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!

Georgia Bottoms in Budapest, Interviews, Reviews, Videos

A pretty long, exhausting and fun period is over. Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South had a new, Hungarian production in the frame of CAFe (Contemporary Art Festival) Budapest at the Liszt Academy. The production was a success, the audience loved it and so far the critics had a positive opinion as well. I am glad, that this 85 minute long, one act chamber opera made quite a few people among Hungarian intellectuals to go online and buy Mark Childress’ original novel, Georgia Bottoms. The book deserves attention, and a great translation for the European and Hungarian market. Luckily, many of the intellectuals interested in my art can speak and read English. They all bought the book here, and you should, too!
http://www.amazon.com

Unfortunately however, – this is what happens when a country has a language that nobody else is speaking,- all the interviews and reviews below are in Hungarian. This time being a Hungarian has an advantage: you get way more info about the opera, the production and you can also read about many other topics that came up in the interviews in the original language. I translated a couple of things below for my English speaking friends, and I can promise you that no music-lover will be left behind. I am in the process of translating a selection of the interviews and posting them online as soon as I can. In the meantime, enjoy what you can by clicking on the links below!

Let’s start with a really well translated interview with Rebecca Nelsen, who has been doing Georgia Bottoms’ role for the second time in two years. I myself have learned a couple of interesting, new things about what it’s like to be a woman in the South.
“The Era of Just Standing And Singing Is Over”
http://www.fidelio.hu

By clicking on the link below you can read the very first (posted just a couple of hours after the Sunday premiere) instant feedback by a local theater/ music-theater blogger. She will be posting more about Georgia Bottoms, once the entire CAFe Budapest Festival is over.
http://www.mezeinezo.hu

Here are three interviews with me, mostly about Georgia Bottoms, but also about teaching, conducting and politics.
“When A Chord Sounds That Can Feel Really Good”
http://www.operavilag.net

“I Want to Write Music I’ve Never Heard Before”
http://www.theater.hu

“Constant Failures Mean The System Is Working”
http://www.papageno.hu

“You Cannot Put 9-11 Into Music” (interview) + “Bittersweet Georgia” (review)
These articles will be available for free soon via the website link below.
According to this review my music is from the Deep South 🙂 The critic loved the humor of the opera in text, in music and in staging as well/ “…a múlt vasárnapi bemutatón átütővé vált a mű humora: szövegben, játékban és – éppen nem mellesleg – zenében egyaránt.”
http://magyarnarancs.hu

“Under Lucky Stars”
This critic loved the production in every way possible, including the staging by Andras Alamai Toth, the singing of the entire cast, especially Rebecca Nelsen and Keith Browning, the quality of the musicians of Ensemble UMZE, and the music itself. The critic had a nice summary of my music as well, Let me copy it here, first just in Hungarian.

“A muzsika majd’ minden hangjából árad az amerikai Dél hangulatát megidéző couleur locale, de hiba lenne, ha csak ennyit jegyeznénk meg az igényes kompozícióról, mely (az utóbbi évek kortársopera-tendenciáival ellentétben) jóval több egyszer használatos alkalmazott zenénél: saját értékénél fogva is emlékezetünkbe vésődik, miközben híven festi a szöveg dramaturgiai fordulatait. A posztmodern jó szokásához híven bőven idéz különböző zenei stílusok eszköztárából, ám ezeket egységes keretbe foglalja – sosem támad az az érzésünk, hogy bármely hang is öncélúan került volna a partitúrába. Ez a határozott zeneszerzői egyéniség biztos ismertetőjegye.”

http://nepszava.hu

The FaceBook page of CAFe Budapest festival. There is an interview with me about Georgia Bottoms and about getting our of your comfort zone in general. Again, the interview is in Hungarian, but the “Day 3 of the Festival” video can be enjoyed without speaking this one of a kind language.
http://www.facebook.com/CAFeBudapestOfficial

Oh yes, and I did get to translate Mark Childress’ RAP lyrics for a newly added scene into Hungarian for the surtitles. I even made it rhyme. 🙂

