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.

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

In Between Enescu and Dvořak

Two World Premieres by Gregory Vajda were presented in between pieces by Enescu and Dvořak in about a two week time period.

Enescu: Romanian Rhapsody #1
Gregory Vajda: Clarinet Symphony
Dvořak: Symphony #8 in G

Enescu: Romanian Rhapsody #1
Gregory Vajda: Drums Drums Drums
Dvořak: Symphony #8 in G

As for the Enescu and the Dvořak I can’t remember “double dipping” a concert program like this for a long time, if ever. To tell you the truth it was not even planned this way at first. Mostly guest artists scheduling led to this situation, but in hindsight I don’t mind it at all. Having two new compositions of mine played for the first time in a short timeframe (and BTW almost exactly a year after the World Premiere of Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South) gave me a rare opportunity to get into my own music as a listener. Being the conductor of your own work does take away from being able to truly listen “from outside”. Performing music – your own or someone else’s – always comes with a lot of “on the ground” work and with having to fix small details as you go. To get the big picture, to listen and to judge a composition as a whole requires distance, both physical and mental. For some reason premiering two pieces (about 50 minutes of music all together) shed more light on musical problems (orchestration, tempi, form, etc.) and helped with finding solutions as well. This was definitely much better than having just one piece premiered and waiting for its next performance to occur.

There was also a third World Premiere just three days ago, a short duo for two violins entitled “Schnitte”. I wrote the duo at the request of the string players of the Hungarian Radio Symphony who wanted to play a new two-violin composition to precede Alfred Schnittke’s ‘Moz’Art á la Haydn’. They performed the piece “in stereo”, in front and in the back of the audience, and all in dark. Then during the last chord of “Schnitte” the first few contrabass notes of Schnittke’s music started. I think I managed to inject some “70s avant-garde sound” into my work that nicely prepared the audience for Schnittke. I hope to get a recording of the concert soon.

Here is a nice review of the Budapest (MUPA, Palace of the Arts) concert with many details about my Clarinet Symphony on the classical site backtrack.com
http://www.bachtrack.com

As for Drums Drums Drums, a concerto for timpani, drum-set, concert bass drum and orchestra I am looking forward to its next performance (including corrections based on the World Premiere performance with Scott Christian, Gergo Borlai, Sean Rittenauer and the Huntsville Symphony at the Van Braun Center) with the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra (Hessischer Rundfunk) in June 2017.

For now I am back to composing. This time it’s some fairy-tale music for an animated movie. Something completely different and a lot of fun.

We Are Children

On October 7 the jury of the New Hungarian Music Forum, after a live radio-broadcast orchestra concert, has made its decision. As the conductor of both the chamber ensemble and the orchestra concerts, and a member of the final jury I had the chance to work with all 7 young composers during the heavy workload rehearsal week. For me it was demanding and due to my dual role somewhat schizophrenic, too. It is definitely not easy to put on a concert by doing everything you can to make young composers compositions sound the best and judge them at the same time. The musicians of the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra along with our one soloist, Gabor Czaban Hungarian beat boxer did an amazing job.

Here are the results:

Chamber Ensemble Compostions:
1st Prize: MÁTÉ BALOGH – Melodiemusik
2nd Prize: ALESSIO ELIA – Disappearing Rainbows
3rd Prize: MARCELL DARGAY – Monument of the Immortal Immigrant
and (!)
LÁSZLÓ SÁNDOR – Divertimento – Giuoco dei suoni

Based on the Jury’s unanimous decision there was no first prize awarded in the orchestral round. The money was evenly distributed between the split prize winners.

