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!

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

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!

Down The Rabbit Hole 2016

“Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next.”
[Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland]

Down The Rabbit Hole goes 2016. It has been a strange year. We are all falling very slowly and wondering what happens next. Many losses, sad farewells, strange and unexpected twists and turns, and lots of great achievements, adventures, fun and happiness, too. Somehow everyone seems to think that Fate goes by calendar year, and things are going to change for the better on January 1. I am afraid it is not the that simple. Without trying to be too melodramatic I’d say: 2017 is going to be a year of “whatever we make of it”. Remember, we all signed up for a wild ride anyway! 🙂

Why the Alice quote? Well first of all I —like so many of you— admire Carroll’s Alice books. Ever since I first read them characters and quotes keep popping up in my head. Somehow they are always relevant. Lewis Carrol managed to write a truly entertaining encyclopedia of Nonsense, otherwise known as Life. After composing, premiering and recording my Clarinet Symphony in 2015-16 I was ready to create another major work for clarinet, this time a quintet with string quartet. I teamed up with the amazing Farallon Quintet in San Francisco to bring “Alice Etudes” to life. Read about the piece, the World Premiere performance and the GoFundMe campaign here:
https://www.gofundme.com/AliceEtudes
Yes, you got that right: no Year End without a fundraising pitch! 🙂 The Farallon Quintet and I are trying this for the first time. I hope You can all pitch in and help us make this happen in the New Year!

My last concert of 2016 was on December 14 with the Hungarian Radio Symphony at the Liszt Academy in Budapest. It was an all Saint-Saëns program (lots to discover there!). Andrea Vigh played the harp, and Istvan Vardai played the cello. The latter instrument is the famous Du Préz-Harrel Stradivarius cello which Istvan played for the first time in a live concert after receiving it for permanent lease. It was truly a once in a life time performance: amazing instrument, great musicianship, and first and foremost lots of fun playing real chamber music on an orchestral level. It made me happy to be the part of this performance!

As I am wrapping up the year by celebrating my younger son, Vince’s Birthday on the 29th, and New Year’s Eve with both of my sons Balázs (16) and Vince (14) in the meantime there is a lot of planning and preparing to do. If it is up to me 2017 is going to be one great year!

Whatever is ahead just remember: “It is a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.” Also, at the end: “it really IS a kitten, after all.”

Happy New Year!

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-Bartók 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)
Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra
(Encores: Brahms Hungarian Dance No.1 and Berlioz Rakóczi 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.