Tax Day Concert

Who does a concert on a Tuesday? Well actually I do with the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (MR Symphony) and chorus and four wonderful soloists.
On the program:
Brahms: Song of Destiny
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schicksalslied
Dvorak: Stabat Mater
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stabat_Mater_(Dvořák)

Two touching and deeply spiritual works, one is only 18 minutes long, the other one is about an hour and a half. Two works written by friends (one also being the mentor of the other). Both compositions are very personal and masterfully written. This year’s Easter falls late in the calendar year. This is why the day known as Tax Day in the US happens to be the Tuesday before Good Friday.
The concert program I designed is about preparation, soul searching and meditation with the help of vocal-orchestral music. I would like to invite our audience to a spiritual journey.
Faith Prayer. Doubt. Consolation.

I would like to invite You All to join us and listen to our concert LIVE at
http://www.mediaklikk.hu/bartok
You can also stream the concert later for another two weeks.

2 Fifths on the 5th (Huntsville Season Finale)

I guess we should have scheduled this program for May. Beethoven 5th and Prokofiev 5th on May 5th (well OK, not quite a Cinco de Mayo program). In any case, Life is writing the best script. I wanted to finish the season with this special “Symphony #5″ pairing and we happened to have a date on hold at the concert hall for April 5th. Two Fifths on the Fifth is definitely a catchy title.
Despite the busy weekend in downtown Huntsville we only have under 300 tickets to sell for this show and we still have 24 hours to go. Great job, PR Marketing Department! I guess the programming is not too bad, either…:)
We had a great season in Huntsville with many new and exciting ideas and great hits. The success of the Casual Classics series has exceeded all my expectations. Taking the Free Family Concert on the road was also a viable idea (and great fun as well). We had more than one sold out classical concerts, great attendance for the POPS series. We hosted inspiring guest artists like Alexander Corsantia and the amazing Bela Fleck.
Two days ago at the Major Donor Reception our CEO and President Dan Halcomb and myself announced the 14-15 season which is going to be our 60th. More and detailed information is coming here soon. I encourage you to visit Huntsville Symphony Orchestra website in the next couple of weeks and watch our page on FaceBook and on Twitter!

mysterious; cat-like

The title of the post is from the score of Michael Torke’s Tahiti. This instruction can be found in the first clarinet part of the 7th movement. Needless to say that my cat-lover musicians immediately started loving the piece, not that it is any difficult to love it without the cat reference.
Here are the program notes for the piece from the composers website and a link to the site itself.

“Each of the movements reminisces a feeling of the individual islands that make up the Society Islands in the South Pacific, which we generally refer to as Tahiti.
A certain humidity, along with the lush landscape, water-life, white sand, and palm trees brings relief, a kind of peace to a hurried soul.
Herman Melville, in Moby Dick, sees it this way: “For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!”
The movements grow from a melodic idea (rather than a rhythmic or harmonic idea, like much of my other music) and undergoes a development; the first and third movements have the most extended treatment.
A bias of orchestration is to limit the string writing to four parts, with a pair of woodwinds doubling the top part, much in the way Bach does in his Orchestral Suites.”

http://www.michaeltorke.com

The last sentence of the program notes above gave me the idea of the program for our third and final Casual Classics this season. I picked movements 1, 4, 6 and 7 from Torke’s composition and inserted them into Bach’s Orchestral Suite #1 in C. My goal with this year’s Casual Classics was to rediscover alternative concert formats and discover unusual concert venues around town. After a dinner-concert setting at the Early Works Museum and an acoustical action piece at the Depot Roundhouse (see earlier post “Pre-Super-bowl Brass Attack”) we are doing an “uninterrupted stream of music” at the Flying Monkey Theater at Lowe Mill.
http://www.lowemill.net

Billions of people now around the world listen to music on their iPods, smart phones, tablets and MP3 or MP4 devices. We all know the SHUFFLE button. Well, this concert is going to be exactly like when you push SHUFFLE and let your device stream you your favorite music. All right, I am cheating, since I did create a carefully thought out order for how the Bach and the Torke movements alternate… But still, I got the idea from my own iPod and also from search engines on net-radios where the “free-association” of human programmed algorithms provide endless entertainment.

