Apparently more than half of the population of the United States will be watching The Super Bowl today. I won’t. Well I guess this makes me the member of the biggest minority in this country. I could actually watch it, since our afternoon show ends just on time for everyone to get home and get comfortable on the couch (I do care about our audience!). Doing a concert on Super Bowl Sunday might sound like a social and financial suicide at first. The good news is that our Casual Classics 2 called “Musical Chairs” is practically sold out. http://hso.org
Yes, there are people who are not into football. And yes, our core audience would come out to see and hear HSO players perform Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite http://wikipedia.org
on the day of the biggest televised event in the country.
During our performance “Musical Chairs” members of the audience will get to sit in and around the players while Stravinsky’s masterwork is being played and rehearsed live. There is no better way to learn about how an orchestra works and what classical musicians are capable of doing. Playing an instrument alone is complex in itself, now imagine doing it in a group and watching the conductor while listening to your fellow musicians.
I just remembered that a year ago we were doing a Casual Classics show called “Brass Attack” exactly on the day of the Super Bowl. I guess the NFL does not really care about our concert schedule.
More Pulcinella will be played and danced next week for our Young People’s Concert and for our annual free Family Concert. Works by Leopold and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Copland and Shostakovich will be performed as well.
Balazs Fulei http://balazsfulei.com
pianist and the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under my direction will be performing a somber and touching program all about drama, death and transfiguration. The venue is the beautiful Main Hall of the Liszt Academy in Budapest.
Brahms: Tragic Overture
Bartok: Piano Concerto #2
Jozsef Sari: Jacob is Wrestling with The Darkness (World Premiere) http://wikipedia.org
Richard Strauss: Death and Transfiguration
Ultimately all musical pieces are about Transfiguration. http://merriam-webster.com
The very nature of playing and listening is that you become a different person after experiencing live music. Music itself of course is nothing else than transfiguration of notes. With the World Premiere of Jozsef Sari’s composition we are celebrating the 80th Birthday of the composer who will be present at the concert hall.
Tomorrow at 7:35PM Hungarian time (1:35PM EST) you can listen to our concert live by clicking here http://mediaklikk.hu
The concert will be available for streaming for another two weeks. Just search by date and time!
On Saturday afternoon Bartok’s 2nd Piano Concerto moves to Studio VI. at the Hungarian Radio. We’ll be recording another show for the Musically Speaking series. Musicologist Zoltan Farkas is doing the talking in front of a live audience. The show will be aired in a couple of months.
I am writing this entry during a short, self-imposed break from watching the movie Men, Women & Children while flying somewhere over the Atlantic in the course of my travel- an 18 hour journey on planes and at airports in between. I am going from a program with handful of musicians and the intimacy of a 300 seat hall to a 200+ chorus with full orchestra at a 2K+ seat auditorium. This is a must see movie. I won’t spoil it for you…all I am saying now is that people are different, fascinating, boring, engaging, well rounded, screwed up in different ways, and it is all “out there” in cyber space since the invention of the internet. This movie is comforting in a way because it tells us there is nothing new under the sun as far as human behavior goes. It is very honest about how people live more and more in the virtual world of Facebook and war games and dating sites. I guess this is what I am doing with this blog no different from billions of other people (Note to self: google the number of personal blogs in the world!). Creating a virtual copy of yourself and talking to a practically unknown audience (yes, I know I should track data on how many people and from where, are actually reading this) is an intellectually exciting thing to do. Realizing how many other people are doing the same thing all around the world is humbling.
Traveling often creates time that needs to be used in ways that don’t come into play with a regular day job. Reading, watching movies, writing a blog post off line and posting it later, thinking about stuff, making plans are all part of “being on the road”.
Trying to make sense of “lost time” while getting from A to B has become a lifestyle for me. It is a necessity and as always I am trying to make the best of it. I just remembered a quote from American composer David Lang (Note to self: nice job connecting the dots and making this post more than just babbling!) “And time eventually will pass” [check quote!] The quote is from the notes to ‘Little Eye’ a movement from the 40+ minute chamber music cycle by Lang entitled ‘Child’. ‘Child’ is a very honest, naive, simple yet labyrinth like musical piece. UMZE Ensemble just played it under my direction as the second half of a concert with flutist Claire Chase at Budapest Music Center. I think programming this minimalist piece was a pretty good idea after listening 45 minutes of complex, difficult music by composers like Jozsef Sari, Peter Eotvos, Dai Fujikura or Gregory Vajda.
Letting your thoughts wander while listening to repetitive music is a liberating and also -to me at least- somewhat disturbing experience.
