Les feux d’artifice

“The fireworks have ended. They did not last long.”
http://www.youtube.com
These are the last words of Rufus Wainwright’s opera “Prima Donna”. The premiere is this afternoon at the Kodály Center in Pecs (Southern Hungary), second performance on June 28 in Budapest with a live HD broadcast on Arte Concert. Check out the cast here:
http://www.armelfestival.org
Watch out for the broadcast details on FaceBook and on Twitter! Until then here is a concert video from Paris with the fully orchestrated version of the song.
http://www.youtube.com

I have spent a lot of time this past month with wonderful “prima donnas” and talented singers in productions of the following operas:
Kamillo Lendvay: The respectable Prostitute
Gyorgy Ligeti: Le grand macabre
Mate Bella: Spring Awakening
Gabor Peter Mezei: By the Catafalque
Arpad Solti: La Violetta

After “MagyarFeszt” (a festival of Hungarian operas organized by the State Opera), I was invited to teach a conducting master class with Peter Eötvös at his Contemporary Music Institute. It was a great week with the Danubia Orchestra and the music of Wolfgang Rihm and Zoltan Kodály. Next week, with the June 28 performance of “Prima Donna” opens the 10th Armel Opera Festival and Competition. I will also conduct the final gala concert of the Armel Festival with award winning singers from France and Hungary. It’s going to be a nice change of pace with music by Mozart, Donizetti, Bizet, Gounod and others.

Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

From Frankfurt to the Red Comet

Last week I made my debut with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony. It was an amazing experience with a great orchestra made of open minded and friendly musicians. The audience at the “Sendesaal” of the Frankfurt Radio was very appreciative and enthusiastic. There was a fun pre-concert talk as well attended by about 200 people. On the program entitled ‘The Hungary of Eötvös’, there were all Hungarian contemporary pieces from four generations of composers including myself.’Concertino’ by József Sári, ‘Passacaglie’ by László Tihanyi, ‘Leviation’ by Péter Eötvös and my ‘Drums Drums Drums’ for three percussion players and orchestra.
http://www.hr-online.de
I was really happy about the reception of my percussion triple concerto. There was a ‘rock-concert feel’ to the performance and also to the reaction of the audience, just what I was hoping to achieve. I am looking forward to the next performance of this composition of mine in January 2018 with the Pannon Philharmonic!

The first radio broadcast of the Frankfurt concert will be on May 15 followed by a re-broadcast not long after. I will keep you posted.

I am back in Hungary now gearing up for many performances to come. The next two long months have kicked off with a project of the International Young Soloists (musicians from the UK and Hungary) with a program of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven to be played at two small venues this week. In the meantime I have started working with the singers for Ligeti’s ‘Le Grand Macabre'(performance at the Erkel Theater on May 26: hence the RED COMET, if you remember the famous coloratura soprano aria!), and had my first read-though rehearsal with the Modern Art Orchestra. The latter one is Hungary’s leading Big Band. On May 28 at the Budapest Music Center I will be conducting a few arrangements of my music (Adagio from the Clarinet Symphony among them), and some great music by Duke Ellington and Pat Metheny among others.
http://www.bmc.hu

I will post more later about the upcoming opera productions in the frame of the “Hungarian Opera Festival” in the month of May and June. Stay tuned for a revival of the “Hungarian Late Night” show and two performances of “Spring Awakening” by Máté Bella and “La Violetta” by Árpád Solti at the Liszt Academy!

Crazy Schedule

Yeah, I know it is the Oscars tonight. I am going to have to read about it in the news this week.

It is true that I don’t shy away from working long hours for an extended period of time. Sometimes, however, the perfect storm happens. Tomorrow and on Tuesday I will be rehearsing with the Hungarian Radio Symphony 10AM-5PM, then at the Liszt Academy for the “Hungarian Late Night” production of the Budapest Opera 6PM-10PM. After the rehearsals I will be working with the musicians of the Hungarian Radio Symphony orchestra at the Budapest Music Center to record my newest composition ‘Alice Etudes’ for clarinet an string quartet. On Wednesday there’s another Radio Symphony rehearsal and the dress rehearsal for the one act operas. Thursday is the day for dress rehearsal and concert with the Radio Symphony. On Friday we premiere the one act operas of the “Hungarian Late Night” production, The second performance is on Saturday.

