Grand Opera, 20th Century Classics and New Music

First performance of Verdi’s Don Carlo went well on Friday. I am ready for the second one tonight, and two more in the next two weeks (Nov 28, December 5). What a truly grand work full of unparalleled beauty and endless inventions!
In the meantime UMZE Chamber Ensemble and myself have been preparing for our Monday evening concert at the Budapest Music Center.
I programmed pieces by Hungarian composers living abroad along with 20th Century classics for ensemble.

Pierre Boulez: Dérive 1
Bálint Karosi: Ciaccona (Hungarian premiere)
Bálint Karosi: Sanguine (Hungarian premiere)
Claude Debussy: Brouillards – (Préludes II/1)
András Hamary: Brouillards – Three Movement to the Prelude of Claude Debussy (Hungarian premiere)

András Hamary: Hommage à Janáček for piano (for right hand) and winds (Hungarian premiere)
Leos Janáček: Capriccio for piano (for left hand) and winds

The two Hamary compositions are clear homages to Debussy and Janáček, and are full of strong, simple and original musical ideas. Ciaccona by Karosi is a inventive take on Boulez’s Dérive 1 while his Sanguine is a fun and virtuoso ensemble piece.

Peter Kiss will be the soloist for both the Janáček Capriccio and Hamary’s ‘Hommage à Janáček’ and he will be playing the original piano prelude by Debussy as well.

Healing with Bruckner and Conversations with Beethoven

Today at the Huntsville airport a young TSA agent, seeing my big musical scores, asked me about my profession. Upon finding out I was the conductor of the Friday Beethoven-Bruckner concert he said he was really sorry for missing the concert because he was so looking forward to it. I asked him why he did not come. “Because of what happened in Paris. I didn’t want to be in a public place with lots of people around.”, he said. Luckily most of HSO’s loyal audience was there to experience Kirill Gerstein’s amazing piano playing, and the true bonding of musicians and audience with the help of Bruckner’s powerful Symphony #4. Both the Bruckner and Bach’s Sinfonia in E-minor, the encore played by Kirill were dedicated to the dead and the wounded in the Paris attacks.
This afternoon Kirill Gerstein, three principal players of the HSO and myself (with my clarinet in hand) kicked off the Causal Classics series with a show called “Beethoven Conversations”. Kirill and I had a lively conversation about musicians’ every day challenge of interpretation and authenticity. We all got to listen to two Liszt Transcendent Etudes then, after a short demo of Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds we performed Beethoven’s composition of the same title. Everybody who came to Roberts Hall at University of Alabama, Huntsville had a grand time, and I had fun playing some great chamber music as well. Once a great player like Kirill Gerstein comes to town we better take advantage of it and hear him play more than just, an otherwise glorious, piano concerto.
I am on my way to Budapest, Hungary to start rehearsals for the fully staged production of Verdi’s Don Carlo and also to perform new music with Ensemble UMZE at the Budapest Music Center.
Onward to make more beautiful and exciting music.

“ceux qui aiment. ceux qui aiment la vie. à la fin, c’est toujours eux qui gagnent.”
“Those who love. This who love life. In the end, they’re the ones who are rewarded.”
[Quote from a drawing of a Charlie Hebdo cartoonist after Friday’s Paris terror attacks.]

WOW Verdi

Sure I know, Verdi was a genius. I have always known that. Everybody knows that. When you are studying one of his operas however it all just hits you again. I have not done a fully staged Verdi for years (I was fortunate to do ‘Un ballo in maschera’ at the Montreal Opera) but now it is time again. I will be conducting four performances of ‘Don Carlo’ at the Budapest Opera (Erkel Theater) at the end of November and first week of December. Amazing ideas, inventive harmonies, unparalleled characters, genius orchestration. I am having an amazing time just studying it.
Five Acts in three parts, over three hours of great music by Giuseppe Verdi.

I titled my blog post ‘WOW Verdi’ because I felt the urge to write about the way learning truly amazing music makes me feel. Talking about that, before I get in the pit of the Erkel Theater in Budapest I will be conducting another great, however completely different kind of show in Huntsville and will be even playing the clarinet.

