Lots of Work and Plenty of Travel Already in 2018

Hello there and a Happy Belated New Year! I am writing this post at the Atlanta airport lounge, waiting for my flight to Huntsville, replacing the one that was just cancelled a couple of hours ago. Yes, IT IS WINTERTIME and it is coming down hard on the South now, after hitting the North-East of the US.
After a demanding and successful trip to Taiwan and Mainland China (with the Kaohsiung Symphony then with the players of the Hungarian Radio Symphony) I traveled back to Budapest for a couple of days (FYI Turkish Airlines is great!) then packed again to drive to the city of Pecs, where I got to conduct the great Pannon Philharmonic Orchestra. We presented an exciting program, including my piece, Drums Drums Drums, of which we played the Hungarian premiere. Other pieces on the program were: Weill: Little Threepenny Music, Stravinsky: Concerto in D for string orchestra and Hindemith’s powerful Concertmusic for brass and strings. As for Drum Drums Drums, it is now the third set of soloists playing it (however the drum-set part was played by the amazing Gergo Borlai again, who has been part of the World Premiere in Huntsville in 2015), and the piece, I am happy to report, works really well for the audience.
After spending a couple of days in beautiful Southern Hungary (Pecs is only about a 2hr drive from Budapest) I was ready to fly to the Big Apple. Representing Armel Festival as its Artistic Director I have attended 5 shows at the Prototype Festival. I have seen staged concert albums, multi-media music theater works and operas in the traditional sense. It was an impressive line up. I hope that Prototype Festival can become a partner for Armel by as early as 2020, and together we can bring some interesting new works to Budapest, Vienna, and to the screen of ARTE TV as well. Yes, IT IS WINTERTIME, and NYC was way colder than usual. However in the summer I always complain about humidity and high temperatures in manhattan. 🙂
I am ready for a couple of extremely exciting and challenging programs in the next couple of weeks. On Saturday with the Huntsville Symphony I will be conducting Brahms’ Haydn Variations, Beethoven’s Symphony No.7, and sharing the stage again with Elina Vähälä from Finland, who’ll be playing Berg’s beautiful Violin Concerto. More information on the concert here:

http://www.hso.org

After Huntsville it’s Budapest time again, and time for music about machines with the Danubia Symphony at the Liszt Academy. Yes, you read that right, MACHINES!

More about that later!

Until then, here is the link for your enjoyment:

http://www.odz.hu

Action Packed Three Weeks

And more to come.
Huntsville Symphony has had a successful opening classical week with Mussorgsky-Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition and Orff’s Carmina Burana. It was just the perfect way to start the season and to create lots of positive buzz. My first weekend of the 2017-18 season at Huntsville also included an extensive day of auditions for several positions, including Concert Master and Principal Cello. We have hired some talented players and will be inviting candidates to fill the principal spots starting January.
The week after I have traveled to New Brunswick, NJ and conducted the Rutgers Symphony Orchestra. The program was the following: Ravel: La Valse, Haydn: Cello Concerto in C, Stravinsky: Petrushka. It was a great week with the young players and with this fun program. Also the first time ever I have stayed at an actual university campus. It was good to reunite and to spend some time with my friend, Al Baer, principal tuba player of the New York Phil and the head of the brass department at Rutgers. Last Friday I have conducted the second classical show of the season in Huntsville. Both our soloist, Claire Huangci and the orchestra did a great job in an especially difficult program. Ravel: Rapsodie Espagnol,Piano Concerto in G, Respighi: Fountains of Rome, and Debussy: La Mer. Just two days later, on Sunday we presented our first Casual Classics performance with Schubert’s genius Octet for which I have picked up my clarinet again. It was our usual, annual dinner/concert setting with the musicians telling funny stories about themselves. Oh yes, and the performance took place at the Yellowhammer Brewery’s Speakeasy, a perfect venue for this serenade-like composition.
I am writing this post at the KLM Lounge at the Amsterdam Airport. When I am done, I am going to continue watching YouTube videos of 77 young conductors who have applied to the multi year mentor program of the International Eotvos Contemporary Music Foundation. This week Peter Eotvos and I will be selecting the ones who will travel to Budapest in December to participate in a live audition along with 30 some young composers.
On Tuesday I am starting the rehearsals with the Hungarian Radio Symphony for our November 14 concert. For the program click the link below!

http://www.mrze.hu

Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

100 Years Old Music

“Arbitrary as the choice of any year between 1880 and 1930 might be, 1913 was certainly distinguished by modernist landmarks in music, art, literature, fashion, and film /…/”