Symphony Orchestra Compositions:
1st prize: –
2nd Prize: MÁTÉ BALOGH – Quintet and ANDREJ SLEZÁK – inSpiral
3rd Prize:GYULA BÁNKÖVI – Greenlight-garden Night

MÁTÉ BALOGH was the winner of special prizes by the International Eötvös Institute for Contemporary Music, Editio Musica Budapest and the Danubia Symphony Orchestra.
GYULA BÁNKÖVI won the special prize of the palace of Arts Budapest (MUPA)
MARCELL DARGAY and ANDREJ SLEZÁK received a 1.000.000 Hungarian Forints value press portfolio each from fidelio.hu

More info in Hungarian here:
http://fidelio.hu

On October 9 & 11 at the Solti Hall of the Liszt Academy of Music I conducted the new version of ‘Spring Awakening’, a one act opera by Mate Bella. With the beautiful and very expressive staging of Andras Almasi Toth, and the great singing of young singers with the accompaniment of the UMZE Ensemble this opera was an instant success. The music is modern but definitely expressive and audience friendly in the best possible way.
Read details about the production:
http://cafebudapestfest.hu

On Saturday, October 17 amazing cimbalom player, Miklos Lukacs and Thrensemble will be performing a concert under my direction at the Budapest Music Center. On there program: compositions by Igor Stravinsky, Peter Eotvos and Kornel Fekete Kovacs. After the concert we’ll be staying at the concert hall to make the world premiere recording of Peter Eötvös’ piece called ‘da capo’ for cimbalom and ensemble for future release by the BMC label.

For further information on the concert in English click here:
http://bmc.hu

‘We Are Children’ is the title and the theme of the 2015-16 season of the Obuda Danubia Symphony. I was invited to conduct the second subscription concert of their classical series called ‘GAME’ at the grand hall of the Liszt Academy on Tuesday, October 20. I had my third rehearsal with the orchestra this morning and I am already having a lot of fun.
About the program:
http://odz.hu

With Stravinsky, Ligeti, Dohnanyi and Milhaud to conduct I am most definitely GAME! 🙂 Music is PLAYING (both in English and in Hungarian you PLAY when you make music) in the most noble sense of the word. If you make or just enjoy art in any form you preserve something of your inner child. Being able to do just that is a true gift of life.

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.

Queen Of The Night and Private View

Tonight we concluded the 2015 Armel Opera Festival in Budapest, Hungary with two one act operas performed by the Josef Kajetán Tyl Theater (Plzeň,Czech Republic). The international jury Esther Lehoczky, Commissioning Editor of the Arts Department of Arte TV, Henry Little, Chief Executive of Orchestras Live, Dieter Kaegi, General Director of Theater and Orchestra of Biel-Solothurn-Bienne/Soleur, Kjell Englund, Managing and Artistic Director of Norrlandsoperan, Umea, Sweden and myself decided on Best Performance and Best Singer of this year’s festival.
French soprano Marlène Assayag won Best Singer Award for her performance in The Magic Flute directed by Robert Alfoldi.
Best Performance Awared went to: Van Parys: Private View performed by Muziektheater Transparant (Antwerpen, Belgium), directed by Tom Creed.
The Jury decided to give a Special Award to Pannon Philharmonic for their outstanding work in Donizetti’s The Siege of Calais and in Van Parys: Private View.

Everyone can cast a vote online for one production during the next four weeks.
Click here:
http://concert.arte.tv/fr/search/site/armel
The production that gets the most votes from the audience will be presented a prize once the voting ends. Please consider watching this years performances and voting for the one you think is the best!