The Season of Operas

On Monday we are starting the second week of ‘DialogScene’ workshop organized by the Peter Eötvös Contemporary Music Foundation. I will be moderating a “meet the audience” session in the evening.
http://www.bmc.hu
The final performance of the five brand new operas composed by young composers from all over the world, and directed by young Hungarian directors (music-theater directors’ class of Tamás Ascher) is open to the audience and will be held in the evening of Friday, September 15.
Click below for more details.
http://www.bmc.hu

When I am not teaching I am composing new music to my first opera, The Giant Baby. The world premiere will take place in Vienna as part of the 2018 Armel Opera Festival. I am having a lot of fun with totally re-writing the music to the slightly altered libretto based on the 1926 Dadaist play by Hungarian Author Tibor Déry.
https://www.britannica.com

Just so we stick to the theme of the fall of 2017, my latest stage work, ‘Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South’ will get a new production at the Academy of Music as part of CAFe Budapest (Contemporary Art Festival Budapest). Rebecca Nelsen, who sang the title role in Huntsville two years ago returns as Georgia. Also in the role of her son, Nathan I am happy to have the young and talented American baritone, Keith Browning from the original cast. Author of the novel, Georgia Bottoms, my co-librettist, Mark Childress (who will also be here for the Hungarian premiere) and I have added two completely new scenes and changed one of the old ones to make the story more complete. Changes were needed also to give a little resting time and more than a minute to change costumes for rebecca as Georgia Bottoms. The staging will be done by Andras Almasi Toth, and the other 9 roles will be sung by talented Hungarian singers, including Andrea Meláth, head of the Vocal Department of the Liszt Academy. Here are the dates for the performances:
October 8 and 10
and a link to the website of CAFe Budapest:
https://www.cafebudapest.hu

Music For Different Summers

Bartók: The Wooden Prince (complete ballet with live sand animation)
Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (performed with live dance)

I have started my summer by leading the conducting master-class with the rep above at the International Bartok Seminar and Festival. It was an honor to be a professor at this esteemed festival. John Cage, Gyorgy Ligeti and other world class musicians and composers have visited the Bartok Festival in small town Szombathely, Hungary back in the days. It was truly the place to be in the summer when I was a student. I myself have started there as a conductor student some 20 years ago, also have studied chamber music with Gyorgy Kurtág as a clarinetist.
This year I’ve had the honor to teach 10 active and a few passive students from all over the world. The closing concert was beautifully presented and very well attended.
After a short stop in Huntsville (there is always something to do when I am in town, and I did use my time wisely for business luncheons, meetings and planning) I have spent the last 10+ days in Portland, OR. I have taken on the role of Incoming Music Director of the Portland Festival Symphony in the last couple of years.

http://www.portlandfestivalsymphony.org

This wonderful organization has been providing free classical music for the Portland audience for over 35 years now. Playing live classical music in very different neighborhoods of the city for kids and adults is a fascinating and very rewarding mission. This year I have programmed overtures by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert along with my own piece “Rough and Ready, an American Outdoor Overture” composed directly for PFS and its outdoor concerts. The concert series ends today with an all strings concert.

I am ready for a brief vacation with my two sons, Balazs and Vince after this week. Well be spending our time in and around Huntsville, AL, and will be visiting the great city of New Orleans, too. After our annual “father and sons” vacation I will be flying to the Island of Jersey to start a hopefully long tradition of “Opera Island”. Armel Opera Festival is branching out and I am really excited about being part of this exciting new experiment. I will definitely post more about “Opera Island” at the end of this month. In the meantime, please check out the Jersey Opera House website for the Armel Festival program here:

http://www.www.jerseyoperahouse.co.uk

It sure feels like the extreme hot weather has been chasing me around. Hot and hotter weather in Szombathely, Budapest, Huntsville, and even in Portland (it was 109 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday, that’s over 42 degrees Celsius). Yet the character of Summer is still different at these very different places, so is the music I have been working on. I find the summer of 2017 striking a nice balance between time off and good work. And yes, there is always composition time whenever I can get it. The new version of my first opera, “The Giant Baby” is in the making. Premiere at the end of June, 2018.

