Reviews

The Magic Flute at Hackney Empire
“The production effortlessly combines the traditional and contemporary, comedy and poignancy, and behind the slapstick of the movements, the quality of the delivery of the orchestral and choral scores, conducted by Gergely Vajda, bring to life the emotion of the characters and a depth of meaning.”
October 23, 2016 Sarah Bradbury The Upcoming

Impassioned Paremski delivers a fierce Prokofiev performance at Symphony Silicon Valley
“Vajda’s performance of Janacek’s resplendent ‘Sinfonietta’ left little doubt of his ability to move an audience. His execution of the ‘Andante con moto’ through fanfares and brilliant textural passages rendered heartfelt expressivity and a ripened, sustained sweetness with a touch of elegance.”
May 2016 Elijah Ho San Jose Mercury News

Sparkling Mitteleuropa fare with Enescu, Vajda and Dvořák in Budapest
“Vajda’s language was a unique modern tongue, not triadic or modal, but definitely his own, and characterized by skillful use of winds and percussion to cook up little sonic worlds that burbled and bubbled like extraterrestrial bodies.
The movements were framed by a Praeludium and an extended Postludium that featured some of the best timpani writing I have heard. Three timpanists, trading overlapping phrases with each other like ping-pong players, spooled the rhythmic tattoos from one side of the stage to the other, rolling through thrilling waves of crescendos and diminuendos. This created a palpable tension that supported the extensive amount of crisp and concise wind writing above it, sometimes sectional and other times soloists from within the orchestra – together with the solo clarinetists, who each played two instruments. /…/
While certainly not a traditional concerto for clarinets (as those instruments were used as part of the larger wind team as much as they were featured soloists), the piece’s overall effect was a scintillating, almost irradiated texture, especially when the entire percussion section was in full swing.”
February 6, 2016 Alexandra Ivanoff on the World Premiere of ‘Clarinet Symphony’ / bachtrack.com

“Charismatic guest conductor Gregory Vajda didn’t just subtly coax an imaginative performance out of the orchestra; he commanded a highly fluid one, one filled with heady imagination, subtle touches and substantial energy. /…/
Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 1,” /…/, brought the night to a satisfying close. The composer wrote it as a graduation piece for the Petrograd Conservatory when he was only 19, and it’s remained a favorite with audiences since it debuted in 1926. It’s a work that begins as chamber music and ends with orchestral flourish, and its four movements, though related in theme, vary from whimsy and humor to Wagnerian volatility. It is a symphony that is in constant flux, an elephant that makes its weight fully felt, and Vajda conducted it with comfortable assurance, leading the orchestra from the beginning march-like melody through to the crashing conclusion with expressive gusto.”
April 25, 2015 Kim Carpenter / Omaha World-Herald

“Luckily there are qualities of this production that cannot be questioned, and they come from the conductor and the orchestra. [T]he orchestra of the Hungarian State Opera was in a great shape. We sure would like to have both the quality of sound and the high level ensemble playing for future premieres this season. This quality, no doubt is mostly coming from the preparatory work of Gregory Vajda. We must emphasize that Vajda has been showing the virtues of a born opera conductor. His connection with the singers and stage action is exemplary. Under his baton the orchestra not only plays beautifully but it provides dramatic musical action in every moment. Gregory Vajda drew attention with his great conducting of three different opera productions at other venues last season. It has been a pleasure to see him getting his own production at the Hungarian State Opera. Based on the end result we can only hope that this won’t be the last time.”
– Sept 29, 2014 by Gabor Boka, operavilag.net

No Tickets for Bayreuth? Budapest Has a Wagner Festival, Too
“This year Mr. Fischer shares responsibilities with Gergely Vajda, who presides over a smoothly running performance. One will not soon forget the stunning close of Act 2, as Lohengrin and Elsa enter the minster for their wedding and the sound of the full orchestra, bolstered by the Palace of Arts pipe organ, reverberated through the hall.”
– June 11, 2013 by George Loomis, New York Times

“Young, dynamic Gregory Vajda (b. 1973 in Budapest) was guest conductor. He directed with a steady baton, deploying graceful hand motions to elicit needed tempo and volume variation.

