Georgia Bottoms in Budapest, Interviews, Reviews, Videos

A pretty long, exhausting and fun period is over. Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South had a new, Hungarian production in the frame of CAFe (Contemporary Art Festival) Budapest at the Liszt Academy. The production was a success, the audience loved it and so far the critics had a positive opinion as well. I am glad, that this 85 minute long, one act chamber opera made quite a few people among Hungarian intellectuals to go online and buy Mark Childress’ original novel, Georgia Bottoms. The book deserves attention, and a great translation for the European and Hungarian market. Luckily, many of the intellectuals interested in my art can speak and read English. They all bought the book here, and you should, too!
http://www.amazon.com

Unfortunately however, – this is what happens when a country has a language that nobody else is speaking,- all the interviews and reviews below are in Hungarian. This time being a Hungarian has an advantage: you get way more info about the opera, the production and you can also read about many other topics that came up in the interviews in the original language. I translated a couple of things below for my English speaking friends, and I can promise you that no music-lover will be left behind. I am in the process of translating a selection of the interviews and posting them online as soon as I can. In the meantime, enjoy what you can by clicking on the links below!

Let’s start with a really well translated interview with Rebecca Nelsen, who has been doing Georgia Bottoms’ role for the second time in two years. I myself have learned a couple of interesting, new things about what it’s like to be a woman in the South.
“The Era of Just Standing And Singing Is Over”
http://www.fidelio.hu

By clicking on the link below you can read the very first (posted just a couple of hours after the Sunday premiere) instant feedback by a local theater/ music-theater blogger. She will be posting more about Georgia Bottoms, once the entire CAFe Budapest Festival is over.
http://www.mezeinezo.hu

Here are three interviews with me, mostly about Georgia Bottoms, but also about teaching, conducting and politics.
“When A Chord Sounds That Can Feel Really Good”
http://www.operavilag.net

“I Want to Write Music I’ve Never Heard Before”
http://www.theater.hu

“Constant Failures Mean The System Is Working”
http://www.papageno.hu

“You Cannot Put 9-11 Into Music” (interview) + “Bittersweet Georgia” (review)
These articles will be available for free soon via the website link below.
According to this review my music is from the Deep South 🙂 The critic loved the humor of the opera in text, in music and in staging as well/ “…a múlt vasárnapi bemutatón átütővé vált a mű humora: szövegben, játékban és – éppen nem mellesleg – zenében egyaránt.”
http://magyarnarancs.hu

“Under Lucky Stars”
This critic loved the production in every way possible, including the staging by Andras Alamai Toth, the singing of the entire cast, especially Rebecca Nelsen and Keith Browning, the quality of the musicians of Ensemble UMZE, and the music itself. The critic had a nice summary of my music as well, Let me copy it here, first just in Hungarian.

“A muzsika majd’ minden hangjából árad az amerikai Dél hangulatát megidéző couleur locale, de hiba lenne, ha csak ennyit jegyeznénk meg az igényes kompozícióról, mely (az utóbbi évek kortársopera-tendenciáival ellentétben) jóval több egyszer használatos alkalmazott zenénél: saját értékénél fogva is emlékezetünkbe vésődik, miközben híven festi a szöveg dramaturgiai fordulatait. A posztmodern jó szokásához híven bőven idéz különböző zenei stílusok eszköztárából, ám ezeket egységes keretbe foglalja – sosem támad az az érzésünk, hogy bármely hang is öncélúan került volna a partitúrába. Ez a határozott zeneszerzői egyéniség biztos ismertetőjegye.”

http://nepszava.hu

The FaceBook page of CAFe Budapest festival. There is an interview with me about Georgia Bottoms and about getting our of your comfort zone in general. Again, the interview is in Hungarian, but the “Day 3 of the Festival” video can be enjoyed without speaking this one of a kind language.
http://www.facebook.com/CAFeBudapestOfficial

Oh yes, and I did get to translate Mark Childress’ RAP lyrics for a newly added scene into Hungarian for the surtitles. I even made it rhyme. 🙂

The Season of Operas

On Monday we are starting the second week of ‘DialogScene’ workshop organized by the Peter Eötvös Contemporary Music Foundation. I will be moderating a “meet the audience” session in the evening.
http://www.bmc.hu
The final performance of the five brand new operas composed by young composers from all over the world, and directed by young Hungarian directors (music-theater directors’ class of Tamás Ascher) is open to the audience and will be held in the evening of Friday, September 15.
Click below for more details.
http://www.bmc.hu