May, The Month Of Bells

Two concerts with Symphony Silicon Valley this weekend, one down one more to go. On the program:
Tchaikovsky: Romeo and Juliet Overture Fantasy
Debussy: Nocturnes
Rachmaninov: The Bells
http://symphonysiliconvalley.org
This is my second time conducting Rachmaninov’s “choral symphony”. Here is my blogpost from 2013 about my performance with the Hungarian Radio Symphony with an “all about bells” theme:
http://gregoryvajda.com
The sound of the famous “Russian Bells” of course can be found in Tchaikovsky’s Overture Fantasy as well, and also in the delicate sounds of Debussy’s mezmerising Nocturnes, with female voices added to the mix of the orchestra timbres.
More bells for me in the coming weeks. In between rehearsals and performances I spent most of my time in my hotel room while in San Jose, CA. Let me tell you, I was missing out on some beautiful weather. I spent several hours preparing my score and making additional cuts to Busoni’s opera, Doctor Faust. Two semi-staged performances are coming up at the Budapest Opera. The entire opera starts with the sound of Easter Bells and ends with the sound of more bells accompanying the strange and actually pretty blasphemous apotheosis of Dr. Faust.
http://opera.hu
I am happy to have some of my Huntsville friends in Budapest for the second performance. They will be on a cruise ship on the Danube and will be stopping by in Budapest just in time to see me conduct Doktor Faust. I am looking forward to showing them around in my hometown and to spend some fun times together in my neck of the woods.

The Bad, The Good and The Great

The GOOD news: tomorrow (Friday) Amadinda Percussion Ensemble and the Hungarian Radio Symphony is going to play an awesome concert under my direction.
http://mupa.hu
The concert will be broadcast live on the radio and can be listened to here
http://mediaklikk.hu
The broadcast starts at 1:35PM EST.
The BAD news: we won’t be premiering my piece, ‘Drums Drums Drums’.
The GOOD news: I will have a chance to do the World Premiere of ‘Drums Drums Drums’ in Huntsville one year to the date of tomorrow’s concert. I will keep you posted on Saturday, February 13, 2016!
The GREAT news: USA Today picked up on Georgia Bottoms and made it the News of the Day from Alabama (2 days ago)
Here is a FaceBook post about the USA Today preview
http://facebook.com
And here is the complete story on AL.COM
http://AL.com
Stay tuned for more Georgia Bottoms news!

The Tenor Is Dead

Starting rehearsals tomorrow for the season opening production of the Erkel Theater. This theater -named after the famous and pretty much the only Hungarian romantic opera composer, Ferenc Erkel
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferenc_Erkel
– was built in the 1910s and just recently reopened after a quick refurbishing after being closed to the public for a couple of years. What is Erkel Theater? This venue was built to serve the “Volksoper” idea: opera and ballet for the masses for affordable prices. Although the idea of having this theater under separate management has come up multiple times in the past decades, since the 50s it has always been and now for sure remains under the management of the Hungarian State Opera. Just imagine City Opera under the management of the Metropolitan Opera with a different repertoire and cheap tickets. It is not such a far fetched idea any more now, is it?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erkel_Theatre
The Tenor, a comic opera by Ernst von Dohnanyi
http://www.zti.hu/mza-dohnanyi/
is the only musical theater piece I know to start with the death of the tenor. No, I mean it actually starts with the funeral of Tenor 1 of a barbershop quartet (or rather the German equivalent of this type of ensemble). The quartet now has only three singers and they are in trouble. They need to get ready for the annual singing contest. They are in dire need of a replacement singer and there is only one guy in town with a great tenor voice. He is called Schippel (funny names are all around in this opera) and he is the flutist of the local orchestra. The problem is, that Schippel is a poor fellow. He has no money, no manners. He is drinking a lot and has a potty mouth. This is of course totally fiction… Our actual singers all are well educated and well behaved. 🙂 In any case the initial conflict here is that the well off middle class members of the ensemble -just like the daughter and the wife of the bass singer- do not want to socialize with the flute player/tenor. He is wanted for his voice but is not welcome in their social circles. Since there is no opera without a love triangle soon another conflict arises. The Prince who has fallen off his horse nearby arrives to the house. He falls for Thekla, daughter of Mr. Hicketier (his name means “Hickupman”) and so does Schippel…, and so does Krey who sings Tenor 2 in the quartet. So this is actually a “ménage a quatre”. I think you get it now how much sitcom there is here.
I will post more about the story and the production.
Stay tuned!
Opening performance on September 14, 2014.