“Maestro Vajda contributed deep interpretive insight with Kodaly’s Dances of Galanta. Under his baton the five sections, played without break, glowed with fresh intensity and beauty. Cellos excelled, as did oboe and clarinet. Various harmonies echoed those of the Mideast and Eastern Europe, making for engaging tonalities. Vajda and the orchestra made us want to hear more — much more — Kodaly.”
– Nov 18, 2012 by C.J. Gianakaris, Kalamazoo Gazette

Guest conductor lends expert touch to SSO Mozart program
“Under him, the small orchestra (most of the musicians are playing for Seattle Opera’s ‘Madama Butterfly’ this week and next), performed Mozart’s Divertimento in F major and the Violin Concerto No. 2 in D major with a light touch that arrested attention from the first notes. The string players used slight and only occasional vibrato, creating a true harmonic sound, and often less bow, allowing notes to sound as though released by the bow rather than pushed. Using less bow also made fast runs cleaner and lighter, flickering off the string, and Vajda took fast movements truly fast at a good Baroque tempo.”
— 2011 Philippa Kiraly, Seattle Times

“In his Cleveland debut, Gregory Vajda, resident conductor of the Oregon Symphony, leads an engrossing performance rich in character and feeling. Where Sibelius asks for lyricism, he spins long, yearning lines, and in the sprightly “Path” music, he explores a range of soft dynamics. … No less vivid is the group’s rendition of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8. There isn’t a literal narrative at play here, but Vajda still conveys the experience of covering real ground. … the performance under Vajda is robust, fueled by senses of restlessness and purpose. Developments are sweeping, contrasts of rhythm and dynamics are abundant, and the Allegretto is a thing of lissome beauty. It’s Beethoven at his most dashing.”
City Music Cleveland ends season with vivid Sibelius, Beethoven and Mozart – April 15, 2010 cleveland.com by Zachary Lewis

“Vajda — resident conductor of Oregon Symphony — led the orchestra through engaging and frequently moving performances of Christmas standards and a few exotic surprises … [Vajda] didn’t need Cirque (de la Symphonie) to put on a compelling performance. Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s Pops program spins a fantastic holiday show – Dec 11, 2009, Tom Keogh in Seattle Times

“The Atlanta Opera orchestra, under the direction of Conductor Gregory Vajda, was particularly crisp and distinguished: Vajda motivated the players to give their finest performance in recent memory.”
February 2009, Opera News

Oregon Symphony conductor Vajda soars; 
A Bartok score and inspiring Chopin help the orchestra shine
JAMES McQUILLEN 
The Oregonian – Monday, January 14, 2008

If Gregory Vajda weren’t already the Oregon Symphony’s resident conductor, after Saturday night’s concert with the orchestra at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, I’d suspect he was auditioning for something. The program was just the sort of thing aspiring conductors bring to a tryout: a couple of big-orchestra blockbusters; a display of clarity with a slightly smaller ensemble; and a concerto, for “plays well with others” points. On all counts, the dynamic young Hungarian scored high.

The evening began with a rarity, Bela Bartok’s full-length score for the pantomime “The Miraculous Mandarin.” Written in the early 1920s, it accompanied a sordid tale of thievery, violence, murder and love (or something vaguely related, but which is in any case strangely undying until the merciless ending). There’s not space enough here to go into the dramatis personae, but just imagine if Gershwin’s “American in Paris” had ended up in the wrong part of town and had a really, really bad time.

Bartok called for a huge orchestra, which in this concert meant augmented winds, brass and percussion. The palette of tone color was correspondingly rich and, with the piece’s insistent rhythms and harsh harmonies, it contributed to an expressionistic picture of nastiness on both an urban and an intimate scale. By contrast, Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” — which “The Miraculous Mandarin” resembles in general ways — seems refreshing; at least it takes place outside.

The performance was commanding, with clear direction from Vajda and incisive playing throughout the orchestra. It could perhaps have been grittier and gutsier in places, pushing beyond fine details and controlled tempos, but it was still impressive. Perhaps the only real drawback was its place at the top of the program. When it was done, I didn’t much feel like listening to Debussy or Chopin or Paul Dukas; I felt like taking a shower or petting a kitten.

