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.

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!

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.

Mozart in the Looney Bin

I am about to take another brief break from Eötvös and Bartók, and take a short trip to London to conduct Mozart’s Magic Flute with the staging of Róbert Alföldi
http://alfoldirobert.eu
as part of the Armel Opera Festival Days at the Hackney Empire Theater.
This is going to be my London debut.
The director has placed Mozart’s magical opera-characters between the walls of a mental institution, where everybody has his or her own mental issue. Magically (pun intended) this idea works really well and highlights some of the more interesting twists and turns of the original story. Just think about it for a second: who is the bad guy here? Is it really the Queen of the Night or is it Sarastro? Is everything black and white like we would like it to be?

Check out the full Armel program at the Hackney Empire here including the ‘In Memory of 1956’ concert program on October 23 conducted by Adam Fischer
http://hackneyempire.co.uk

Le Lanaudière. Portland Festival Symphony. Sziget: Island of Freedom.

On July 9, after about 8 years, I conducted the Lanaudière Festival Orchestra again. It was great to return to conduct these amazing musicians, to collaborate with Alain Lefèvre on the piano
http://wikipedia.org
and to enjoy the ambiance of the amphitheater in Joliette, Quebec. Our program was the opening performance of the Lanaudière Festival 2016, an exciting mix of pieces by Tchaikovsky and Respighi.
http://lanaudiere.org
The rehearsals were held downtown Montréal, which gave me a chance to enjoy the Montréal Jazz Festival programs every evening and also to revisit some of my favorite places in one of my favorite cities ever.

After enjoying a brief family vacation my summer season continues with free park concerts in Portland Oregon. Lajos Balogh and I share the concerts this year starting today at Cathedral Park. Tomorrow (Sunday) there will be an all brass program presented at Laurelhurst Park. More symphonic and string concerts to come next weekend and the weekend after. Check out this year’s programs!
http://portlandfestivalsymphony.org

Based on popular demand Armel Opera Festival is presenting a fun 2 hour program every day at the famous Sziget Festival again this year. Scenes from Mozart’s The Magic Flute (staging by Róbert Alföldi), contemporary music improvisation with audience participation, symphonic world music with Hungarian stars, and a live crash course in orchestra conducting will be on the menu. Come and join us in August!
http://szigetfestival.com

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!

Grand Opera, 20th Century Classics and New Music

First performance of Verdi’s Don Carlo went well on Friday. I am ready for the second one tonight, and two more in the next two weeks (Nov 28, December 5). What a truly grand work full of unparalleled beauty and endless inventions!
In the meantime UMZE Chamber Ensemble and myself have been preparing for our Monday evening concert at the Budapest Music Center.
I programmed pieces by Hungarian composers living abroad along with 20th Century classics for ensemble.

Pierre Boulez: Dérive 1
Bálint Karosi: Ciaccona (Hungarian premiere)
Bálint Karosi: Sanguine (Hungarian premiere)
Claude Debussy: Brouillards – (Préludes II/1)
András Hamary: Brouillards – Three Movement to the Prelude of Claude Debussy (Hungarian premiere)

András Hamary: Hommage à Janáček for piano (for right hand) and winds (Hungarian premiere)
Leos Janáček: Capriccio for piano (for left hand) and winds

The two Hamary http://www.hamary.de compositions are clear homages to Debussy and Janáček, and are full of strong, simple and original musical ideas. Ciaccona by Karosi http://www.karosi.org is a inventive take on Boulez’s Dérive 1 while his Sanguine is a fun and virtuoso ensemble piece.

Peter Kiss will be the soloist for both the Janáček Capriccio and Hamary’s ‘Hommage à Janáček’ and he will be playing the original piano prelude by Debussy as well.
http://kisspeterpianist.hu

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

#6-Misi-#6

Tomorrow is the day of two concerts opening the new chamber orchestra series of the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra at the Budapest Music Center.
The first number on the show is the delightful Symphony #6, “The Morning” by Joseph Haydn. The humor and elegance of Haydn’s music always amazes me. This symphony also has a hidden violin concerto in it. It is scary how much Mozart owes to Haydn for his own violin concertos! In the slow movement the solo violin and the solo cello play an amazing duet, a variation on a Minuet-like theme. Sounds just like a Mozart violin concerto, I am telling you! In the first and the last movement the solo flute gets a lot of great music to play. What fun!
Watch this YouTube video to meet my soloist, Misi Boros! He is 11 years old and has the soul of a seasoned musician. I am not keen on child prodigies but Misi is something else. He is not only talented but also a fun and funny, intelligent human being.
http://youtube.com
For the major piece on the program I picked Beethoven’s Symphony #6, “Pastorale”. We are playing this “war horse” with a relatively small orchestra to match the space of the BMC concert hall. This decision gives me an opportunity to work on details that mostly get lost in a big orchestral setting. The end result is: lots of fun chamber music details in a very Haydn-esque Pastorale Symphony. Beethoven had his sense of humor, too!

Armel Opera Competition and Festival 2015

I feel really fortunate that I got to spend the last 10+ days in the U.S. It is always amazing to witness historic changes real time. No matter what your opinion is on the three decisions made by SCOTUS, I am sure you all agree that they qualify most definitely for a historic event.
When not following history in the making I spent my time writing Clarinet Symphony for the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and making sketches for a libretto for a possible new opera.

This week I am back in Hungary. I am honored to be on the Jury of the Final Competition of Armel Festival.
http://armelfestival.org/en/
Five performances from five countries with five you singers in competition roles. The festival starts with The Magic Flute directed by Robert Alfoldi.
http://wikipedia.org
The performance is officially sold out. You can all watch it live on MEZZO TV
http://concert.arte.tv/fr

and you can also vote on your favorite performance after watching all of them. You might be able to catch an interview with me in one of the intermissions.
Stay tuned for more posts on Armel 2015!