Born as Benjámin Galambos on April 21, 1814 in Sajókazinc (now Kazincbarcika), Egressy was a composer, actor, playwright, translator and librettist. He took the name Egressy from his father Pál Egresi-Galambos, a Reformed Church pastor. His brother Gábor Egressy was also an actor. He attended the Reformed Church Secondary School in Miskolc and then college in Sárospatak, until his father’s death forced him to end his studies and work as a school master and assistant teacher. He later joined the chorus and decided to become an actor and opera singer, following the example of his brother, who was an actor in Kassa. From 1834, he performed in Kolozsvár. He studied music theory and languages and in 1838 he walked to Milan for voice training as he had no money. Returning from one and a half years in Italy, after modest success as an opera singer, he began work as a composer and librettist. From 1843 he was a member of the National Theatre. He translated some sixty plays and operas from German, French and Italian. Of his 47 compositions, 35 appeared in print. Most of his works were in the verbunkos style, along with artificial folk songs, and accompaniment for many poems by Petőfi, Tompa and Vörösmarty. As a Hungarian musician, his work was pioneering in some ways, as it was mainly German-speaking musicians who had worked with artificial folk songs before him. He combined the verses of the greatest poets of that age with the popular Hungarian verbunkos and csárdás musical styles. He also wrote the librettos for the operas Mária Bátori, László Hunyadi and Bánk bán by Ferenc Erkel. He authored several plays himself, with Két Sobri (1851) achieving the most success. In 1843, András Bartay, director of the National Theatre, announced a competition for the musical accompaniment of Vörösmarty’s poem “Szózat”. Egressy’s novel submission, which best suited the spirit of the Reform period, was unanimously selected by Vörösmarty himself and by the two greatest musicians of that time in Pest-Buda, Ferenc Erkel and Mihály Mosonyi. Egressy’s rhythmic composition gives the verse a passionate expressiveness and stately tempo. Presented in 1843, this work quickly became well-known and even today it stands as a symbolic work and as Hungary’s second national anthem.
Egressy fought in the Revolution of 1848-49 and was wounded in the Battle of Kápolna. After the fall of the fortress of Komárom, he composed the piece Komáromi utóhangok (known as the Klapka March), for which Kálmán Thaly later wrote the lyrics. In 1851, he died of lung disease in Pest at the age of 37, hardly knowing that his most beautiful melodies would turn out to be classics.
Marking the 200th anniversary of Béni Egressy’s birthday, the National Bank of Hungary is issuing this commemorative coin. The front of the coin shows the notes to the first line of the Szózat, “Hazádnak rendületlenül”, while the back bears a portrait of Egressy by the designer László Szlávics Jr.
Source: Kortárs, 42. 1998. 103-108 (and Internet), Lujza Tari: Magyarország nagy vitézség A szabadságharc emlékezete a nép dalaiban. Néprajzi Társaság, Budapest, 1998 and Lujza Tari: A szabadságharc népzenei emlékei (CD-ROM) MTA ZTI-Enciklopedia Humana. Budapest, 2000
Face value: HUF 2,000
Diameter: 37 mm
Weight: 23.7 g
Max.mintage: 5,000 pcs