The 70th Season of the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (MR Symphony) is coming to an end. On Wednesday, May 14 I am conducting the season finale of the orchestra’s classical series with the following program.
Bela Bartok: Two Portraits
Gregory Vajda: Csardas Obstine (Hungarian Premiere)
Franz Liszt: Piano Concerto #2
Richard Strauss: Ein Heldenleben (The Hero’s Life)
Starting my very own “Strauss Year Celebration” (I will be doing two more tone poems in the coming year) I programmed ‘Ein Heldenleben’ as the main piece of the concert. I love the wit and the audacity of Strauss writing a piece about himself as The Hero. Since the tone poem was conceived as a modern version of Beethoven Symphony #3 “Eroica” (and a more effective and artistic version of “Wellington’s Victory”) it is clear that Strauss knew exactly who he was and what he could do and where he belonged. He belonged with all the great artists whose life itself was enough for a story to be put to music. Strauss had the ‘Chutzpah’ to write about nothing else but his own personal life (love-life included). Guess what, it worked!
As my much shorter in length and much more humble personal ‘Ein Heldenleben’ is titled “Csardas Obstine”. This composition was written in 2011 for the Liszt Anniversary and was premiered at two summer festivals in the US. Based on the experiences of these performances I created a new orchestration for the Hungarian Premiere. In this new version, instead of the full Liszt size orchestra, the solo piano is accompanied by 2 flutes (2. also piccolo), 1 english horn, 2 clarinets (2. also Eb clarinet), 1 bassoon, 2 trumpets, 1 tuba, 1 harp, 3 (or more) percussion players -#1 and #2 positioned down stage next to the solo piano-, 3 violins, 3 violas, 3 cellos, 3 basses. This reduction makes it easier for the chamber orchestra to keep up with the virtuoso material of the soloist. I have composed Csardas Obstine as a short (15 minutes) piece to go with Liszt Piano Concerto #2 which is the way we perform it this time as well. The title is borrowed from Liszt himself, who has also written two Csardas Obstines for solo piano. Other than an homage and a tribute to Franz Liszt (or Liszt Ferenc as Hungarians call him) my composition is telling the story of The Hungarians, just like the original two Obstinate Csardas’. There is a lot of energy in the piece, a lot of imagination, many ideas that start but then quickly end and do not develop into anything more substantial. Much like the A-major concerto by Liszt my composition has a form like Peer Gynt’s onion.
I hope we’ll all have fun peeling the musical layers together!
Talking about Peer Gynt, last time I’ve worked with pianist Gabor Farkas was two years ago and it was Grieg’s Piano concerto on the program.
To open the concert I picked one of Bartok’s most directly personal piece called Two Portraits. The two movements are “The Ideal” (practically the first movement of Violin Concerto #1) and “The Grotesque”. Both movements are based on the theme “D-F#-A-C#” which is the musical signature of violinist Stefi Geyer. Read more about the story of the First Violin Concerto and Two Portraits here:
Three Heroes of mine: Bartok, Liszt and Richard Strauss. Three compositions with a personal story: Bartok, Vajda, Strauss. Two piano concertos and a wonderful pianist. This is all the Season Finale of the Hungarian Radio Symphony, and much more. Palace of the Arts is filming the performance. I hope I get to see it soon on TV!
PS: A day before stepping on the stage of Palace of the Arts again I am giving a presentation at the only English language Rotary Club in Hungary. The topic: “The Symphony Machine” -Programming, funding and fundraising in the world of Symphony Orchestras in the US and in Hungary.
Rotary Club Budapest-City