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Šarišské múzeum Bardejov
Šarišské múzeum

Work of Bela Keler

  Creative heritage of Bela Keler wasn't fully evaluated till now. The exception might be the short study written by Štefan Hoza and only one study by associate professor František Matúš from the year 1970. From this place we try to bring a brief section through his work
        Untill 1877 a hundred thirty-eight of his compositions were published in twelve European publishing houses. Some of the compositions are handwritten and they are the part of the collection of our Museum. Vast editorial activity gives evidence of Keler's success as the composer and about the quality and popularity of his compositions. He composed 27 voluminous valses, 27 marches, 20 csardasses, 18 polkas, 15 songs, 13 galops, 10 overtures. Many of his compositions were not preserved or they are missing.  
        Highly appraised are his overtures, which were published exclusively in the publishing house of C. F. W. Spiegel in Leipzig. Except for aforementioned Romantic overture op.75 and Rákoczi overture op. 76, the biggest success was the following overtures: Comedically overture op. 73, Comic overture op. 74 and Festive overture: Consecration of the temple Vysvätenie chrámu op. 95, French comedically overture op. 131 and many others.
        Keler composed several extensive compositions, to which belong musical poems for big symphonic orchestra: „La chasse aux papillons op. 133“, „Serenata Veneziana, quasi Cavatina op. 93“, musical scene The Carpathians and The Night in Venice. From the other extensive genres are the following ones missing: Csokonay overtureGrand concert for violin and orchestra, Old and new year – musical dialogue in the questions and answers, Der Musikalische Fernsprecher – Musical telephone, Potpouri from Verdi's opera Troubadour and many others.
        His compositions are written in dance forms and they are appointed more for listenining than dancing. The following episode that was preserved in the memory of Almos Jaschika gives the evidence of the fact.  When Keler conducted his valse In der neuen Heimath - In the new homeland op. 112, the dancing couples gradually stopped dancing as they were listening with interest for the rest of the valse. Nostalgic and broody atmosphere of the composition (together with many others of his works) serves more to calm down the soul than to initiate somebody to dance.  Today we call this music therapy. Emotional and melodically attractive are also other valses, such as: Die Hoffnungs  Sterne  - Stars of hope  op. 17,  Auf Flugeln der Liebe – In the wings of love op. 93, Die Sprudler – Hot spring op. 65, Rosige Träume – Rosy-coloured dreams op. 72, and also his last valse Vom Rhein zur Donau – From the Rhine to the Danube op138. And of course Keler's most famous valse Beautiful river Rhine, I will remember you which was mentioned before, should be mentioned in this context.
        However, his vocal compositions are very melodic too. Let's mention his concert valse for soprano and orchestra Come palpita il mio cor! op. 61. Its score and schedule for musical instruments of the orchestra are preserved in handwriting of the author. The part Árvalanyhaj op. 38 belonged to the most performed songs in czardas form. Keler's polkas and quadrilles belonged in his era to the most popular. Polka – mazurka „Traumgluck“ op. 94 was published in two big printing houses  Bote & Bock in Berlin and Cramer in London. Interesting fact is that his Grand diabolical galop op. 60 – Grand Galopp Infernale, was composed in Prešov, in February 1861. The piano version was dedicated to all poor “dancesick” devils. The composion is divided into the following parts: Orcus, The choir of diabolical ghosts, Furies in action, Dance of demons, Hour of ghosts stroke, Revealation of Pluto, Jubilant welcoming in Orcus's temple.
        The peak of Keler's career is probably Memorial czardas of Bardejov op. 31 – Bártfai emlek Csárdás, published in Germany as „Errinnerung an Bartfeld“. The composition was written in July 1858 on the route from Bardejov do Debrecín, as it is preserved in one of printed parts. At that time the composer was on his way to 10th regiment of Earl Mazzuchelli, where he had the position of  a military bandmaster at that time.
        32 beats of Keler's composition were later the inspiration for Johaness Brahms some 11 years later. He used them for his 5th Hungarian dance in absolute version. Period critique accused Brahms of stealing spiritual property of other composers. It is well known that Keler kept friendly relationship with Brahms and he put his dances through detailed analysis. He found ouf that 9 out of 10 Brahms's dances contain melodies that were before introduced in the works of the following composers: Windt, Rizner, Travnik, Sarkozy and others. Written record with the analysis is the part of Keler's heritage. According to František Matúš: „These facts cannot be used to blame Brahms from plagiarism, even if they are credible... Brahms in the title of its first publication warned that it is only musical arrangement, not his own composition („gesetzt“ and not „komponiert“)“. In the other German and Hungarian articles Keler's czardas was introduced as the source for Brahm's 5th Hungarian Dance.
        The compositions mentioned before represent only a fragment from overall Keler's work. The selection should serve for those interested who want to have an idea of Keler's versatility. During his long journeys he often impressed the audience. Composer full of feelings which were processed by his musician's soul into his own compositions filled with splendid melodies and dark harmonies. Many of them are soaked up with strong emotions of his homeland, with the places of his childhood. Musicologist, František Matúš says: „With his relentlessness he became a reputable artist in nearby abroad and asserted himself recognized artist in the biggest European rivalry; demonstrated his quality in the mids of the biggest European centers. His name is found in all prestige international encyclopedias, however we didn't find him in our musicological literature. His popularity and grandeur are hidden in Bardejov museum.”   
        The following words are written in one less known period reviews: Keler's music won hearts of audience at both sides of the ocean, but it caused real miraculous power at that time when great musician himself conducted his compositions. Then not only listeners, but also musicians were full of special soulful state and their inner life was opened to new world – stargazing, miraculous, endless…“


Texts: Peter Bubák, Gymnázium L. Stockela. Webdesign & Website created by: Martin Urban, Anton Kovaľ, matto.softlabs@gmail.com. Used copies of documents, images and historical prints are published with confirmation of director of Šariš museum in Bardejov, PhDr.František Gutek