“All music –smiles the minister –is incidental”

Tomorrow (Sunday) at 7:30PM (Budapest time) singers Alinka Kozari, Katalin Karolyi, Gyorgy Philipp, Ensemble UMZE and myself will perform an extremely versatile and exciting program. All three pieces are Hungarian Premiere. The concert is part of the program of Budapest Spring Festival 2014. The venue for the concert is the amazingly beautiful concert hall of the Budapest Music Center.
http://www.bmc.hu

Balazs Horvath ‘Assemblage’ is a composition for ensemble with instrumental soloists who also act. The violinist is the musician who wants to take over the lead from the conductor; the horn player is the actual, real “soloist” (with very difficult material to play). The bugle player is dressed as a clown and behaves as such. The bassoonist acts like “your typical orchestral musician” (not my opinion, so direct your criticism directly towards the composer! ☺) The ensemble enters by playing on pots and pans while the conductor leads the procession in a drum major function (I do have a real drum major baton!) There are Four Scenes and for the 4th one the musicians move to the back of the hall mirroring their downstage seating. We even take a bow at the end with our back to the audience.
This is a very well written, very well thought through “instrumental theater” piece. It is a lot of fun and all of us are having a ball.
Visit the composer’s website here:
http://www.balazshorvath.com

‘Eight Songs for a Mad King’ by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, CH, CBE, composer and conductor, Master of the Queen’s Music was written in 1969 and is still a fully valid, musically and dramatically engaging, powerful piece of music theater. (How does one become the Master of the Queen’s Music after being an experimental, avant-garde composer is a different story and should be the topic of a separate blog entry.) A strong and captivating performance is in the making with Gyorgy Philipp as “King George III” with some serious contemporary overtones in the direction of Andras Almasi-Toth. Let me just say, that while homeless people are banned from public spaces in the City of Budapest “our King George” is dressed as a bum and acts totally crazy and inappropriate. He won’t let security to remove him from the theater hall and ends up leaving on his own terms, exhausted, figuratively and literally naked with the accompaniment of the conductor and the drummer.
Here is some reading material about ‘8 Songs’:
http://www.classicalsource.com

The well-known story of the Pied Piper comes to life in the 40 minute long masterpiece by George Benjamin. Two singers (soprano and alto) are playing and acting all the characters. The Minister would do anything to get reelected. The Crowd wants only one thing, to get rid of the rats in the city. (Rats? Just watch out for the projected images in Andras Almasi-Toth’s interpretation! You’ll find even more contemporary political allusions… Let me state at this point, that this concert was supposed to happen over a year ago. The fact, that we are playing it just two weeks before the Hungarian general election is merely a coincidence! ☺) And the story of the Pied Piper continues…
George Benjamin’s music is almost unknown to the Hungarian audience. I am really happy to be able to present this major work of his with really great singers in both roles. Here is another great work about the power of music.
Read more about this chamber opera –about the power of music –, in a NY Times review from 2007:
http://www.nytimes.com

Tomorrow’s concert is a journey from Instrumental Theater through Monodrama to Chamber Opera; and music, of course is much more than just incidental.

What’s Up With Sussmayr?

“He was born in Schwanenstadt, Upper Austria, the son of a sacristan and teacher (who spelled the name Seissmayr, reflecting the Austrian pronunciation). His mother died when he was 6, and he left home at 13. He was a student and cantor in a Benedictine monastery (from 1779 to 1787) in Kremsmünster. When his voice changed, he became a member of the orchestra as a violinist.
The abbey performed operas and Singspiele, so he had the opportunity to study the operas of Christoph Willibald Gluck and Antonio Salieri. He composed a number of stage works and a good deal of church music for the abbey.
He became (after 1787) a student of Salieri in Vienna. In 1791 he assisted Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as a copyist with La clemenza di Tito and Die Zauberflöte and is presumed to have written the secco recitatives in the first. Their relationship was close and playful, to judge by surviving letters to Constanze, whom Süssmayr accompanied to Baden.
For many years he was also thought to have been a student of Mozart, but there is reason to think that the notion of such a relationship was concocted by Mozart’s wife Constanze in order to legitimize his completion of Mozart’s Requiem. During Mozart’s last days, it is possible that they discussed his Requiem, and Süssmayr took on the task of completing the piece upon his death and did so, turning it over to Constanze within 100 days of Mozart’s death. Süssmayr’s version of the score is still the most often played, although several alternative versions have been written.”
[from Wikipedia]

