Composers: Apostle of the Mother Tongue

As a boy in the dreary village of Galánta, Hungary, Composer Zoltán Kodály haunted the local railroad station, watching the come-and-go of peasants lustily singing their folk songs. "I would stand open-mouthed," he once recalled, "listening to the music die away as the train bore them off. But even then it always seemed to me that a thread of melody remained trembling in the air." For Kodály, who died last week of a heart attack at 84, those simple melodies became the wellspring of a creative life that enriched the music of Hungary and the world.

When Kodály entered the Budapest...

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