By now most of you are probably thinking, “Where is he going with all this?” or “Hello, we were promised some Verdi here!” All right, since this type of stream of consciousness blogpost cannot be finished, only stopped, I am stopping it right here. Going from David Lang to Giuseppe Verdi with thousands of miles traveled in between is my reality. Very different programs with very different bands at very different places-yet similar and connected. There is a powerful pop music quality to the Verdi Requiem. There is a lot of pop music in David Lang’s art. Simple lines, repetition, basic musical ideas painted with plain colors. Raw power. This physical reality however feels a lot like our virtual reality: seemingly random things interconnected with the help of search engines and our personal preferences. Bringing us back to the movie Men, Women and Children ☺.
Bang on a can Verdi.
Going from Lang to Verdi is natural after all. It is real life.
I can definitely say that by now I know every little corner of the Huntsville and of the Budapest airports. I have seen these cities from the sky from every possible angle during take off and landing. Every time I depart and arrive however I am carrying different scores in my bag. I’ve got different music for familiar airport lounges.
This time my carry on was heavy of scores by Verdi, Telemann, David Lang http://davidlangmusic.com/music/child
Kornel Fekete Kovacs http://feketekovacs.com
2015 starts off with an all trumpet concert on January 5, honoring the 70th Birthday of Gyorgy Geiger, former principal trumpet player of the Hungarian Radio Symphony.
See a CD here him and I recorded together quite a few years ago: http://amazon.com
On January 11 Ensemble UMZE and special guest, flute player extraordinaire Claire Chase http://www.clairechase.net
from NYC will be performing under my direction, again at the beautiful Budapest Music Center. The contemporary musical pieces on the program are all about marriage, birth, children and childhood memories. I am looking forward to hear Claire and the musicians of UMZE performing the Hungarian Premiere of my composition ‘Conversation With Children’!
Read about the concert here: http://bmc.hu
On January 12 I will be on my way back to Huntsville to conduct Verdi’s magnificent Requiem for the classical series of the Huntsville Symphony. Then back again to Budapest…, but I will write about that in my next posts.
Here are the first two months of the New Year for me in airport codes:
Delta Lounge, here I come!
Teaching a conducting master class last week for the Eotvos Foundation at the beautiful and highly functional Budapest Music Center was demanding and a lot of fun. This week had been busier than I expected. On Monday composer Peter Eotvos and producer Laszlo Goz (owner of BMC) and myself had a chance to officially listen to the recording we made this January. I am happy to report, that “Paradise Reloaded (Lilith)” now has a rich in details, beautifully mastered reference recording. Mr. Eotvos will put a few finishing touches on the final version before the end of this year. This World Premiere opera recording will be available as part of the Budapest Music Center Eotvos series sometimes soon in 2015.
I had two days to rehearse the comic opera of Ernst von Dohnanyi http://www.britannica.com
again (the one I premiered at the Erkel Theater this fall). We are taking this opera into the studio. Starting tomorrow (Sunday) I will be driving almost every day to http://www.phoenixstudio.hu
where the wonderful singers and the musicians of the Hungarian State Opera will be my partners in crime to record the first ever uncut version of this delightful 20th Century comic opera. The recording will be part of the discovery CD series of Hungarian operas by the Hungarian State Opera http://www.opera.hu
I am hoping to see the final product on the shelves as soon as February 2015.
Just to take a small break from the recording process (OK we do have a planned day off) I am driving to Vienna, Austria on Tuesday.
I’ll be meeting opera singers Rebecca Nelsen http://rebeccanelsen.eu
and Tamara Gallo http://www.tamaragallo.com
to do two pre-rehearsals for the February World Premiere of my Comic Opera of the Modern South, Georgia Bottoms. Sometimes in the second half of December I will be meeting stage director David Gately http://www.davidgately.com
in the US to discuss details about the February World Premiere in Huntsville, AL.
I wish You All a Happy Holiday Season! Come back here after Christmas time to read about my New Year’s Eve concert with the Huntsville Symphony! See you Soon!
This is going to be a long but fun weekend! HSO’s special guest for Classical 2 is the Amadinda Percussion Group. http://www.en.wikipedia.org
This world famous ensemble has agreed to stop by on their way to the Percussive Arts Society Annual meeting in Indianapolis http://www.pas.org/
and play a concert at the VBC. This is a one in a lifetime opportunity to hear the group that is now, after 30 years in the business, is part of music history. They play with amazing musicianship and their repertoire stretches from Haiti folk music through jazz to contemporary classical pieces. They are great entertainers and masters of their countless instruments. Huntsville Symphony and myself will be joining Amadinda for the second half of the program for J.S. Bach’s Concerto for two keyboards (played on 2 vibraphones and 2 marimbas) and for a piece written for four percussionists and orchestra. The latter composition is by Levente Gyongyosi http://www.kontrapunktmusic.com/
Levente is pretty well known in choral circles in the US. His vocal pieces are popular all around the world. I am happy to be part of the US Premiere of this 35 minute long Sinfonia Concertante written just last year, hopefully contributing to the future success of the composition.