As it happens many times I don’t have access to my books in Budapest, Hungary when I need them. I have purchased and read a book entitled ‘1913’, and as much as I would love to use a couple of quotes here I cannot remember the author’s name. I tried finding the book online, but all the books of the same or similar title that pop up in a search, deal with politics and world history only instead of art. I found a great article at the Telegraph however and that is where the opening quote is from. Read the full article here:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk

Here are the dates for the pieces played by the Huntsville Symphony this Saturday for our last classical concert of the season.
Stravinsky: Rite of Spring -1913 (time of the infamous premiere performance)
Ravel: Alborada del gracioso -1905 (as a piano piece), -1918 (orchestra version)
Szymanowski: Violin Concerto #1 -1916 (composed), -1922 (premiered)

Yes, as unbelievable as it is, “The Rite of Spring” is over a 100 years old. So are the two other pieces. As you can see we are talking about a period a little over 15 years here, including some of the most turbulent times of the 20th Century, especially in Europe.
‘Rite of Spring’ was sure a “Vision of the Future” just one year before WW1 started. Ravel’s colorful Alborada del grazioso (The Jester’s Aubade) from the ‘Miroirs’ (Mirrors) piano series is one of the most popular examples of his “Spanish flavor” musical pieces. In its orchestral version it possesses the rhythmical and sound-color qualities of ‘Rite of Spring’.
I would like to encourage you to read the Wikipedia article below on Polish composer Karol Szymanowski. Upon reading his biography it’ll be clear how his gorgeous late-Romantic Violin Concerto No. 1 fits into the program.
https://www.en.wikipedia.org
By programming this beautiful piece of music, and by engaging the amazing Philippe Quint to play the solo violin part, I hope to contribute to the re-discovery of the music of this forgotten genius.

Thank You All for supporting the HSO in 2016-17!
Don’t forget to get your tickets to ‘Video Games Live’ on May 6 at the VBC! It will be the perfect ending to a great season.
Please read about our exciting next season here:
https://www.hso.org

Stay in touch and have a wonderful summer!

BartĂłk’s Birds

There is the famous bird trio for flute, oboe and clarinet in Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ symphony. There are the identifiable American birds in BartĂłk’s Piano Concerto No.3, and the sounds of rural Romania as composed by the young György Ligeti in his Concert Românesque. The 5th classical concert of the Huntsville Symphony fits the overall theme of the season: The Force of Nature.
David Kadouch
https://www.davidkadouch.com
a young and amazing pianist from France is playing the solo piano part of the BartĂłk Concerto. Needless to say, I am very particular about my BartĂłk. David has everything a Hungarian maestro’s heart can wish for in a pianist for the Hungarian composer’s last piano concerto. He is not only a virtuoso player but he also knows all the idioms, the unique phrasing, and the sound that is required to perform this music.

Join me and the HSO this Saturday at the VBC to hear three powerful compositions about the power of nature. Experience the power of live symphony music as only we can present it here in the great City of Huntsville!

Toward The Sea Into the New Year

The season of the Huntsville Symphony is always busier between January and May than it is in the fall. The reason? College football. In the fall we are doing our classical concerts on Fridays so we do not have to compete with the games on Saturdays. Also it seems it takes a while for everybody (definitely our core audience) to settle into the usual rhythm after the summer months. After presenting a no-orchestra New Years Eve show with the amazing Bela and Abigail Fleck the Huntsville Symphony is back on the stage of the Von Braun Center and we sure have a lot of notes to play for the second half of the season. Between February 1-4 we are doing 4 Youth Concerts, a Free Family Concert and a Pops concert with all John Williams movie hits. We are presenting our ever popular “dinner-concert” Casual Classics on February 12, then another classical concert with the music of Wagner and Offenbach on February 18.
https://www.hso.org

