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Record Number of Petőfi Poems Set to Music This Year

Hungary Today 2023.12.21.

On the occasion of the bicentenary of the birth of Sándor Petőfi, the Petőfi Cultural Agency has launched a major popular music competition in 2023, entitled Clouds (Felhők). The aim of the competition is to promote the works of the 19th century poet in the language of contemporary popular music, reports Magyar Nemzet.

Thanks to the competition, the entire Hungarian popular music scene has been stirred up, and many performers who are still completely unknown today, as well as Kossuth Prize-winning artists, have submitted their arrangements of Petőfi’s poems.

A jury of renowned experts judged 200 of the more than 700 entries, and the musicians received a prize of HUF 600,000 (EUR 1,567) for the winning songs.

The competition was open to all Hungarian performers aged 18 and over from Hungary and abroad, either individually or as part of a musical group, but according to the rules, the competition required at least one year of verifiable music industry experience and a studio recording.

Applicants could choose from 200 pre-selected Petőfi poems – a reference to the anniversary of the poet’s birth.

The most important criterion for the selection of the proposed poems was their musicality, and the selection was made by Róbert Hrutka, Fonogram Award-winning musician.

Róbert Hrutka. Photo via Facebook/Hrutka Róbert

Petőfi is probably the best example of the fact that so-called high culture and popular culture are the same.

Petőfi’s key concepts of freedom and love are also key concepts of popular music. Hence, not only poets but also popular musicians have emerged from Petőfi’s mantle. The applications show that the creators of Hungarian pop culture feel this,” stressed Szilárd Demeter, Director General of the Petőfi Literary Museum and the Petőfi Cultural Agency, who initiated the competition.

The works submitted to the competition of the Petőfi Cultural Agency cover the whole spectrum of popular music. A performer could send in as many recordings as he or she wanted, but the jury chose only three of the entries. Some artists, such as Barnabás Pély and Domonkos Dely, dedicated an entire album to Petőfi’s poems.

More information on the competition is available on the Petőfi Cultural Agency’s website. A list of the prize-winning performers can be found here.


Sándor Petőfi (1823–1849) was a Hungarian poet and liberal revolutionary. He is considered Hungary’s national poet, and was one of the key figures of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. It is most likely that he died in the Battle of Segesvár (Sighișoara, now in Romania), one of the last battles of the war.

The 2022-2023 Sándor Petőfi commemorative year started on September 1 last year. The government is providing HUF 9 billion (EUR 23.5 million) to support bicentenary programs, rural museums, and the development of literary memorial houses and memorial sites. The Petőfi Literary Museum in Budapest has launched a Petőfi Bus, a traveling exhibition that visits more than 200 towns and villages in Hungary and abroad, and a new permanent exhibition will also open.

Concert Theater Production about Sándor Petőfi Is Music Event of the Year
Concert Theater Production about Sándor Petőfi Is Music Event of the Year

The script was written by Zsolna Ugron, using the works of Júlia Szendrey, Sándor Petőfi, and Endre Ady.Continue reading

Via Magyar Nemzet, Featured image via Wikipedia

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