I know a few Hungarian organists. No one who doesn’t understand their language will be able to make sense out of this post’s headline. Years ago, to earn my degrees, I had to learn to read and translate certain languages. I chose Latin because I liked it, and I was required to study French, German, and Italian as well because significant musicological texts were available only in these languages. Hungarian was not offered! When I first found the organist Dénes Kapitány a fews years ago, I admired his interest and dedication to the music of ‘d’Antalffy, the great Hungarian organist who worked for most of his life in the United States. Dénes taught me much about the language and cleared up lots of things for me. For example, in somewhat formal circumstances, the last name is presented first. Thus, Dénes’s name is sometimes, though not always, written as Kapitány Dénes.
In the case of the composer of today’s music topic, his name is more complicated. Here’s a short bit of his background.
Dezsö d’Antalffy (1885–1945) was a talented Hungarian organist who made his career in the United States. He was also known as Antalffy-Zsíross Dezsö and Désiré d’Antalffy. He studied with Straube and Bossi and served as organist at St Stephen’s Cathedral in Budapest before moving to the US. George Eastman hired him to teach at the Eastman School of Music, he served as house organist for New York City’s Roxy Theatre and Radio City Music Hall, and he was the organist for the New York Philharmonic. He wrote organ music and pieces for large forces including the 1932 dedication of Rockefeller Center, “The Voice of Millions.”
Sometimes, the nationalities and styles of his names were mixed, as in this piano piece. For a larger article on him, see this fine article (by Dénes) on Wikipedia. This may help you to realize why you sometimes see Liszt Ferencz for Franz Ritter von Liszt or Franz Liszt.
Dénes has reconstructed d’Antalffy’s “Nativity (A Christmas vision)” and performed it released this video for us to enjoy. He wrote it in New York in 1935, and it is precisely the kind of music he was known for at Radio City Music Hall. I am sure you will enjoy it!
Thus far, I have restored a few of his organ works and more are planned.
- Four Pieces by Dezsö D’Antalffy
I also offer two of Dénes’s recordings, and the second one has more of d’Antalffy’s music. (The video above was made in Zirc Abbey.)