When I am not teaching I am composing new music to my first opera, The Giant Baby. The world premiere will take place in Vienna as part of the 2018 Armel Opera Festival. I am having a lot of fun with totally re-writing the music to the slightly altered libretto based on the 1926 Dadaist play by Hungarian Author Tibor Déry.
https://www.britannica.com

Just so we stick to the theme of the fall of 2017, my latest stage work, ‘Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South’ will get a new production at the Academy of Music as part of CAFe Budapest (Contemporary Art Festival Budapest). Rebecca Nelsen, who sang the title role in Huntsville two years ago returns as Georgia. Also in the role of her son, Nathan I am happy to have the young and talented American baritone, Keith Browning from the original cast. Author of the novel, Georgia Bottoms, my co-librettist, Mark Childress (who will also be here for the Hungarian premiere) and I have added two completely new scenes and changed one of the old ones to make the story more complete. Changes were needed also to give a little resting time and more than a minute to change costumes for rebecca as Georgia Bottoms. The staging will be done by Andras Almasi Toth, and the other 9 roles will be sung by talented Hungarian singers, including Andrea Meláth, head of the Vocal Department of the Liszt Academy. Here are the dates for the performances:
October 8 and 10
and a link to the website of CAFe Budapest:
https://www.cafebudapest.hu

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!

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!

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.

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 Zoltán Kodály’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 Kodály’s composition, since Psalmus Hungaricus was premiered in 1923 and by the 40s Kodály 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 Mihály Kecskeméti Vég 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. Ildikó Szakács and Gyula Rab will sing the solo parts in the second half.

http://www.zeneakademia.hu

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.

Transfiguration

Balazs Fulei
http://balazsfulei.com
pianist and the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under my direction will be performing a somber and touching program all about drama, death and transfiguration. The venue is the beautiful Main Hall of the Liszt Academy in Budapest.

Brahms: Tragic Overture
Bartok: Piano Concerto #2
Jozsef Sari: Jacob is Wrestling with The Darkness (World Premiere)
http://wikipedia.org
Richard Strauss: Death and Transfiguration

Ultimately all musical pieces are about Transfiguration.
http://merriam-webster.com
The very nature of playing and listening is that you become a different person after experiencing live music. Music itself of course is nothing else than transfiguration of notes. With the World Premiere of Jozsef Sari’s composition we are celebrating the 80th Birthday of the composer who will be present at the concert hall.

Tomorrow at 7:35PM Hungarian time (1:35PM EST) you can listen to our concert live by clicking here
http://mediaklikk.hu
The concert will be available for streaming for another two weeks. Just search by date and time!

On Saturday afternoon Bartok’s 2nd Piano Concerto moves to Studio VI. at the Hungarian Radio. We’ll be recording another show for the Musically Speaking series. Musicologist Zoltan Farkas is doing the talking in front of a live audience. The show will be aired in a couple of months.

Lady Sarashina Returns

In 2004 I crossed the bridge of dreams.
Andras Almasi Toth, stage director and myself put on stage the beautiful and captivating dream-piece by Peter Eotvos based on the diary of Lady Sarashina from a thousand years ago. Hungarian actors and international musicians joined forces and produced the Hungarian premiere of this so called “sound theater” ‘As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams’. The piece is rich in poetry and amazing musical ideas like trombones with double bells and a white sousaphone playing the role of the Moon. I’ve had the pleasure of conducting this composition with the famous Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris (this was my debut with them in 2001) then with Klangforum Wien in Vienna, Austria in a completely new production. Then in 2009 Budapest Music Center has produced a very successful recording.
http://www.allmusic.com

In 2007 Peter Eotvos turned this work into a full blown opera with the title ‘Lady Sarashina’. It was premiered in Lyon, France, and ever since it has been performed all over the world. http://www.eotvospeter.com
Tonight Lady Sarashina returns. She is being reborn for two nights with the help of CAFe Budapest Festival and the Liszt Academy.
http://www.cafebudapest.hu
Stage director: Andras Almasi Toth. Conductor: Gregory Vajda. Same team and a composition reincarnated.