Yeah, what’s up with this whole Sussmayr thing? According to Harnoncourt in no circumstances could he complete Mozart’s work. (Who did it then?) As far as I am concerned there are more “Mozart Requiems” and the one under the name of Sussmayr has its own life and has been proven to engage musicians and audiences despite its flaws. This is the version I have played many times as a young clarinet player (Oh, those cold churches in Hungary around Christmas time!) and this is the version we performed yesterday with the Huntsville Symphony in front of a full house at the Von Braun Center. The concert started with Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music (another gorgeous piece using Basset horns) and we performed Haydn Symphony #93 before intermission. Our trumpet and horn players –as adventurous as they are– decided to use natural horns for the entire show. It sounded great and added an extra layer of artistry to the show.
Fun fact: I am traveling to Hungary today where I am doing a new music show next week. One of the pieces is going to be “Into The Little Hill”, a mesmerizing chamber opera by British composer George Benjamin. Guess what, he uses not one but two Basset horns (and Contrabass Clarinet among other “unusual” instruments) just like Mozart in his Masonic Funeral Music and Requiem. I love the sound of the Basset horns!

Kodaly in The Cold

When 10 ys ago I first conducted the Calgary Philharmonic we played an unusual program: Arvo Part: If Bach Were a Beekeper, Poulenc: Gloria, Gorecki: Third Symphony. I remember all of it. It is interesting to me, too how much I remember of musicians, the hall, downtown restaurants and many more things. A brief interruption aside (got rerouted by Delta which enabled me to get here on time but left my luggage in Minneapolis) I had a nice trip from Huntsville, AL. First time ever I used the on board internet service and got a lot of work done (mostly planning next season and working on programming, answering interview questions via email and other fun stuff), so overall it was good.
This time I get to conduct an entire “Hungarian” program, including Brahms Hungarian Dances, Liszt Rhapsody #2 and Totentanz, Weber: Introduction and Hungarian Rondo (Yes, I have two soloists for this concert, one on the piano, one on the bassoon), Kodaly Galanta Dances and Dohnanyi Symphonic Minutes. Great orchestra, fun program and we are expecting a good size audience.
But here is the thing with Canadian orchestras… For some reason Toronto Symphony, Montreal Opera, the orchestras of Edmonton, Winnipeg and Kitchener Waterloo almost always invite me in the beginning, middle or the end of the coldest Canadian winter. Not complaining, just saying! ☺

See the website of the Calgary Philharmonic here with details about the upcoming concerts:
http://www.cpo-live.com

PS: OK, just to be fair, the sun came out this morning, the weather is sunny and fresh, Weatherman says the temperature will rise as high as 9 Degrees Celsius by tomorrow

Threepenny Concert

If you subscribed to one of our concert series (3 concerts each) in the 2013-14 season you got a concert for free. The “free” concert of one of the series’ is happening tomorrow at the newly renovated Franz Liszt Academy of Music.
I designed the program to let every section of the Hungarian Radio Symphony and individual players to shine.

Kurt Weill: Little Threepenny Music
(for woodwinds, brass, banjo, piano, accordion and percussion)
Bartok: Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta
(the title says it all ☺)
Hindemith: Concert Music for Brass and Strings Op. 50
(this one is a great showpiece orchestrated for 12 brass instruments and strings [no 2nd violin!] in the duration of 20 some minutes)
Ravel: Bolero
(no explanation needed I hope, this is definitely the piece to prove that you are the master of your own instrument)

These four pieces were written between 1928 and 1936. By this time or soon three of the four composers were living in the United States. Europe was marching towards WWII dragging the entire world along. As almost always in the time of massive changes art was thriving. I wanted to put together a program with 4 completely different yet equally energetic and powerful compositions from this era. As usual you can listen to the concert live at
http://www.radio.hu
at 1:30PM EST tomorrow (Friday) or stream it later for another two weeks.
On Saturday afternoon my orchestra and I will be spending a couple of hours in Studio 6 of the Hungarian Radio to present the Bartok piece with some entertaining and informative talk by musicologist Sandor Kovacs in front of a live audience. This episode of the series “Musically Speaking” will be aired at a later time on Radio Bartok (all in Hungarian of course ☺)

Pre-Super Bowl Brass Attack

As Renee Fleming was warming up to make history as the first ever opera singer to perform the National Anthem at the Super Bowl the players of the Huntsville Symphony and myself were doing our share in history making. Seven brass players, Terry Cornett -principal percussion and myself as 2nd percussion performed the US Premiere of a piece by Peter Eotvos called ‘Brass. The Metal Space’. The special venue for our second Casual Classics concert was the Round House at the Huntsville Depot. This ‘action piece’ or ‘instrumental theater’ is a cool way to entertain audiences and educate them at the same time. The concert was all about sound and space (with a very cool glass wall in the background through which you could see an old engine outdoors), about the acoustics of a room and how a contemporary composition enables audience members to re-discover the real meaning of LISTENING. Musicians and audiences alike had a blast this afternoon, and yes, everybody made it home to watch the Super Bowl.

