DONÁT, János
(b. 1744, Klosterneuzell, d. 1830, Pest)

Portrait of János Bihari, Composer and Gipsy Virtuoso

Oil on canvas, 57,8 x 47,5 cm
Historical Picture Gallery, Hungarian National Museum, Budapest

János Bihari was a a self-taught Gipsy musician in Hungary. He formed his well-known band around 1801 the Pest, poured popular and ancient Hungarian melodies into in framework of the "verbunkos". The sources of the verbunkos, not yet comopletely known, include some of the traditions of the old Hungarian popular music, certain Levantine, Balkan and Slav elements, probably through the intermediation of the Gipsies, and also elements of the Viennese-Italian music, coming from the first cultivators of the verbunkos, the urban musicians of German culture.

Bihari left eighty-odd compositions. He was credited around 1815 with having written the Rákóczi March, which in reality had taken shape under the hands of unknown musicians from old fragments, mostly from those of the instrumental Rákóczi-tune.

Listen to the MIDI version of the Rákóczi March from Hector Berlioz's Damnation of Faust.