4000 Kids, 2200 Adults

Huntsville Symphony has just completed a very busy and extremely successful week with 6 concerts and 2 programs. We performed 4 Young People’s Concert and a Free Family Concert for about 4K children (most of the 4th Graders) and a few hundred adults. The latter one I like to call “Bring Your Grandma” concert, and indeed there were many families: grandkids, parents, grandparents alike. Mozart: Figaro Overture, Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto No.1, 1st Movement (played by the brilliant Sarah Han, the winner of the Guild’s Concerto Competition 2017) and James Stephenson’s genius “Compose Yourself” were on the program. Jim’s composition introduces the orchestra, its sections and its instruments to the audience in a set of variations. Before the Finale audience members get to pick and mix 3 different melodies, harmonies and rhythms to create their very own piece of music. I highly recommend “Compose Yourself” to any orchestra interested in a stylish, clever and fun piece of music that can do what Britten’s Young Persons’ Guide can and more! At the Free Family Show I also did a crash course in conducting for kids who were not shy coming on stage. They got to conduct the Mozart Overture with the Huntsville Symphony.
On Saturday evening the HSO had a sold out pops show comprised entirely of John Williams soundtracks. It was a demanding and highly satisfying concert for the orchestra and drew several standing ovations from the audience. Once (tops twice) a year I agree to play the clarinet in Huntsville to benefit the Symphony. I have performed quite a few great chamber music pieces in the past couple of seasons, and also the obligate clarinet solo in a Mozart aria when my Mom was here to sing an opera gala under my baton. This time I played the clarinet solo of Viktor’s Theme from the movie The Terminal. Viktor’s character —played by Tom Hanks in the movie— is especially close to me. We are talking about a man from an imaginary Eastern-European country who gets stuck in an airport terminal in the US and has to manage living there for a few weeks. Considering my crazy busy traveling schedule I do feel like I live in an airport sometimes.
More great music is on the way with the Huntsville Symphony in the next couple of weeks: Mendelssohn, Richard Strauss, Offenbach and Wagner.
Check out our website here:
https://www.hso.org

Two World Première Opera Recordings

Just five days to September.

Are you ready for another season of great music?

Here are two World Première opera recordings for your listening pleasure to start with!

Péter Eötvös: Paradise Reloaded (Lilith)
http://bmc.hu

In this new composition, Péter Eötvös explores the hypothetical question: what would have happened if our culture which is explicitly based on the Bible had chosen Lilith (Adam’s first wife) to be the ancestress of mankind, instead of Eve? Adam and Eve (his second wife) and the listeners alike are guided by Lucifer through past, present and future. In Paradise Reloaded, Lilith’s intentions define the course of events; she eventually attains her goal but at the end of the story Adam still does not choose her as his partner. Adam has to choose between two women who have different outlooks on life. His choice determines the fate of the generations to come. The conclusion promises a new beginning for all characters – hence the Reloaded in the title – in a new Paradise, but this will no longer be the same as the one they left.
The opera was premièred in October 2013 in Vienna, followed by its February 2014 Hungarian première in Budapest. The cast of soloist on the CD is the same as of the première in Vienna. I conducted both the recording session (Studio 22 at the Hungarian Radio) and the Hungarian live performance (Palace of the Arts Budapest) both with the Hungarian Radio Symphony. The sound quality of this recording is just amazing. The sound level is like that of a pop music recording with clear details and amazing energy. The recording is available via the website of the Budapest Music Center (see link above) and through record distributors all over the world (see list on BMC website).

Ernst von Dohnányi: The Tenor

What happens when a singing circle (well, really a good old, German style Barber Shop Quartet) operating according to classical middle-class values is forced to accept a talented but depraved and penniless musician? Primeval, genuine emotions break through bars of false convention. Or do they? This is the theme of The Tenor, the most celebrated Hungarian comic opera of the 1930s. This delightful, cleverly written opera is full of humor and great musical ideas. Mendelssohn and Webern quotes are incorporated into the chamber orchestra-like texture of the composition. The vocal parts are beautiful and inventive and all roles are great fun to play. I was the conductor of the Hungarian premiere of “The Tenor” (the first one since the late 1920s!) and of the studio recording of the work with the cast of the stage production and the musicians of the Hungarian State Opera Orchestra.

Read about the Opera Trezor recording series of the Hungarian State Opera here
http://opera.hu

If you are interested in this two CD-publication you can purchase it at the Budapest Opera House’s Gift Shop (Opera Shop), or you may contact me directly. I will make sure you get a copy!

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

Mendelssohn, Bartok, Elgar, Britten, Grieg, Vaughan Williams

Four concerts are coming up in the next two weeks.
Mendelssohn: Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture
Bartok: Piano Concerto #1 with Katherine Chi
http://www.jwentworth.com
Elgar: Enigma Variations
The first half of the concert is being played in a special stage set-up. Because of the Bartok Piano Concerto I arranged the seating as follows: piano downstage, conductor, percussion, woodwinds and brass, strings in the back (with basses in one line on a riser in the back) This configuration is definitely a challenge as far as listening goes. However I believe it is good for us musicians to step outside of our comfort zone from time to time. Before you go there and ask, I did arrange the stage this way because if the Bartok piece itself. Listen to what the strings play and how important the woodwinds and brass are and you will understand. The “calm sea part” of the Mendelssohn with the hymn-like string parts sounds awesome as well (I did not want to have the stage rearranged in the first half.)
More info at:
http://www.hso.org
Two shows of the same program are played by Hungarian Radio Symphony (MR Symphony) in two Hungarian cities: Szombathely and Szekesfehervar. On the program:
Britten: Four Sea Interludes
Grieg: Piano Concerto, Gabor Farkas-piano
Here is a YouTube link him playing Chopin
http://www.youtube.com
Vaughan Williams: London Symphony (#2)

The Grieg will be performed as part of the “Musically Speaking” series at the Hungarian Radio as well.

Lots of work and lost of fun ahead!

YOUTH Concerts, Love & LUST

Yes, I am getting better at coming up with catchy headlines. 🙂 Just finished the fourth show of our Youth/ Family Concert series. On the program: Mozart Magic Flute Overture, Mendelssohn Violin Concerto 1st Movement/ Elgar Cello Concerto 1st Movement (alternating, solos played by two concerto competition winners), Britten Young Persons’ Guide To The Orchestra [in honor of the Britten Anniversary]. It is always a lot of fun to play for 4th graders and the families on Saturday (this is a FREE concert every year). We had a great crowd especially considering that it is SNOWING today in Huntsville, AL.
This Sunday at 3PM we are doing our third and final concert of the Casual Classics Series at Randolph School. On the program: Debussy Music for the Songs of Bilitis [narrated by Ginny Kennedy from WLRH]
http://www.wlrh.org
and Luciano Berio Folksongs
Karen Bentel sings the solo. She also plays 2nd flute with the Huntsville Symphony.
Ginny Kennedy and myself will do a casual chat about the theme and the pieces. As usual there is no intermission, and there is a meet and great with snack afterwords.
Check out the program notes here:
http://www.hso.org