Composers > Balint Bakfark

Balint Bakfark (1526? - 1576)

Balint Bakfark portrait

Balint Bakfark (his name is spelled on different ways such as: Bachfarrt, Backvart, Bekwark) was Saxon - Hungarian composer and lutenist of the Renaissance from Transilvania.

He was the first Hungarian classical music composer and lutenist. He informed people travelling around in Europe about his suffering home country Hungary occupied by the Turkish empire. He was an impressive virtuoso, lots of poems were inspired by his playing. There is an expression "Taking the lute after Bakfark" that means a people who wants to do something that he/she is not enough educated in. As it was usual in the Renaissance age lots of his contemporaries remade and recomposed his compositions.

He was born in Brassovv (Brasso) in Transylvania (nowadays in Romania) between 1526 and 1530 we do not know the exact date in. He was an orphan, so he was brought up by the Greff family, and studied in Buda at the court of Janos Szapolyai he was studying lute. Bakfark served Szapolyai'a widow until the end of 1540s then he quit to Paris to get a job there in the Royal's lutenist but that position was filled by another lutenist so he left Paris. He became the lutenist of the king Sigismund Augustus II. who he served with short interuptions until 1566. During that time he met his most important mecenas Prince Albert form Brandenburg. Bakfark get married in Krakow in 1550, his wife was a lithuanian widow, Katarina Narbutova. He visited to Konigsberg to the court of Prince Albert in 1550 for the first time.

Goals of his travellings were to print and publish his works that's why he went to Wittenberg, Danzig and Augsburgba. He succeded only in Lyon where Count Tournon supported him he could publish his first lute book in 1553. Count Tournon became an archbishop later on. He was well-known lutenist but he was faithfull to the Wilna court of Polish king when lots of kings wanted t employ him. He went back to Koenisgberg through Italy then he went back to Poland in 1554. He nomenated the second edition of his works to Sigismund Augustus II. and he published it in Krakkow by his own. He suddenly had to run away from the court - nobody knows why. The Polish army destroyed his house and took over his goods.

He was staying in Vienna for a while and he served the emperor II. Miksa. He returned to Transivania in 1568 then he moved to Padua, Italy in 1571. He died because of plague in 8th August 1576. As was a commin practice in Renaissance age all the property of plague victims were destroyed by fire, so all his manuscripts were lost.

That's why the manuscripts we have from Bakfark are from his Polish years but we can get some of his pieces in lute tabulatures pulbished in Italy. He published two Lute Books: cover page of Lyon Book from 1553 you can see Bakfark family's coats of arms as well as the portrait of the mecenas archbishop and the composer, the Krakkow Lute Book from 1565 has a special lute technical feature it show a fingering that was never used before by other lutenists. The level of his compositions represents his technical value on the instrument and the advatages of his teacher's method. He was enormously educated in the Renaissance style.

He perfectly knew the vocal polyphony of Low Countries as well as the Italian Lute music. His works were never reprinted since their techical requrements were too high for other lutenists.

His surviving tabulatures inlcude seven madrigals, ten lute fantasies, eight chansons and fourteen motetts. He prepared couple of transcriptions of other polyphonic composers such as: Josquin Desprez, Clemens non Papa, Nicolas Gombert and Orlando di Lasso.