From Folk Songs to the Genevan Psalter

Exhibition in Commemoration of Péter Balla 20/Sep/2014 - 25/Jan/2015

In honor of Sacred Week 2014, the Museum of Ethnography is proud to offer a glimpse into the career of ethnomusicologist, violinist, and ecclesiastical musician Péter Balla on the 30th anniversary of his passing. As a field researcher, Balla began his sojourn into Hungarian folk music under the tutelage of Bartók, Kodály, and Lajtha in 1933, eventually adding some 450 melodies recorded on 144 wax cylinders to the holdings of the museum's Audio Archives. With the support of Bartók and Lajtha, Balla undertook the role of mediator between Romanian and Hungarian folk music researchers.

Beyond this side of his work, however, the exhibition seeks to explore Balla's contributions to ecclesiastical music, including his important role in rejuvenating the Hungarian Reformed (Calvinist) Hymnal and his use of folk material in the process. In fact, his own works, too, often featured Biblical texts paired with pentatonic melodies. In 1937, under the auspices of the Soli Deo Gloria organisation, Balla launched a successful campaign to bring folk music to a wider public via the meetings of the Calvinist Fellowship at Balatonszárszó. During the time of Jewish persecution in Hungary, Balla and his wife saved the lives of more than 100 of their fellow Hungarians, for which he was awarded the Yad Vashem Institute's "Righteous Among Nations" Prize in 1995. The exhibition explores the career of this little-known ethnomusicologist and ecclesiastical musician, whom some have called the "apostle of folk music educatio", as well as the life of Balla, the man, through his recordings, publications, and ethnographic artefacts.

Curators: Krisztina Pálóczy, István Pávai