“Accuracy, Essence, Beauty. These three words summarize everything I want and will be trying to achieve in music and what I value in the works of my predecessors and contemporaries. ” - Attila Bozay
Attila Bozay was born on August 11, 1939, in Balatonfűzfő, under the name of Attila Szarka. His father was Gyula Bozalyi (machinist), his mother Anna Moder (housewife), and his sister Ildikó Bozalyi (doctor).
He began his piano studies in 1949, started to play the violin in 1951 and the clarinet shortly afterwards. He always remembered the inspiring leader of Balatonfűzfő’s local pioneer band with a warm heart, who, as a truthful renaissance man, was able to play several instruments and operated the group during that period of time.
After a long agonising period of fights and arguments with his parents, in September 1953 he could finally apply to the famous Conservatory of Music in Békéstarhos. During the admission procedure, his mother asked the director of the school, György Gulyás, not to admit his son, but he insisted on young Bozay’s music education. Three of his early works are associated with Békéstarhos: ‘Two archaic pieces’, ‘Two short pieces for piano’ and the ‘Divertimento’. The composer called these pieces Opus juvenile.
In 1954, after the unexpected termination of the institution, he continued his studies in Budapest at the State Conservatory of Music, today’s well-known Béla Bartók Conservatory. Throughout these three years, the composer wrote five more Opus juveniles: ‘Introduction and Rondo Burlesco’, ‘Sonatina’, ‘Wind quintet’, ‘A walk in Fairyland’, and a 36-movement piano cycle called ‘Medals’.
On October 23, 1956, he took part in the demonstrations of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics - Bem Square - Parliament axle, what he recalls to be an uplifting feeling and a defining experience of his life.
In 1957, a straight path led him to the Liszt Academy of Music where he graduated with honors on May 17, 1962, in the well-known class of Ferenc Farkas. This is where he met Árpád Balázs, Zsolt Durkó, Zoltán Jeney and Miklós Kocsár amongst others. The 9th Opus juvenile called ‘Romance’ was composed here as the last piece of this set. In 1958, another work of his, ‘Duo’, was also created.
Attila Bozay led the catalogue of his works with precise care. He later destroyed the vast majority of his pieces from the earlier period. Even from his graduation portfolio only one of his five works remained intact, two significantly rewritten, two withdrawn. He urges that the performance and publication of pieces that are not included in the list of works he has compiled himself be omitted at all times. His colleagues at the Liszt Academy still remember the characteristic dialogue with him, the music poet with extreme self-criticism to this day: “- Attila, how is your new work progressing? "It was good for tinder."
He called his first creative period between 1953 to 1968 the period of review. After graduating, he taught in Szeged for a year at the secondary level, then worked as director of chamber music at Hungarian Radio until 1966. In 1964 he wrote his first string quartet, then in 1965 ‘Pezzo concertato No. 1’, Op. 11 was created. He had been a freelance composer since 1967. He married Klára Körmendi and received a six-month scholarship from UNESCO to Paris in the same year. Soon after that his music’s first performance took place in the USA with ‘String trio’ Op. 3.
“I learned the most - as a creator - from poet, Sándor Weöres… To take on my obviously uneven work as a whole. Weöres said there are two types of creators: the ‘pit digger’ and the ‘national robber’. The ‘pit digger’ is plagued by only a few problems, but increasingly… ”
The composer marks his 2nd creative period from 1968 to 1978 as a time of “pit digging”. The artist's first Erkel Award can also be considered as the founder of this period. At the beginning of these years, he met zither artist Mátyás Pribojszky, as a result of which he became interested in folk culture, in particular the (transformed) zither and beak flutes. In 1971, his first work on zither, Op. 22. ‘No. 1, Improvisations’ was written. This was going to be the pair to another composition from 1976, Op. 27. ‘No. 2. Improvisations’, which is perhaps his most important work on beak flutes. His son, Gergely, was born in 1974.