On Friday, just 8 days from today Kirill Gerstein
will be joining the HSO in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #4 followed by Bruckner’s Symphony #4 ‘Romantic’.
Kirill, pianist extraordinaire and a good friend has agreed to open our Casual Classics series as well just two days after he plays with the orchestra. This is where I pick up my clarinet and along with principal wind players of the Huntsville Symphony will perform Beethoven’s Quintet for Piano and Winds. The first Casual Classics of the season is called “Beethoven Conversations” and will be held at Roberts Hall of University of Alabama, Huntsville. Join us Sunday at 3:30PM if you are interested in hearing Kirill and I talk about Ludwig and about other composers and classical music related, exciting stuff as well. And of course, there will be music played by Beethoven. He was a genius. But everybody knows that.

Last Friday I conducted the HSO’s first concert in the Pops Series. We presented live magic acts with live symphonic music including pieces by Liszt, Saint-Saens, Berlioz, John Williams and others. Michael Grandinetti illusionists did an amazing job with our Halloween audience and let our orchestra shine in making music as well as in doing a mind reading trick with the audience. Want to know more? You are just going to have to check out Michael’s shows!

We Are Children

On October 7 the jury of the New Hungarian Music Forum, after a live radio-broadcast orchestra concert, has made its decision. As the conductor of both the chamber ensemble and the orchestra concerts, and a member of the final jury I had the chance to work with all 7 young composers during the heavy workload rehearsal week. For me it was demanding and due to my dual role somewhat schizophrenic, too. It is definitely not easy to put on a concert by doing everything you can to make young composers compositions sound the best and judge them at the same time. The musicians of the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra along with our one soloist, Gabor Czaban Hungarian beat boxer did an amazing job.

Here are the results:

Chamber Ensemble Compostions:
1st Prize: MÁTÉ BALOGH – Melodiemusik
2nd Prize: ALESSIO ELIA – Disappearing Rainbows
3rd Prize: MARCELL DARGAY – Monument of the Immortal Immigrant
and (!)
LÁSZLÓ SÁNDOR – Divertimento – Giuoco dei suoni

Based on the Jury’s unanimous decision there was no first prize awarded in the orchestral round. The money was evenly distributed between the split prize winners.

Symphony Orchestra Compositions:
1st prize: –
2nd Prize: MÁTÉ BALOGH – Quintet and ANDREJ SLEZÁK – inSpiral
3rd Prize:GYULA BÁNKÖVI – Greenlight-garden Night

MÁTÉ BALOGH was the winner of special prizes by the International Eötvös Institute for Contemporary Music, Editio Musica Budapest and the Danubia Symphony Orchestra.
GYULA BÁNKÖVI won the special prize of the palace of Arts Budapest (MUPA)
MARCELL DARGAY and ANDREJ SLEZÁK received a 1.000.000 Hungarian Forints value press portfolio each from

More info in Hungarian here:

On October 9 & 11 at the Solti Hall of the Liszt Academy of Music I conducted the new version of ‘Spring Awakening’, a one act opera by Mate Bella. With the beautiful and very expressive staging of Andras Almasi Toth, and the great singing of young singers with the accompaniment of the UMZE Ensemble this opera was an instant success. The music is modern but definitely expressive and audience friendly in the best possible way.
Read details about the production:

On Saturday, October 17 amazing cimbalom player, Miklos Lukacs and Thrensemble will be performing a concert under my direction at the Budapest Music Center. On there program: compositions by Igor Stravinsky, Peter Eotvos and Kornel Fekete Kovacs. After the concert we’ll be staying at the concert hall to make the world premiere recording of Peter Eötvös’ piece called ‘da capo’ for cimbalom and ensemble for future release by the BMC label.

For further information on the concert in English click here:

‘We Are Children’ is the title and the theme of the 2015-16 season of the Obuda Danubia Symphony. I was invited to conduct the second subscription concert of their classical series called ‘GAME’ at the grand hall of the Liszt Academy on Tuesday, October 20. I had my third rehearsal with the orchestra this morning and I am already having a lot of fun.
About the program:

With Stravinsky, Ligeti, Dohnanyi and Milhaud to conduct I am most definitely GAME! :) Music is PLAYING (both in English and in Hungarian you PLAY when you make music) in the most noble sense of the word. If you make or just enjoy art in any form you preserve something of your inner child. Being able to do just that is a true gift of life.