Looking forward to a wild ride! Wish me luck and check out the following links:

https://www.mrze.hu
https://www.zeneakademia.hu

And this…
Come on Ladies and Gentlemen, somebody please push this over the finish line! 😉
Thanks
https://www.gofundme.hu

When Things All Come Together

The title of this post “When Things Come Together” could also be “When Many Things Happen at the Same Time”. Professional achievements in arts do not follow a straight timeline. After finishing a highly successful conducting masterclass for the Eötvös Contemporary Music Foundation (In focus: Bartók, Kurtág and Lachenmann) I dove into the preparation of the Academy of Music production of Hans Werner Henze’s opera, Elegy for Young Lovers. This is the year end stage performance exam of the students and also the closing production of Armel Opera Festival 2016. There will be a live broadcast on the website ARTE TV. Please follow the link next to the production details here:
http://armelfestival.org
Side note: today is Henze’s 90th Birthday and the percussion players of the Pannon Philharmonic presented mini-Milka chocolate bars placed in an upside down cymbal (see picture on FaceBook). I just love these “artsy” coincidences. And chocolate is always good. 🙂
In the meantime ARMEL Opera Festival performances are on every evening (and also can be watched online thanks to ARTE) therefore I spend a lot of time giving interviews to papers, TV and radio stations, cultural websites during the day.
Two days ago László Gőz, director of the Budapest Music Center called a meeting for everybody who participated and helped the making of the first ever studio recording of Peter Eötvös’ opera entitled “Paradise Reloaded (Lilith)”. BMC staff members and leadership (practically the producers of the recording) and colleagues from the Hungarian Radio and from Palace of the Arts (they were co-producers of the 2014 recording and live performance) were there along with the composer himself and his wife (also librettist of the opera). We opened champagne and talked about the long process of how this wonderful recording finally came to life. It took more than two years but things definitely did come together for this project.
I am planning to write in detail about this and another World-premiere recording (Dohnányi: The Tenor) I conducted in 2014-15 once both CDs are available to the general public.

Things all came together in the last few weeks: a busy and successful conducting masterclass, a very promising Henze production rehearsal period, an exciting opera festival, and an intimate celebration of a new product: a contemporary opera’s World Premiere CD recorded in 2014, with a September 2016 release date.

Notes From The New Year

When so many things happen in a short period of time one can either write about everything, risking that his readers start skimming the post, or just write about something current and personal while ignoring everything else. I don’t feel like doing either in this New Year of 2016. I am going to just write things down as they come to my mind, limiting comments as much as I can.

The death of Boulez and the passing of David Bowie (yes, I do feel like it is all right to mention them in the same sentence) reminded me of the phenomenon how one person’s death can signal an already ongoing change. It is now officially post-Boulez and post-Bowie era. As so many people posted “when I met Boulez” pictures on FaceBook and elsewhere I didn’t want to do the same. Mostly because the few times we met we were not posing for pictures. I cherish my memories and yes, I do have my own “Boulez story” as well. I prefer to share them when we are sitting around a table sipping wine and having a conversation.

Tonight is the second to last performance of the annual revival of ‘Die Fledermaus’ at the Budapest Opera.
http://www.opera.hu
I am having a blast with this operetta (I’d rather call it an opera) and tons of fun working with many great Hungarian singers.

All day today I stayed home and studied “The Abduction from the Seraglio” by Mozart. As I mentioned it several times before, it is great fun to re-discover a piece of music or a complete opera for yourself by studying it again in depth. All I am going to say is: go and listen to the quartet from the end of Act 2 (#16)! It is amazing how Mozart can put interpersonal drama into music. In just one long(er) musical number one can experience trouble and resolution, and see two couples get back together.
By studying Mozart again I understand more of “Die Fledermaus”, too. Johann Strauss II learned a whole lot from Wolfgang Amadeus in how to write an ensemble and how to create drama on stage by words and music. Both operas are comic operas but they are definitely not “light”!
I am looking forward to the concert version of “Abduction” with the Huntsville Symphony in just 10 days.
http://www.hso.org

I finished editing the parts for my Clarinet Symphony. Tomorrow I am meeting with the two clarinet soloists for the first time. I am looking forward to the World Premiere on February 3 with the Radio Symphony.

Good news is in the making for Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South, and also there is a prospect for a new stage work of which I will be posting as soon as things become serious. I will be getting back to composing music for an animated movie, so my days are busy as ever.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned in 2016!
Happy New Year!