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!

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!

Bartók’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 Bartók’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 Bartók Concerto. Needless to say, I am very particular about my Bartók. 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!

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

Jacques And Richard Without Words

We are ready for our next adventure this weekend. Huntsville Symphony presents “Wagner Without Words” at the Von Braun Center on Saturday evening. The stage will be packed with musicians and instruments including some unusual ones like 4 Wagner-tubas, bass trumpet, anvils (in reality they are different size brake drums and other pieces pf metal). We are going to have 4 (!) harps on stage as well. Conductor Lorin Maazel, encouraged by Wieland Wagner, grandson of the composer, created a symphonic synthesis of Richard Wagner’s famous “Ring Cycle”.
Maazel wanted to
ONE a free-flowing synthesis (no stopping in between scenes or operas) in a chronological order starting with the first notes of ‘Rheingold’ and finishing with the very end of ‘Götterdämmerung’
TWO the transitions between scenes must be musically flawless
THREE most of the parts of ‘The Ring’ originally written for orchestra alone (no voices) must be included
FOUR every note must be Wagner’s own

The end product is a 75 minute long gorgeous piece of music for a huge orchestra. It includes the most original and powerful musical moments of the entire cycle and presents Wagner’s orchestral writing at its best.
Going down the “without words” path I have selected two short pieces by Jacques Offenbach, ‘Intermezzo and Barcarole’ from ‘The Tales of Hoffmann’ and ‘Overture to Orpheus in the Underworld’ to make up the first half of the concert. It only takes about 20 minutes to play these two pieces, but then again we will make up for the length in the second half of the show.
Why put Offenbach’s
https://www.wikipedia.org
music with Wagner’s?
https://www.wikipedia.org

First, they were contemporaries.
Second, they were both highly successful and popular, and had a great sense of stage.

I believe, that putting ‘Can Can’ and ‘The Ride of the Valkyries’ on the same program makes for and entertaining yet thought provoking evening. If you like popular melodies and great orchestra playing do not miss this concert!

4000 Kids, 2200 Adults

Huntsville Symphony has just completed a very busy and extremely successful week with 6 concerts and 2 programs. We performed 4 Young People’s Concert and a Free Family Concert for about 4K children (most of the 4th Graders) and a few hundred adults. The latter one I like to call “Bring Your Grandma” concert, and indeed there were many families: grandkids, parents, grandparents alike. Mozart: Figaro Overture, Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto No.1, 1st Movement (played by the brilliant Sarah Han, the winner of the Guild’s Concerto Competition 2017) and James Stephenson’s genius “Compose Yourself” were on the program. Jim’s composition introduces the orchestra, its sections and its instruments to the audience in a set of variations. Before the Finale audience members get to pick and mix 3 different melodies, harmonies and rhythms to create their very own piece of music. I highly recommend “Compose Yourself” to any orchestra interested in a stylish, clever and fun piece of music that can do what Britten’s Young Persons’ Guide can and more! At the Free Family Show I also did a crash course in conducting for kids who were not shy coming on stage. They got to conduct the Mozart Overture with the Huntsville Symphony.
On Saturday evening the HSO had a sold out pops show comprised entirely of John Williams soundtracks. It was a demanding and highly satisfying concert for the orchestra and drew several standing ovations from the audience. Once (tops twice) a year I agree to play the clarinet in Huntsville to benefit the Symphony. I have performed quite a few great chamber music pieces in the past couple of seasons, and also the obligate clarinet solo in a Mozart aria when my Mom was here to sing an opera gala under my baton. This time I played the clarinet solo of Viktor’s Theme from the movie The Terminal. Viktor’s character —played by Tom Hanks in the movie— is especially close to me. We are talking about a man from an imaginary Eastern-European country who gets stuck in an airport terminal in the US and has to manage living there for a few weeks. Considering my crazy busy traveling schedule I do feel like I live in an airport sometimes.
More great music is on the way with the Huntsville Symphony in the next couple of weeks: Mendelssohn, Richard Strauss, Offenbach and Wagner.
Check out our website here:
https://www.hso.org