But after intermission, I did listen to Debussy (“Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun”) and Chopin (Piano Concerto No. 2) and Dukas (“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”), and it was all impressive. Particularly good was the Chopin; it featured soloist Ingrid Fliter, who is still fairly obscure even though she’s one of only five winners of the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award. Her technical command was fantastic, her touch pristine: In Chopin’s avalanches of notes, each one was distinct, and her phrasing was elegant and natural.

Chopin didn’t give the orchestra much to do in this youthful concerto, but the symphony did very little very well, achieving nearly perfect balance with Fliter throughout. Vajda, Fliter: Expect to hear these names more often.

©2008 The Oregonian

PIERRE RUHE 
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution – February 9, 2007

“Like most of the cast, Hungarian conductor Gregory Vajda was making his Atlanta Opera debut — as well as his U.S. professional opera debut. (Credit general director Dennis Hanthorn and artistic administrator Eric Mitchko for these discoveries.)

Born in 1973, Vajda’s the real thing. Rhythmically alert, he found his own pace for the opera — a bit on the slow and careful side, perhaps, but always taut and flowing.”

Pierre Ruhe, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution – February 9, 2007

Conductor Vajda ‘a titan’! 
ARTHUR KAPTAINIS,
The Montreal Gazette – April 30, 2004

Conducting in the opera pit is a hard way to build a reputation. Who in Place des Arts saw Gregory Vajda lead the Montreal Symphony Orchestra through a challenging Opéra de Montréal double bill of Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle and Schoenberg’s Erwartung? How many cared about what he did?

Even the reviewers were preoccupied by Robert Lepage’s experimental staging. “Young Hungarian newcomer Gregory Vajda brought great clarity to Schoenberg’s atonal textures,” was about all your correspondent had to say.

MSO musicians, shielded from the stage, have a different perspective.

“Vajda is a titan!” asserts violinist and veteran curmudgeon Pierre Jean, reflecting closely the view of his colleagues. “His talent kept the performances intact. … Rehearsals for Schoenberg were not enough. As well, performances were spaced so far apart. … The last performance was rife with missing solos (our cues) and yet the boy was on top of it! Musicianship galore, self- deprecating humor, this boy has it all!”

Mostly Mozart Review by Anna Kisselgoff, The New York Times – August 28, 2004

With Gregory Vajda conducting the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in the pit at La Guardia Concert Hall, Ms. De Keersmaeker’s dancers from Rosas, her company at La Monnaie (the Brussels opera house), were perfectly integrated into the remarkably fluid performance of the three sopranos onstage on.

Gergely (Gregory) Vajda (*1973), is one of the most talented members of Hungary ’s young generation of composers. Clarinetist, conductor, artistic consultant to a brass ensemble and music director of a Budapest theatre, Vajda is an exceptionally versatile musician who mastered the art of composition not at school but through practice. He has participated in the preparation and rehearsal of numerous contemporary pieces, including those of Péter Eötvös. His own works bear the imprint of the beneficial influence of his complex performer ’s experience. Instead of a theoretical approach to composition, it is the creation of the sensual beauty of music that fascinates him; this is why he makes liberal use of variegated colours and unusual effects. Although he was only twenty at the time of its composition, his solo piece, Lightshadow-trembling (1993), bears witness to his superior knowledge of his instrument ’s “soul” and innermost secrets. The motifs surfacing, then fade back into the range of the “inaudible” exploit the dynamic possibiliti es of the clarinet to its maximum. The counterpoints to these ethereal motifs are the sections labelled “wild” in the score, where the clarinet squeals stridently like a folk music instrument, the pipe or the reed-pipe. The fast-as-lightning figures often create the illusion of polyphony, and the playful gestures of recurrent passages evoke Till Eulenspiegel, the great jester. (Gergely Vajda dedicated this work to the poet András Petőcz, whose poems he used five years later in [his 25 minutes long “piece for speaking percussion-quartet”] Non-figurative.”)

Zoltan Farkas in the programbook of the CD “Dervishdance”, Budapest Music Center

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