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:

And this…
Come on Ladies and Gentlemen, somebody please push this over the finish line! ūüėČ

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, J√°nos Kov√°cs was hospitalized. I agreed to step in after my E√∂tv√∂s-Bart√≥k 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 ‚ÄúCultural Capital of Europe, Wroclaw 2016″, and we hit the ground running with the following program:

Kod√°ly: Dances of Gal√°nta
Liszt: Piano Concerto No.1 (D√°vid B√°ll -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!

This orchestra tour was part of the Hungarian Season in Poland commemorating the 1956 Revolution. Originally Zolt√°n 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.

Hold Us Up Against Our Sins

‘Father in Heaven!
Hold not our sins up against us
But hold us up against our sins,
So that the thought of Thee should not remind us
Of what we have committed,
But of what Thou didst forgive;
Not how we went astray,
But how Thou didst save us!’

These are the final words of the cantata, “Prayers of Kierkegaard” by Samuel Barber. This piece was started by the composer in 1942, and was finished in 1945 (one of many pieces of art whose birth was delayed by World War II). To my knowledge it has never been performed in Hungary before. If you know otherwise, please send me an email via my website! I paired Barber’s work with one of Zolt√°n Kod√°ly’s greatest compositions, “Psalmus Hungaricus” (Hungarian Psalm) for tenor solo, children’s choir, chorus and orchestra. There are some amazing musical similarities between these two cantatas. I am wondering if Barber knew or knew of Kod√°ly’s composition, since Psalmus Hungaricus was premiered in 1923 and by the 40s Kod√°ly was a famous and well respected composer all over the world. In any case, ‘Prayers of Kierkegaard’ does sound a bit like an homage to ‘Psalmus’, and Kierkegaard’s intimate and very personal prayers do bring the words of poet-preacher Mih√°ly Kecskem√©ti V√©g to mind. The latter words are from the 1600s. They are a typical example of the practice of interspersing a translation of a psalm (Psalm 55) and touching lamentations that express personal grief and sorrow.
Luther’s original hymn, “Ein feste Burg” (A Mighty Fortress is Our God) completes our Protestant musical journey in an original orchestral setting by Mendelssohn as part of his Symphony #5. The “Reformation Symphony” occupies the entire first half of the concert this Wednesday evening at the Liszt Academy of music with the Children’s Choir, Chorus and Symphony Orchestra of the Hungarian Radio Symphony. Ildik√≥ Szak√°cs and Gyula Rab will sing the solo parts in the second half.

Kodaly in The Cold

When 10 ys ago I first conducted the Calgary Philharmonic we played an unusual program: Arvo Part: If Bach Were a Beekeper, Poulenc: Gloria, Gorecki: Third Symphony. I remember all of it. It is interesting to me, too how much I remember of musicians, the hall, downtown restaurants and many more things. A brief interruption aside (got rerouted by Delta which enabled me to get here on time but left my luggage in Minneapolis) I had a nice trip from Huntsville, AL. First time ever I used the on board internet service and got a lot of work done (mostly planning next season and working on programming, answering interview questions via email and other fun stuff), so overall it was good.
This time I get to conduct an entire ‚ÄúHungarian‚ÄĚ program, including Brahms Hungarian Dances, Liszt Rhapsody #2 and Totentanz, Weber: Introduction and Hungarian Rondo (Yes, I have two soloists for this concert, one on the piano, one on the bassoon), Kodaly Galanta Dances and Dohnanyi Symphonic Minutes. Great orchestra, fun program and we are expecting a good size audience.
But here is the thing with Canadian orchestras‚Ķ For some reason Toronto Symphony, Montreal Opera, the orchestras of Edmonton, Winnipeg and Kitchener Waterloo almost always invite me in the beginning, middle or the end of the coldest Canadian winter. Not complaining, just saying! ‚ėļ

See the website of the Calgary Philharmonic here with details about the upcoming concerts:

PS: OK, just to be fair, the sun came out this morning, the weather is sunny and fresh, Weatherman says the temperature will rise as high as 9 Degrees Celsius by tomorrow