Yesterday, with a smaller than usual orchestra on stage, I conducted the HSO in a show called “Flute and Harp Impressions”. Principal flutist Evelyn Loehrlein and harpist Katherine Newman joined guest flutist Gergely Ittzes in a selection of pieces by Vivaldi, Debussy, Takemitsu and Respighi.
Gergely Ittzes https://www.ittzesgergely.hu has also performed two of his own solo flute compositions presenting unusual virtuosity on his instrument along with many special effects never heard before by our audience. Ittzes is capable of playing clear double stops (intervals) on the flute and special effects that sound like walking bass or an Indian, or Japanese traditional instrument. Our audience was very enthusiastic and thrilled about all the music that was presented. I believe we did justice to Vivaldi as well, since his music —due to the big size of our concert venue— has been definitely underrepresented in the classical series.
My favorite part of the concert was when Gergely Ittzes played Debussy’s famous solo flute composition, Syrinx then we went right into playing Takemitsu’s mesmerizing “Toward the Sea II” for alto flute, harp and strings. Great job HSO string section!
I admire Takemitsu for his beautiful sound colors and soothing rhythmical complexities (yes it does sound like a contradiction, but Takemitsu is just doing, in his own language, what Debussy has invented more than a 100ys ago now). I was very pleased with the audience’s positive response.
Our New Year has just started, and we are sailing on toward new adventures. Come and join us in 2017, too!

Orchestra Tour in Poland

…then there are days when you really don’t have the time to write.

I have just finished my concert with the Hungarian Radio Symphony at the Liszt Academy on November 22 when received a call from the tour manager of the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra. They were on the road in Poland and the conductor, János Kovács was hospitalized. I agreed to step in after my Eötvös-BartĂłk performance in Hamburg (November 23) and joined the orchestra in Wroclaw, Poland the next day. We had a one hour acoustical rehearsal at the amazing new concert hall built for the program of “Cultural Capital of Europe, Wroclaw 2016″, and we hit the ground running with the following program:

Kodály: Dances of Galánta
Liszt: Piano Concerto No.1 (Dávid Báll -piano)
BartĂłk: Concerto for Orchestra
(Encores: Brahms Hungarian Dance No.1 and Berlioz RakĂłczi March)

Thee more concerts followed with great success (and a whole lot of bus riding in between). The Hungarian National Phil musicians and myself were having a ball.

Poland is a lucky country to have so many great, new concert halls. Three out of the four we have performed at were built in the last two years. Among these, the venue for our tour-closing performance was probably the best I have ever performed at (including Disney Hall!). The concert hall of the National Polish Radio Orchestra in Katowice is not only a great work of architecture but also the perfect mix of beauty and functionality with amazing acoustics for symphonic music.

Take a look!
http://nospr.org

This orchestra tour was part of the Hungarian Season in Poland commemorating the 1956 Revolution. Originally Zoltán Kocsis, world famous pianist and music director of the Hungarian National Philharmonic, who just recently passed away, was supposed to conduct all the concerts. We have been performing in his memory as well.

I am back in Hamburg, Germany today. The very last performance of the Eötvös: Senza sangue, Bartók: Bluebeard’s Castle production is tomorrow evening at the Staatsoper. The revival is schedueled for February 2018.

More Power to the Horns!

In the last few weeks I have been working on BĂ©la BartĂłk’s Bluebeard’s Castle and Peter Eötvös’s Senza sangue, an opera double-bill at the Hamburg Opera in Germany. It is going to be a beautiful staging by Dmitri Tcherniakov, see a NY Times review about his work here http://nytimes.com
with four powerhouse singers in the principal roles, and the orchestra of Staatsoper Hamburg. The performances will all be in November.
I am not sure if the expression of “taking a break from sg” can be applied to my schedule. Conducting Mahler 5 does not sound like a break at all, and it sure is a great challenge for orchestra and conductor alike. Well, I am “taking a break from” opera this week and conducting a program of Mahler’s amazing symphony along with Mozart’s Magic Flute Overture and DiLorenzo’s Phoenix Concerto with the Huntsville Symphony.
http://hso.org
The latter composition was written for the amazing French Horn player William Vermeulen, whom I had the pleasure to work with on a few occasions.
http://vermeulenmusic.com
His playing and our extended horn section for Mahler 5 will sure make this week a powerful one!

I am excited and proud that our Huntsville Symphony can present such divers and exciting program to all the music lovers in the area. At the end of September for our first Casual Classics program called “Yoga with Live Music” we played compositions by Steve Reich, Arvo Pärt and John Cage at Lowe Mill. This week we are back with great symphonic repertoire at the Von Braun Center. Come and join us!

A Great List of Composers

Bartók, Eötvös, Halévy, Henze, Mahler, Offenbach, Saint-Säens, Schubert, Schumann, Verdi.

