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

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!

Sudden and Light

‘What do you make so fair and bright?’

‘I make the cloak of Sorrow:
O lovely to see in all men’s sight
Shall be the cloak of Sorrow,
In all men’s sight.’

‘What do you build with sails for flight?’

‘I build a boat for Sorrow:
O swift on the seas all day and night
Saileth the rover Sorrow,
All day and night.’

What do you weave with wool so white?’

‘I weave the shoes of Sorrow:
Soundless shall be the footfall light
In all men’s ears of Sorrow,
Sudden and light.’

The poem above is by Yeats and it provides the lyrics to my orchestral song composed for my next concert in Budapest. On Tuesday at the helm of the Hungarian Radio Symphony I conduct a program of the following compositions:

Haydn: Farewell Symphony
R. Strauss: Morgen!

Haydn: The Desert Island (L’isola disabitata) Overture
G. Vajda: The Cloak, The Boat and The Shoes [World Premiere]
R. Strauss: Four Last Songs

The concert program is designed as an homage to Jozsef Vajda, my late father who has passed this February at the age of 68. He served as the principal bassoonist of the Radio Symphony for 28 years. It is an honor to be able to present a concert in his memory as part of the Liszt Academy concert series of the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

The program revolves around the gesture of ‘farewell’ and includes pieces I have heard my Father play several times (like the Haydn Symphony). The wonderful Eva Batori will be singing the soprano part for all the songs. Please listen to the concert live or stream it for two weeks after the concert at:
http://mediaklikk.hu

Read a great analysis here about the Yeats poem I put into music in my “Lullaby for Soprano and Orchestra”:
http://stuffjeffreads.wordpress.com

Conduct Me!

Just got home from an hour long live radio interview at Klub Radio. I spoke about the past, about Hungary and the U.S., about conducting, playing the clarinet and composition.
I got to speak about Peter Eötvös
http://eotvospeter.com
the Huntsville Symphony
http://hso.org
the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
http://mrze.hu
and first and foremost about the Armel Opera Festival.
http://armelfestival.org
If you happen to speak or at least understand Hungarian, you are welcome to listen to the show online here 🙂
http://klubradio.hu
The show is called ‘Örömzene’ which translates as “jam session for fun”.
The last segment of the interview was all about the two hour daily program of the Armel Opera Festival in the frame of the the Sziget Festival
http://szigetfestival.com
the biggest rock-pop music summer festival in Central Europe.
Starting tomorrow the Armel Opera Festival presents a two hour long fun and interactive musical program including a series of “Opera Sitcom” performed by the students of the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, directed by Andras Almasi Toth. I’ll be leading the audience in an interesting improvisation exercise based on a composition by Peter Eötvös called “Triangel”. Audience members will be distributed triangles of all shapes and sizes and I will play along with me, also hitting three different size triangles wherever I can. The program ends with ‘Conduct Me!’ where brave audience members can get a crash course in conducting from me and get in front of the orchestra and singers and conduct live. On the rep: Aria of The Queen of the Night, Brindisi by Verdi, Prelude and Habanera from Carmen.
I am looking forward to the challenge of engaging audiences that are not necessarily familiar with classical music and opera and make them realize how much fun it actually is to discover Mozart and even contemporary classical music for yourself. I am also happy to share the same island (on river Danube) with several thousand of music lovers and artists like Robbie Williams, the Gogol Bordello or Mariza.

Georgia’s beating the drums

I often get the question from people following my ever busy conducting schedule: “When do you have time to compose?” In my usual sarcastic Eastern-European way I usually respond with: “Never.” But seriously it is always Gustav Mahler that comes to mind. (Strictly in the sense of comparing busy schedules and not putting myself on the same pedestal.) He could only compose during summer breaks because his opera music director duties were extremely busy during the season. (Then there is the famous story of loud cow bells disturbing him so much then he put their sound into his symphonies. This is how distraction becomes inspiration.)
In any case, summers have always been the time for composing. After ending my 13-14 season a few weeks ago [now take a quick look to the right and read the outline of season 14-15!] I am now busy with finishing Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South. It is going to be a three act opera, 80-90 minutes total, for 11 singers and 19 musicians. The story is based on the 2011 novel of well-known American writer, Mark Childress.
https://www.amazon.com/Georgia-Bottoms
Just like with movies, I suggest you first read the book (also available on Kindle and on iTunes as an audio book) then come and see/ listen to Georgia Bottoms The Opera.
Also don’t forget to visit and LIKE our production page on FaceBook
https://www.facebook.com/GeorgiaBottomsTheOpera
Right after finishing Georgia I will be diving into composing a triple concerto for three percussion players and orchestra. The piece, called ‘Drums Drums Drums’ is dedicated to and will be performed by Zoltan Racz and Aurel Hollo
http://www.amadinda.com
and the amazing drum-set player Gergo Borlai
http://www.drummerworld.com/drummers/
The World Premiere of ‘Drums Drums Drums’ will happen as part of the “Amadinda 30” concert series at Palace of the Arts, Budapest, in February 2015, just a week or so after the Huntsville permiere of Georgia Bottoms.
I will keep you posted on the developments. Now back to composing.