Just how much tenors are well and alive here is a snippet of information about my new composition, Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South. I managed to write not one, not two but three tenor roles.
Rev. Eugene Hendrix: Christopher Pfund
http://www.christopherpfund.com/
Dr. Ted Horn/ Officer Lester: Daniel Weeks
http://www.tenorweeks.com
Sheriff Bill: Ron Roberts
http://www.thesingerlink.com/profile/RonRoberts

Talking (again) about Georgia… Author of the book and fellow librettist
Mark Childress
http://www.crazyinalabama.com
and soprano extraordinaire Rebecca Nelsen
http://rebeccanelsen.eu
visited Huntsville, AL on August 9&10 and helped the Huntsville Symphony and myself to start the fundraising process. The events (two house parties) were a huge hit and a great start to secure funding for Georgia Bottoms, The Opera. There is now a button on the Huntsville Symphony website where you can directly contribute to help us with our goal. Mark Childress has set up a fun FaceBook page as well. If you LIKE the page you will get updated information about the production and more and more fun facts, videos and interesting details of the production as we approach the premiere.
http://www.hso.org
https://www.facebook.com/GeorgiaBottomsTheOpera
There is no contribution too little and every LIKE counts! Join us and stay tuned! Keep the tenors alive!

8+1+1/2 Operas

The next year (this time I mean 365 days and not “next season”) is about to bring 8+1+1/2 operas. Let’s start with the +1. After the successful recording session and Hungarian premiere performance of Peter Eotvos’
Paradise Reloaded (Lilith)
http://eotvospeter.com
the composer, myself and the amazing sound engineers of the Hungarian Radio have just concluded the final editing of the studio recording of this work. This hopefully means that a commercial recording of the work will be out soon, most likely with the BMC (Budapest Music Center) label. A professional TV recording of the live performance at the Palace of the Arts will also be aired on TV sometimes in 2014. I will keep you posted.
The “half opera” is in fact an adaptation of the newest music theater work by Peter Eotvos. The world premiere is just happening at the end of June in Frankfurt, Germany. The opera is called ‘The Golden Dragon’
http://eotvospeter.com/commissions
and it is based on a play by famous writer, playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig. I’ll be doing the English language adaptation of this work originally written in German. This involves adapting the text to the music (I’ll be working from the official English language translation + a raw translation of the libretto) and also doing some compositional work in case it is needed.

In the next two weeks I’ll be working with one of the professional orchestras of the city of Budapest called Concerto Budapest.
http://en.concertobudapest.hu
They reside at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music where we will be performing 5 chamber operas under the title “Operatic Sketches”. One of the works is entitled Roman Fever and was written by the head of the Composition Department, Gyula Fekete.
http://www.bmc.hu
The other four works are world premieres composed by students, sung by students of the Academy of Music. The stage director is my good friend (and writer of the libretto of my one act opera, Barbie Blue) Andras Almasi Toth.
More info here:
Operatic Sketches
http://zeneakademia.hu/en

In September 2014 I’ll be the conductor of the new fully staged production of ‘The Tenor’ by Ernest von Dohnanyi. This will be the first staging of this work since the 1930s and the season opening production of Erkel Theater. Another production I am doing at the Academy of Music is, guess what, yet another Eotvos opera. 🙂 A combined group of professional and student musicians and singers and myself are presenting ‘Lady Sarashina’
http://www.eotvospeter.com
as the closing performance of Cafe Budapest (Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival) in October, 2014. This will be the fifth Eotvos stage work I conduct.
In May 2015 I am conducting a shortened version of Ferrucio Busoni’s opera, Doctor Faust
http://en.wikipedia.org
as part of the “Faust Festival” at the Hungarian State Opera.

And finally “opera #8” and obviously the most exciting challenge for me in Season 14-15 is the World Premier of my own work
Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South
Naturally I will be posting a lot about this project. For now here is a link to the book ‘Georgia Bottoms’
Mark Childress
http://www.crazyinalabama.com

You may also look up and LIKE the page ‘Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South’ on FaceBook.