Just A Quick Note

I promise I will write more and in details later.
For now just the bare facts:

UMZF (New Hungarian Music Forum) composers’ competition, homage to Bela Bartok, final round for chamber ensemble compositions, October 6 at the Budapest Music Center with the Hungarian Radio Symphony, live radio broadcast
Marcell Dargay: Monumentum for The Eternal Immigrant
Mate Balogh: Melodiemusik
Alessio Elia: Disappearing Rainbows
Laszlo Sandor: Divertimento – Giuoco dei suoni

UMZF (New Hungarian Music Forum) composers’ competition, homage to Bela Bartok, final round for orchestral compositions, October 7 at Palace of the Arts, Budapest (MUPA) with the Hungarian Radio Symphony, live radio broadcast
Andrej Slezak: inSpiral
Balazs Horvath: Werkmusik for Beatboxer and orchestra
Mate balogh: Quintet
Gyula Bankovi: Zoldfeny-udvaru ej (Greenlight-garden light)

Two performances of the new version of “Spring Awakening”, a one act opera by Mate Bella at the Academy of Music, Budapest (October 9 & 11)

O farther, farther, farther sail!

Just 20 years after it was deemed “obscene literature” by Boston district attorney, Oliver Stevens on March 1, 1882, Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman became the inspiration for Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No.1, A Sea Symphony.
Indeed, Leaves of Grass praises nature and the individual(!) human’s role in it and elevates the human form and mind to the level of topic of poetic praise. Suspicious at best! :) I find it interesting how a young English composer picks a collection of poems by an American poet written in (mostly) free verse to put into music. Apparently Vaughan Williams carried a copy of Leaves of Grass with him at all times. I have to praise his openness and his imagination in selecting parts of Whitman’s work for the first, and longest of his 9 symphonies.
Tonight the Huntsville Community Chorus and the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra with the help of vocal soloists Tiffany Bostic-Brown and Terrance Brown will celebrate the human spirit and the power of live classical music with the Huntsville premiere performance of A Sea Symphony by Vaughan Williams.
Other compositions on our 61st Season opening concerts are:
Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia from Peter Grimes by Benjamin Britten. I hope you can join us on our MUSICAL JOURNEY of this season!

Sail forth—steer for the deep waters only,
Reckless O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me,
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,
And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!

[The closing lines of Passage to India from Leaves of Grass]


Tomorrow is the day of two concerts opening the new chamber orchestra series of the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra at the Budapest Music Center.
The first number on the show is the delightful Symphony #6, “The Morning” by Joseph Haydn. The humor and elegance of Haydn’s music always amazes me. This symphony also has a hidden violin concerto in it. It is scary how much Mozart owes to Haydn for his own violin concertos! In the slow movement the solo violin and the solo cello play an amazing duet, a variation on a Minuet-like theme. Sounds just like a Mozart violin concerto, I am telling you! In the first and the last movement the solo flute gets a lot of great music to play. What fun!
Watch this YouTube video to meet my soloist, Misi Boros! He is 11 years old and has the soul of a seasoned musician. I am not keen on child prodigies but Misi is something else. He is not only talented but also a fun and funny, intelligent human being.
For the major piece on the program I picked Beethoven’s Symphony #6, “Pastorale”. We are playing this “war horse” with a relatively small orchestra to match the space of the BMC concert hall. This decision gives me an opportunity to work on details that mostly get lost in a big orchestral setting. The end result is: lots of fun chamber music details in a very Haydn-esque Pastorale Symphony. Beethoven had his sense of humor, too!


