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Bakfark, Bálint

(Valentin Greff Bakfark), lutanist and composer. One of the most celebrated lute virtuosos of his time, he was the first representative of Hungarian music to attain international stature. He visited almost every important royal court in Europe – these were significant cultural centres as well – and both his instrumental virtuosity and his imaginativeness as a composer were highly regarded in France, Italy, Germany and Poland alike. 100 years after his death his lute books were still in use.

His date of birth is unknown; according to some sources it was 1506 or 1507, but other data suggest that he was born between 1526 and 1530 in Brassó [now Brasov, Romania]. He spent his childhood in Transylvania at the court of János Szapolyai and later  - after Szapolyai was crowned king - he was employed in Buda as his court lutanist. In recognition of his artistry he was awarded an aristocratic title. In the 1540s he served in various courts in France and Italy; from 1549 to 1565, with intervals of varying length, he lived at the court of King Zygmund II August in Vilnius. (Meanwhile in 1552-54 he made an extensive European tour.) In 1566-69 he lived in Vienna at the court of the Emperor Maximilian II (who was also king of Hungary); in 1569-71 he lived in Gyulafehérvár at the court of János Zsigmond Szapolyai, Prince of Transylvania. After the prince’s death (1571) he moved to Padua, where in 1576, together with his family, he fell victim to an epidemic of plague. He was buried in Padua on August 22, 1576.

He composed exclusively for his own instrument, the lute. Of his 43 extant works some are intabulations (transcriptions or free arrangements for the lute of contemporary vocal works), while others are lute fantasias, one of the first independent instrumental genres of the period. He had his compositions published in print as well: his first lute book appeared in 1553 in Lyon, and the second in Krakow in 1565.