Escape from LAX (Notes From Before Christmas)

My preparation for the Holidays included a couple of piano-stage rehearsals for “Die Fledermaus” by Johann Strauss. I am conducting 9 performances of this production, two of them on December 31, at the Budapest Opera. The New Year’s Eve performance, traditionally is going to be a big party with surprise musical guests appearing in the ball scene in Act 2. (Sorry, but I am not allowed to reveal who they actually are.)
Read about the Budapest “Die Fledermaus” performances here:
http://www.opera.hu

I have had my own Nightmare Before Christmas. I believe it is enough to say that the route of my European flight looked like this: LAX-CDG-BUD. The layout of the Los Angeles Airport reminds me of the 1996 sci-fi action movie “Escape from L.A.” You need serious survival skills to get from one terminal to the other, and you need all the help of the internet to figure out which lounge to use at the the international terminal if you are a Sky Team frequent flier. LAX is still stuck in the last century. They are yet to figure out how useful automatic light rails are let alone simple but clear signs to point you to the direction you are going. At Charles de Gaulle International Airport there is now at least a new automated light rail running between terminals. Make no mistake, there is still plenty of room left there to make for a nice jogging exercise if one wants to catch a connection while one’s suitcase is not being transferred despite a nice, bright yellow “Priority” tag.

Since concluding my Resident Conductor tenure with the Oregon Symphony (2012) I have not had the opportunity to conduct Christmas music or any other Holiday favorites. To be completely honest I get just enough of this type of music by spending a few hours shopping at department stores. I remember a French department store staff going on strike a few years back saying that nobody should be exposed to the same 7 songs for 8-12 hours a day. What can I say, I am totally with those guys! At the same time however, having the Oregon Symphony play some of the Christmas music arrangements I made for them definitely puts me in the right Holiday spirit. Thanks for my friends and former colleagues for sharing this info with me every December! 🙂

I wish You All a successful, low stress few days leading up to Christmas and a Blessed, Wonderful Holiday Season!

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.
http://opera.hu

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
http://kirillgerstein.com
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!
http://www.michaelgrandinetti.com

May, The Month Of Bells

Two concerts with Symphony Silicon Valley this weekend, one down one more to go. On the program:
Tchaikovsky: Romeo and Juliet Overture Fantasy
Debussy: Nocturnes
Rachmaninov: The Bells
http://symphonysiliconvalley.org
This is my second time conducting Rachmaninov’s “choral symphony”. Here is my blogpost from 2013 about my performance with the Hungarian Radio Symphony with an “all about bells” theme:
http://gregoryvajda.com
The sound of the famous “Russian Bells” of course can be found in Tchaikovsky’s Overture Fantasy as well, and also in the delicate sounds of Debussy’s mezmerising Nocturnes, with female voices added to the mix of the orchestra timbres.
More bells for me in the coming weeks. In between rehearsals and performances I spent most of my time in my hotel room while in San Jose, CA. Let me tell you, I was missing out on some beautiful weather. I spent several hours preparing my score and making additional cuts to Busoni’s opera, Doctor Faust. Two semi-staged performances are coming up at the Budapest Opera. The entire opera starts with the sound of Easter Bells and ends with the sound of more bells accompanying the strange and actually pretty blasphemous apotheosis of Dr. Faust.
http://opera.hu
I am happy to have some of my Huntsville friends in Budapest for the second performance. They will be on a cruise ship on the Danube and will be stopping by in Budapest just in time to see me conduct Doktor Faust. I am looking forward to showing them around in my hometown and to spend some fun times together in my neck of the woods.

On A High Note And More

The 2014-15 Season of the Huntsville Symphony is ending on a high note, well actually on many high notes. The amazing Elina Vahala
http://elinavahala.com
is back to play the powerful and extremely difficult Violin Concerto #2 by Bela Bartok. Our last classical concert opens with Les preludes by Franz Liszt and closes with Brahms’ Symphony No.1.
Just this week HSO has announced its 2015-16 season. Please click on this link to find out about all the details
http://hso.org
My busy 15-16 season continues. Next week I am off to San Jose, CA to conduct a choral program with Symphony Silicon Valley. Right after that I jump into the production of Doctor Faust by Italian composer Ferruccio Busoni at the Budapest Opera, then back to the US to conduct the Rochester Philharmonic. Stay tuned! Also do not forget to Tune In on WLRH tomorrow morning 9AM EST to listen to Ginny Kennedy and myself talking about the Saturday concert and about the next season of HSO.
http://wlrh.org
In the meantime here is the review of my concert with the Omaha Symphony from last week for your reading pleasure.
http://omaha.com

Armel Auditions

Tomorrow I am off to Paris for a couple of days to listen to 70+ singers auditioning for the International Armel Opera Festival’s 2016 program.
http://armelfestival.org
On April 2 there will be another round of auditions in Budapest at the French Institute. After these rounds I have to pick the young singers who get to compete in these exciting productions among others:
Maria de Buenos Aires by Astor Piazzolla
http://piazzolla.org
Senza sangue by Peter Eotvos
http://eotvospeter.com
Elegy for Young Lovers by Hans Werner Henze
http://wikipedia.org

After the Easter Holidays I am going to do pre-rehearsals for Dr. Faust by Ferruccio Busoni, a semi-staged production that I will be conducting at the Budapest Opera in May.