Welcome back everyone!
I hope you all had a great summer and you are ready for the next season of great classical music.
My 2015-16 season starts on September 4 with a concert performance of Lady Sarashina by Peter Eötvös at festival Triennial di Milano as part of the Milano World Fair.
I will be conducting the cast of the October 2014 Budapest production and the Hungarian Radio Symphony at Teatro dell’Arte.
See the blog post about the Budapest production here:

I have the honor of conducting the first two shows of a brand new concert series with the Hungarian Radio Symphony at the Budapest Music Center.
On the program:
Haydn: Symphony No. 6 “Le Matin”
Haydn: Piano Concerto in D-major
Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 “Pastorale”

The solo piano part of the Haydn concerto will be played by Misi Boros, an amazing young talent, winner of the Hungarian classical music TV talent show “Virtuozok”
There will be two shows, one at 4pm, one at 7:30pm on Saturday, September 12. The Hungarian Radio will do its usual live broadcast that you can listen to online.

After Milano and Budapest I am ready for Huntsville. I will lead the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra in a blockbuster program of music by Britten and Vaughan Williams. This will be my first time conducting ‘A Sea Symphony’ by RVW. You don’t want to miss the amazing voices of Tiffany Bostic-Brown, Terrance Brown and the Huntsville Community Chorus! If you are in or around Huntsville on September 18 you don’t want to miss this performance!
Happy New Season!

Conduct Me!

Just got home from an hour long live radio interview at Klub Radio. I spoke about the past, about Hungary and the U.S., about conducting, playing the clarinet and composition.
I got to speak about Peter Eötvös
the Huntsville Symphony
the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
and first and foremost about the Armel Opera Festival.
If you happen to speak or at least understand Hungarian, you are welcome to listen to the show online here :)
The show is called ‘Örömzene’ which translates as “jam session for fun”.
The last segment of the interview was all about the two hour daily program of the Armel Opera Festival in the frame of the the Sziget Festival
the biggest rock-pop music summer festival in Central Europe.
Starting tomorrow the Armel Opera Festival presents a two hour long fun and interactive musical program including a series of “Opera Sitcom” performed by the students of the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, directed by Andras Almasi Toth. I’ll be leading the audience in an interesting improvisation exercise based on a composition by Peter Eötvös called “Triangel”. Audience members will be distributed triangles of all shapes and sizes and I will play along with me, also hitting three different size triangles wherever I can. The program ends with ‘Conduct Me!’ where brave audience members can get a crash course in conducting from me and get in front of the orchestra and singers and conduct live. On the rep: Aria of The Queen of the Night, Brindisi by Verdi, Prelude and Habanera from Carmen.
I am looking forward to the challenge of engaging audiences that are not necessarily familiar with classical music and opera and make them realize how much fun it actually is to discover Mozart and even contemporary classical music for yourself. I am also happy to share the same island (on river Danube) with several thousand of music lovers and artists like Robbie Williams, the Gogol Bordello or Mariza.

Summer Fun with Bartok, Sibelius and Opera

After taking a short summer break and using most of it to compose Clarinet Symphony (premiere next February with the Hungarian Radio Symphony at Palace of the Arts in Budapest) I am ready to pick up the baton again this weekend. Lajos Balogh, Music Director of the Portland Festival Symphony invited me to guest conduct at two of the PFS summer park-concerts. I get to conduct two of my long time favorites, Romanian Folk Dances by Bartok and Finlandia by Sibelius. It is great to make music again with some of the retired musicians of the Oregon Symphony and other players from the area I have worked with before.
I will be sharing the stage with Lajos Balogh
and with
Michael Allen Harrison

Yes, it is hot out there, but these parks are so beautiful and you will be able to find a spot with some shade for sure. Come out and enjoy great music and some outdoor picnic fun!

Soon I will be taking off to Hungary where I will be leading some fun, interactive musical programs at Sziget Festival

Every day between 6 and 8PM The Armel Opera Festival presents a program of ‘Opera Sitcom Series’ and some contemporary music improvisation as well as letting audience members conduct the Armel Festival Orchestra in famous opera numbers like the aria of The Queen of the Night. “Sziget” is not only the biggest rock/pop-music festival of Central Europe but also a great place to promote classical music and opera.

Please check out the website of the Huntsville Symphony as well! Single tickets are on sale for our 2015-16 season!

Hope you are all enjoying your summer and getting just the right amount of daily classical music! :)