Schubert: Rosamunde Overture, Schumann: Cello Concerto and Mahler: Symphony #1 was the program of my concert with the Szeged Symphony on May 17. Miklós Perényi, one of the greatest cellists of the world played the solo part. The concert took place in the beautiful National Theater of Szeged. It was a great treat for me to conduct this program and a nice experience working with Szeged Symphony for the first time in a very long time.
Two days ago I participated in the press conference of the Armel Opera Festival 2016. Check out the website!
The upcoming program is very exciting.
http://armelfestival.org
I will be conducting Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers with the Pannon Philharmonic and the young singers of the Academy of Music Budapest. I will also be doing a pre-rehearsal for Peter Eötvös’ newest opera called Senza sangue. This is the same work I will be conducting at the Hamburg State Opera this fall along with BartĂłk’s Bluebeard’s Castle.

Yesterday I attended the opening concert and ceremony of the Jewish Art Days, a new festival in Budapest Hungary. I am conducting an evening of opera music with Hungarian and Italian singers at the Italian Institute at the helm of the MAV Symphony Orchestra on Tuesday (May 31). On the program: music by Offenbach, Verdi, Saint-Säens and Halévy.
Check out the details here:
http://zsidomuveszetinapok.hu

I agreed to conduct the diploma concert of Bálint Kruppa. This amazingly talented young Hungarian is playing BartĂłk’s 2nd Violin Concerto with the Danubia Orchestra on June 7 at the Academy of Music.
http://zeneakademia.hu

Both the orchestra and Bálint will participate in the conducting masterclass organized by the Eötvös Music Foundation. The program is called Focus of Bartók, Kurtág, Lachenmann.
I will be teaching alongside with Peter Eötvös and Olivier Cuendet.
Read about the details here:
http://eotvosmusicfoundation.org

Many great composers and amazing pieces, lots of music, lots of work make me happy.

Brahms and The Chairs

Three Brahms compositions in two concerts mark the Finale of the Huntsville Symphony’s 15-16 season. Yesterday evening, celebrated by a large audience at the Von Braun Performing Arts Center HSO was playing Brahms Symphony #3 and Violin Concerto in D. After a long standing ovation the mesmerizing sounds of the first movement of Bach’s Violin Sonata No.2 in A-minor ended the last classical concert, played beautifully by Nikki Chooi. What an amazing way to end the season!

Now wait a second! There is more. It is a little “encore” to our 61st season if you wish. This afternoon, members of the audience are invited to sit on the stage of the VBC next to and around the principal players of the HSO as we perform Serenade #1 by Brahms. This time it is the wind-quintet+string-quintet version on the program and I will be talking about the music, about the composer, and about the process we musicians rehearse and perform. To start the show I am planning to make our audience just stand in the lime light on stage and stare out into the empty auditorium to get a sense of what it feels like being up there in the presence of hundreds of people. In between movements of Serenade #1 I will ask the audience to switch to a different chair (hence the concert title we used for a similar show last year: Musical Chairs) to experience the acoustics of the stage of the VBC and to be able to watch and listen to different musicians playing different instruments. If you like unusual concert formats, join us at 3:30pm today or sign up for our Casual Classics series next season. The program will be out soon!

http://www.hso.org

Thanks Everybody for making 15-16 a successful season in every regard! We are looking forward to welcome you back in September. Have a great summer and keep up listening to good music!

My Father’s Son

It’s not so much that “the show must go on”, rather, that I am my father’s son.
My Dad, József Vajda, former principal bassoonist of the Hungarian Radio Symphony and retired professor of the Liszt Academy in Budapest passed away 10 days ago. Since then I have done a Casual Classic show with the Huntsville Symphony and I am getting ready to start rehearsals for our Classical 5 program with the Canadian Brass. My Dad worked all his life and was a master of his craft, and a great teacher. I am finding that work helps me cope with my loss and staying active means staying true to my father’s spirit.

Here are the two programs for Huntsville:
Casual Classics 2 at the Historic Train Depot Roundhouse
Telemann: Tafelmusik Suite #3 “Il delirio fantastico”
Telemann: Alster Echo Suite

Classical 5 “The Americas” at the Von Braun Center
Marquez: Danzon #2
All American music played by Canadian Brass
Bramwell Tovey: Manhattan Music for brass quintet and orchestra
Bernstein: Divertimento

http://www.hso.org

Next week I am going to start a project with the Pannon Philharmonic in southern Hungary. We’ll be playing a show at the Kodaly Center in Pecs and will repeat it at the Liszt Academy as well.

“Dance on the Moon”
Griffes: Poem
Schönberg: Pierrot lunaire (with special projections and lights)
Stravinsky: Song of the Nightingale
Ibert: Flute Concerto

http://www.pannonfilharmonikusok.hu

I will be spending a lot of time with my family members while in Hungary, attending the funeral and doing a Celebration of Life in memory of my Father.