Yesterday evening I led the Huntsville Symphony in another US premiere. We performed ‘The Gliding of The Eagle in the Skies’ (commissioned by the Basque National Symphony) by Peter Eotvos TWICE in one concert! For the pre-concert talk I did a live Skype interview with the composer himself (another historic event for the HSO!), translating his words live to the audience. At the top of the show I introduced his orchestral piece with some demos then played it. At the top of the second half I told everyone in the hall what a great audience they were and made them listen to the Eotvos piece one more time. The Huntsville Symphony is indeed fortunate to have a sophisticated and receptive audience. People listened for the second time and from many comments I know that they appreciated the idea.
The rest of our Classical 4 concert had Alexander Korsantia playing Rachmaninov’s popular Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini. It was a highly charged, very touching and beautifully executed performance. We concluded the concert with Symphony #5 by Sibelius. This is the symphony with the musical depiction of high flying swans at the end. It was an effective ending to the show and created a nice arch with the opening “Eagle in the Skies”. Birds as symbols of freedom put into music.

Reloaded

I have had two extremely busy weeks. On Monday the wonderful cast of Viennese production of Paradise Reloaded (Lilith), the Hungarian Radio Symphony (MR Symphony) and myself have finished a week long recording session. Right after the session we started the orchestra-stage rehearsals (the dress rehearsal was tonight) for the opening night of the Mini Festival at the Palace of the Arts (MUPA) in Budapest. We are ready to rock the house tomorrow evening! We are expecting a sold out house. In the meantime (last SUnday) I did a concert with the New Hungarian Chamber Orchestra with the following program:
Grieg: Two Elegiac Melodies, Miklos Kocsar: Serenata per Archi (the composer himself was present, celebrating his 80th Birthday with us), Grieg: Aus Holbergs Zeit, Schoenberg: Verklarte Nacht
There were two days when I had a double service recording day with a three hour rehearsal for the other concert afterwards. I have done days like this before (mostly for Summer Festivals in many different roles) and I am happy that I can still do it.
As for tomorrw: the Hungarian Radio Orchestra sounds great, the singers are wonderful, the staging is exciting and we get to celebrat Peter Eotvos’ 70th Birthday with a great production.
I feel like I am “reloaded” and ready for a great year. 2014 is definitely up to a good start. I feel energized and enjoying every minute of every day spent with music.

Banjo And Paradise

Happy New Year Everyone! I am looking forward to an extremely busy January. My year starts with a historical concert. The “Bela Fleck Banjo Concerto” show with the Huntsville Symphony marks the highest ever single ticket sales for a classical series concert in the history of the orchestra. We are 80 some tickets short of a sell out (we’ve got one more day to go) and we are expecting a great crowd for the Saturday morning open dress rehearsal. On the program (all kind of “folk music-inspired” pieces)
Zoltan Kodaly: Variations on a Hungarian Folk Song (“The Peacock”)
Aaron Copland: El Salon Mexico
Bela Fleck: The Impostor (Concerto for Banjo and Orchestra)

Go to Bela’s website to see and hear some of the concerto (recorded with the Nashville Symphony)
http://www.belafleck.com

I am sure the audience is going to stick around for some more of Bela’s solo banjo playing at the end of the concert! Well, yes, and I am glad that the same audience is going to have the chance to listen to Kodaly and Copland.

Right after the concert I am leaving for Budapest, Hungary to dive into an exciting new opera-project. Peter Eotvos (I wrote about him and his 70th Birthday earlier) wrote an opera called Paradise Reloaded (Lilith) which was premiered in Vienna, Austria in October 2013. With the cooperation of MTVA (the mother company of the Hungarian Radio Symphony) and The Palace of The Arts (MUPA) in Budapest we are presenting the Hungarian premiere of the opera as part of the so called “Mini Festival” on January 23. Before the staged performance I get to be the conductor of the first ever studio recording of the opera (sung in German). The story is about Lilith, first wife of Adam (yes, an apocryphal story from biblical times) and the Journey of Adam, Eve with the help of Lucifer. More info here:
http://www.eotvospeter.com