History of the cimbalom

The cimbalom has an Asian origin. This trapezium instrument had different names in different countries like santur, qanun, yanchin, e.t.c. It came to Europa during the great migrations and it became a very popular instrument in the 14th, 15th and 16th century in lots of countries. Every country named the instrument differently: in Germain region “Hackbrett”, in english region “ hammered dulcimer”, in french region “tympanon”, in italian and spanish region “salterio” and in the hungarian language “cimbalom”. In Hungary the instrument was already used pucked and hammered. In the 18th and 19th century the gipsies musicians took over the cimbalom and created by their many mouvmants a typical “town music”. From this moment wrongly named “typical hungarian folksmusic” and the idea was born that the cimbalom is a gipsy instrument. The realy typical hungarian folksmusic was played in the isolated villages, where the cimbalom was used also. After the war of independence (1848) the cimbalom was occupied as one of the nationals symbols. So Ferenc Erkel - who was the founder of the hungarian opera - used the cimbalom the first time in the hungarian classical music. This opera “Bánk bán” had his premier in 1861. In relation of his enormously success József V.Schunda instrumentsmaker reformed the cimbalom. He chanched the instrument from 2 and half octave till 4 and half with pedals like by the piano. Such a large instrument needed legs. This new “hungarian” cimbalom was showed in 1874. Géza Allaga was the founder of the literature of this instrument. He founded the first school for it, too. From 1890 he was the cimbalom teacher at the National Musicschool in Budapest. More and more componist wrote music for the hungarian cimbalom. From 1897 it was possibile to study this instrument at the Academy of the Music in Budapest. The teacher was László Kun, who was a student of Allaga. At the turn of the century the cimbalom was teached in every town all over Hungary. In the begining of the XX th century Debussy and Stravinsky composed also for this hungarian instrument. At this time were the most famous teachers Dezső Erdélyi, who was the teacer after Allaga at the National Musicschool, and Janka Fodor, who was the teacher after Kun at the Academy of the Music. In the 20th on historical reasons the hungarian cimbalom was practically disappeared , only in Budapest stood the tradition of this instrument. A few, but very important composers wrote music for the cimbalom like Zoltán Kodály and Béla Bartók. The most famous artist at this time was Aladár Rácz and later Ida Tarjáni Tóth.

After Schunda József Bochak instrumentsmaker reformed the cimbalom which type is used till now.

In the 60th the cimbalom music was reborn. More and more people were interested in the study of this instrument. Therefore lot of hungarian composer, later forigner composers wrote solo and accompanying compositions. Now there is the possibility to study in a lot of musi schools, music trraining colleges and the Ferenc Liszt Conservtory of Music in Budapest. The most famous instrumentsmaker are Gábor Frey and István Jancsó. The hungarian cimbalom are used in the neighbouring countries, too like in Slovakia, in Czech Republic, in Moldavia, in Rumania.

And how was in abroad?!.... I thought it was important to bring all the different kind of cimbaloms together, so in 1991 the first Cimbalom World Congress was held in Hungary. The participants of Congress thought also it’s very important to work together, for this aim the Cimbalom World Association (CWA) was founded. The CWA organize congresses every 2 years in a different country. Between the congresses the CWA function as a music centre.