1979 was a hectic year for Bozay: he began to compose an opera, which has also opened a new creative period: the period of outbrave. He received his second Erkel Prize. His daughter Melinda was born. This year he started to teach orchestration at the Liszt Academy of Music, followed by his first composition class two years later. In 1982, Attila Bozay and Klára Körmendi went through a divorce.
From 1983 to 1985, he wrote four series dedicated to his great role model, Béla Bartók, entitled 6 choruses for children's or female voices. The opuses process six poems by each poet, and their similarities to Bartók’s 27 choruses for children's and female voices are uncanny. During his lifetime, Bozay composed more than a hundred pieces based on Hungarian poems, from several authors such as János Arany, Bálint Balassi, Dániel Berzsenyi, Attila József, Amy Károlyi, János Pilinszky, Sándor Petőfi, Miklós Radnóti and János Vajda.
His opera Csongor and Tünde, based on the work of Mihály Vörösmarty, was completed in 1984 for the centenary of the Opera House. The work has had an undivided success with both professional and public audiences. In 1985 he was rewarded with the Meritorious Artist Award. From 1986 to 1989, the author looks towards a new field of music, through noncomposed genres and forms. He composed two piano sonatas, a violin-piano sonata and a cello-piano sonata over these years. Bozay traverses the genre with the thoroughness typical of himself and exploits his potential in such ways that his idiom is always recognizable in these pieces.
In 1988 he was awarded the Bartók-Pásztory Prize. He was a member of the Hungarian Music Society’s board and the president of the Békéstarhos Friend Circle. In 1989 he married Erzsébet Varga. In the same year, he received the Fin Hungarian Score Award.
Between 1990 to 1993, he was the director of the Hungarian National Philharmonic. This activity required a great amount of strength. Subsequently, he looked back at his work with some remorse, which has taken his time and energy away from composition. However, this should not mislead the reader: here, as always, he has done his work with the spirit of Attila Bozay, with modesty, zeal, dedication, diligence, and most of all a great desire to create.
He wrote his last ‘3rd Pezzo Concert’ in 1990 Op. 37. He was awarded the Kossuth Prize in the same year. From then on, he was elected as president of the Hungarian Composers’ Association for a year.
He was a founding member of the Hungarian Academy of Arts and has been vice-president of the Hungarian Music Department for four years from 1992. This year he was awarded the Hungarian Art Prize. In 1993, he wrote his composition, ‘Poor Yorick’, based on the poems of István Kormos. This perhaps was the most profound insight into his own soul. He composed his last, third ‘Pezzo Sinfonico’ op. 38 in 1995. In 1997 he completed his last, ‘No. 3 String Quartet’ op. 40., and two mixed choir cycles dedicated to Zoltán Kodály. The pieces’ texts are based on Bálint Balassi and István Gyöngyösi’s works.
In 1998, he began to compose an opera for the Hungarian Millennium Opera Competition, this large-scale work circled in his mind for almost 30 years. Based on Madách's Tragedy of Man, he wrote an opera ‘The Last Five Settings’. He suffered a third, this time fatal heart attack during a vacation in Szilvásvárad and passed away on September 14, 1999. Three movements from his opera were not yet orchestrated. These were completed by three former students of his, Zoltán Kovács, Zsófia Tallér and Gyula Fekete with the help of the author's instructions. A year after his death, the opera, which can also be considered as the masterpiece of his oeuvre, was unveiled on October 21, 2000, and earned all accolades and awards.
His dear student, Endre Olsvay, who graduated in his first composition class at the Liszt Academy, wrote: "Attila Bozay, like one of his role models, Bartók too, passed away with " a full luggage. " An opera plan, ‘A guy from Pest’, about the martyrdom of Péter Mansfeld in '56, his further cycles of mixed choirs could not be finished by the composer, who died a tragic sudden death. The significance of his oeuvre was confirmed with the Artisjus Prize in 2001 and the Hungarian Heritage Prize in 2009. In 2016, a street was named after Attila Bozay in Balatonfűzfő.