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Cover of the fifth volume of Játékok

Játékok (Hungarian: Games) is an ongoing collection of "pedagogical performance pieces" by György Kurtág. He has been writing them since 1973. Nine volumes had been published as of 2017 (by Editio Musica Budapest). Volumes I, II, III, V, VI, VII and IX are for piano solo. Volumes IV and VIII are for piano 4-hands or two pianos.

Volume I was essentially completed in 1973 but not published until 1979, by which time Volumes II, III and IV had also been composed. Volumes V and VI were published in 1997, Volume VII in 2003, Volume VIII in 2010, and Volume IX in 2017.

Several pieces from the collection have started to be regularly performed, including a Prelude and Chorale, an Antiphon in F, and one called 3 in memoriam.


Kurtág began the composition of Játékok to try to recapture something of the spirit of a child's play. He started with a few ideas set out in the foreword to the first four volumes:


  • György Kurtág: Játékok Márta Kurtág and György Kurtág piano. With Bach transcriptions by Kurtág himself and his wife Márta. Recorded July 1996. ECM New Series 1619 (CD)


The beginning of the piece "Hommage à Tchaikovsky", parodying the opening of his First Piano Concerto. Kurtág uses special notation in some of the pieces. In the score above, the large black dots mean "play with both palms laid side by side".

György Kurtág and his wife Márta performed an always-renewing selection of pieces for two and four hands, including transcriptions. The later volumes of Játékok bear the sub-title Diary Entries and Personal Messages. This, to some extent, reveals the lineage of the unique microcosms, which irresistibly involve the listener at their recitals.

The couple played a selection as part of the Composer's Portrait of the Rheingau Musik Festival, 8 August 2004, in the "Kulturforum Schillerplatz" (now "ESWE Atrium") in Wiesbaden. The Bach transcriptions, interspersed with the miniature character pieces, were Aus tiefer Not (BWV 687), Sonatina from Actus Tragicus, Trio sonata in E major (BWV 525) and O Lamm Gottes (BWV 618).

They performed in Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall in February 2009.[1]


  1. ^ György Kurtág: Great Hungarian Jewish Composer, No Monk article by Benjamin Ivry in "The Forward", including a picture of Márta and György Kurtág at the piano, 6 February 2009
  • Kennedy, Michael (2006), The Oxford Dictionary of Music, 985 pages, ISBN 0-19-861459-4

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