Since we do not have the full orchestra on stage for the beginning of the concert Zoltan Racz and I will be playing the National Anthem on the piano, four hands, for our usual opening sing along. I can’t remember when was the last time I played the piano in front of a life audience. Zoltan and I are practicing every day.
I will be spending my Saturday rehearsing for our first Casual Classics concert this season. It is time for Dinner DIvertimento again (we only have 5[!] tickets left). This year we are matching different courses with different pieces. On the program: Richard Strauss: Serenade op.7, Dvorak: Serenade for Winds in D-minor, Jean Francaix: Ten Character Pieces. I’ll be playing the clarinet for the first two numbers and will be conducting the third one.
Again; practice time for Gregory!
The musical dinner will be served on Sunday at the Early Works Museum.
For more information visit our website http://www.hso.org/
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo’s unit, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders is from Hamilton and their musicians will be performing with us to remember their fallen brother.
We are remembering Nathan Cirillo and all the soldiers who have died in the line of duty in service of their country.
After a few busy days spent with rehearsals, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and I are ready to perform pieces by Elgar, Copland, Barber. Yegor Dyachkov from Montreal is joining us to perform Cello Concerto #1 by Shostakovich. http://hpo.org/in-remembrance-fanfare-for-the-common-man/
Let us all remember, and let us all heal with the help of music.
So what’s the big deal? This Friday, for the first classical concert of the season HSO and I are performing “Escaramuza” by Gabriela Lena Frank http://www.musicsalesclassical.com
and “D’un matin de printemps” by Lili Boulanger http://www.wikipedia.org
Oh yes, the big deal is apparently that both are woman composers. It still is a big deal in this Symphony World of ours despite the work of accomplished female composers like Jennifer Higdon or the recent Pulitzer Winner Caroline Shaw. I guess pop music is much more gender-blind in this regard. The Universe of Classical Composition still seems to be dominated by male composers and their work.
Since our upcoming concert is honoring the Symphony Guild, HSO’s all-women volunteer fundraising organization http://www.hsoguild.org
I wanted to find compositions by female composers that are fit for this occasion and make a great concert program with Berlioz’ “Symphonie Fantastique” in the second half. The Symphony Guild commissioned “Escaramuza” by Lena Frank in 2010. I am happy that we get to play it again hopefully securing a future for the piece in the repertoire of other orchestras as well. The first half of the concert ends with an only 5 minute long symphonic movement by the younger sister of the famous Nadia Boulanger, Lili (see Wikipedia link above). This piece is a masterful work of a young composer, full of colors and ideas, not performed on a regular basis. To create a frame to the concert program I decided on opening with a delightful overture also by Berlioz called “Beatrice et Benedict”. http://www.wikipedia.org
At least once a year I like to do a concert featuring HSO alone with no guest soloist. Our 2014-15 classical season opens with a program just like that. Our “Berlioz and the Ladies” program kicks off the 60th Season of the longest continuously operating symphony orchestra in the state of Alabama. Happy Anniversary, Huntsville Symphony!
In 2004 I crossed the bridge of dreams.
Andras Almasi Toth, stage director and myself put on stage the beautiful and captivating dream-piece by Peter Eotvos based on the diary of Lady Sarashina from a thousand years ago. Hungarian actors and international musicians joined forces and produced the Hungarian premiere of this so called “sound theater” ‘As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams’. The piece is rich in poetry and amazing musical ideas like trombones with double bells and a white sousaphone playing the role of the Moon. I’ve had the pleasure of conducting this composition with the famous Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris (this was my debut with them in 2001) then with Klangforum Wien in Vienna, Austria in a completely new production. Then in 2009 Budapest Music Center has produced a very successful recording. http://www.allmusic.com
In 2007 Peter Eotvos turned this work into a full blown opera with the title ‘Lady Sarashina’. It was premiered in Lyon, France, and ever since it has been performed all over the world. http://www.eotvospeter.com
Tonight Lady Sarashina returns. She is being reborn for two nights with the help of CAFe Budapest Festival and the Liszt Academy. http://www.cafebudapest.hu
Stage director: Andras Almasi Toth. Conductor: Gregory Vajda. Same team and a composition reincarnated.