Anna Dalos’ article “How to Become a Soviet Composer” on the oeuvre (including songs) of one of the leading Hungarian composers of the 20th century, begins with a great rhetorical trick. György Kurtág was so fascinated by the work of Rimma Dalos, a Hungary-based Russian poet and translator, that in the 1970s and 1980s he made use of her poems, written in Russian, on several occasions. The first time was in the second half of the 1970s, when the cycle Poslaniya pokoynoy R.V. Trusovoy for soprano and accompanying ensemble was written. Scenes from a Novel, Op. 19 – also for high female voice (soprano) and violin, double bass and cimbalo are dated 1979–1982. They constitute a continuation of an important theme taken up in Kurtág’s work. The fourteen miniatures, crowned by an epilogue, form a cycle of extraordinarily sophisticated tales, varied in sound and timbre, which are unfortunately not very cheerful in terms of text. He dedicated the third, fifth and ninth songs to the memory of László Kalmár, Gustav Mahler and Alfred Schnittke, respectively.
Luciano Berio’s Folk Songs are more than fifteen years older than Kurtág’s cycle – they were composed in the mid-1960s. While Kurtág’s fascination with the poetry of Rimma Dalos played an important role in his work, Berio wanted in his Folk Songs to give praise to the “artistry and vocal intelligence” of the outstanding singer Cathy Berberian. And since he deemed a piano accompaniment “deeply disturbing”, his original anthology was written for voice and instruments (flute/piccolo, clarinet, two percussion instruments, harp, viola, cello). Berio placed folk and ethnic themes from different corners of Europe, but also North America in a new context of his own making. With two exceptions – La donna ideale and Ballo – he composed exclusively his own music to anonymous texts from Genoa and Sicily.