be joyous, over there - even after the last coda!

The article was first published at the death of Andre Hajdu instead of an obituary on ÚjKelet Online, in a slightly different form.


Speak kaddish for him:



The photos are from the homepage of the movie The Hungarian Cube: A Journey with Andre Hajdu.


Link to the movie preview:


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