Szomorú Vasárnap – Gloomy Sunday – 3 Interpretations

To paraphrase Cornel West, “I  have a cheerful disposition and a melancholic soul.”

Every time I come to Europe, it amazes me, how quiet it is. In winter, it’s not only quiet, but also dark. Maybe that adds to the melancholy which seems to infuse everything. This sounds rather sad, but in fact, I love this feeling, greatly fueled by my own imagination. It includes sad music and poetry. One of the special songs which reflects this mood perfectly is one of my favorites: “Gloomy Sunday“.

The song was composed in 1933 by self taught Hungarian pianist and composer Rezső Seress to a poem written by László Jávor. The original Hungarian title of both song and poem is “Szomorú vasárnap“. Urban myths connected the song with a large number of suicides allegedly involving the song. These claims were later confirmed to be unsubstantiated, but as it happens with most urban legends, they stick around and are difficult to get rid of.

The above clip is taken from the small, but successful movie “Gloomy Sunday” by Rolf Schuebel, a German Hungarian co-production from 1999. It’s a fictional story inspired by the song taking place in Budapest in the thirties, starring Erika Marozsán, Joachim Król, Ben Becker and Stefano Dionisi.

The song traveled the world and became popular in the US in 1941 in a slightly different version (a third verse was added) which was sung by many great artists from Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughn to Elvis Costello.  Listen to Sarah Vaughn, first.

And here’s Elvis Costello looking like a bug. I like the simplicity of his interpretation a lot with just his scratchy voice and the guitar (close your eyes, the live video quality is awful.)

Isn’t it astounding how different these three are? And yet in all of them the melancholy is palpable. It’s a perfect example how no two people look at something the same way, be it a song, a painting or Europe.

My Sunday is anything but gloomy, but I never get tired of listening to Gloomy Sunday!

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5 Responses to “Szomorú Vasárnap – Gloomy Sunday – 3 Interpretations”

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  1. maggomboc says:

    Das war für Heute eine schöne Überraschung! Ich folge dein Blog seit ein halbes Jahr, weil ich so tolle Tutorials bei Dir gefunden habe. Und jetzt auf einmal sehe ich was an meine Muttersprache :)
    Ich bin eine unagrin, und lebe mit meinem Mann und mit unserer Tochter in Deutschland (deswegen auf Deutsch, zwar verstehe ich einiges auf Englisch, spreche/schreibe ich noch gar nicht gut – bin daran es zu verbessern)
    Danke nochmals! Und frohe Weinachten wünsce ich Euch, und einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!
    Liebe Grüsse

  2. olivia says:

    lovely, thank you. i didn't now the history of that song, but it's quite beautiful. i'm sitting here looking out the window at my own gloomy sunday.

  3. manner says:

    Woww, I love that song, and as a Hungarian I was moved to find it here :) I loved the movie…
    I've been following your blog for a few months now, I like it a lot! Thanks for everything!

  4. BUSIR says:

    Thank you ,thank you for this song .It was composed a year before my birth ,my mother 'd tell me about the suicides.I believe Sarah Leander did sing it .It's strange i'm french but both my parents were german,i spoke german first and live in Paris ; I've traveled a lot ,love tango and i do a lot of crafts mostly sewing .this song makes me nostalgic .you really brought back memories !Y.S

  5. Aranka says:

    I'm Hungarian and like watching films but I have not seen this one. The song is really beautiful.

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