Banjo And Paradise

Happy New Year Everyone! I am looking forward to an extremely busy January. My year starts with a historical concert. The “Bela Fleck Banjo Concerto” show with the Huntsville Symphony marks the highest ever single ticket sales for a classical series concert in the history of the orchestra. We are 80 some tickets short of a sell out (we’ve got one more day to go) and we are expecting a great crowd for the Saturday morning open dress rehearsal. On the program (all kind of “folk music-inspired” pieces)
Zoltan Kodaly: Variations on a Hungarian Folk Song (“The Peacock”)
Aaron Copland: El Salon Mexico
Bela Fleck: The Impostor (Concerto for Banjo and Orchestra)

Go to Bela’s website to see and hear some of the concerto (recorded with the Nashville Symphony)

I am sure the audience is going to stick around for some more of Bela’s solo banjo playing at the end of the concert! Well, yes, and I am glad that the same audience is going to have the chance to listen to Kodaly and Copland.

Right after the concert I am leaving for Budapest, Hungary to dive into an exciting new opera-project. Peter Eotvos (I wrote about him and his 70th Birthday earlier) wrote an opera called Paradise Reloaded (Lilith) which was premiered in Vienna, Austria in October 2013. With the cooperation of MTVA (the mother company of the Hungarian Radio Symphony) and The Palace of The Arts (MUPA) in Budapest we are presenting the Hungarian premiere of the opera as part of the so called “Mini Festival” on January 23. Before the staged performance I get to be the conductor of the first ever studio recording of the opera (sung in German). The story is about Lilith, first wife of Adam (yes, an apocryphal story from biblical times) and the Journey of Adam, Eve with the help of Lucifer. More info here:

Finnish Depression vs. Hungarian Sadness

Well, it is not really “vs.” rather a nicely balanced program including Bartok: Hungarian Sketches, Sibelius Violin Concerto and Finlandia, and Kodaly: Peacock Variations. I hear it often in the US how Finns and Hungarians are related. I am always asked to tell more about this topic. Indeed there are links between the two (very unique) languages and even some similarities between the cultures. The latter one however I think is the product of history and the turmoil both nations had to go through to become and stay independent. As for the language relation here are some example, first in Finnish, then Hungarian and in English.
menna = megy = go(es)
kasi = kez = hand
kala = hal = fish
There are undeniable similarities here. On the other hand I could only talk to a Finnish person in English. Believe me, I tried.
What about similarities in music? I believe that the program above (my debut concert with the Phoenix Symphony) is a great way to compare three great 20th Century composers, especially these three. Bartok, Kodaly and Sibelius were all influenced by the folk music of their homeland and they all managed to incorporate folk tradition into Western classical music.
When one listens to Sibelius’ powerful Finlandia and the lush melodies of the violin concerto it is easy to understand the “Finnish Soul”. Same thing with Bartok and the way -as we say- “Hungarian are crying as they are partying” (“having fun” in other words). As for “Depression vs. Sadness” goes, it is of course just another catchy title for a blog post. Yet the dark sounds and colors of Sibelius’ music are similar to that of Kodaly’s and Bartok’s. If you know the pieces you know what I am talking about. If you are not familiar with the compositions I am conducting this week, please do check them out!
Here is the website of this week’s violin virtuoso (I had the pleasure to perform Corigliano’s Red Violin Concerto with him a couple of years ago)
Phillipe Quint

International Bartok Festival Opening Concert

The last concert of the season for me is coming up at the International Bartok Festival in Szombathely, Hungary.
As a clarinet- and later as a conductor-student I have participated many times at the master courses of this signature new music festival. It was here about 20 years ago when I first met Peter Eotvos.
I also studied with Gyorgy Kurtag here and listened to lectures of Gyorgy Ligeti.
I was invited as a professor of the conducting master course in 2009 and this summer I am doing the opening concert of the festival with the Savaria Symphony Orchestra as a guest conductor. Live concert broadcast by the Hungarian Radio can be streamed here:

Bartok: Wooden Prince Suite
Ligeti: Mysteries of the Macabre (Bence Horvath -trumpet)
Eotvos: Cello Concerto Grosso (Miklos Perenyi -cello)
Kodaly: Hary Janos Suite

More information about the program of the festival is available here: