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!

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

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

Healing with Bruckner and Conversations with Beethoven

Today at the Huntsville airport a young TSA agent, seeing my big musical scores, asked me about my profession. Upon finding out I was the conductor of the Friday Beethoven-Bruckner concert he said he was really sorry for missing the concert because he was so looking forward to it. I asked him why he did not come. “Because of what happened in Paris. I didn’t want to be in a public place with lots of people around.”, he said. Luckily most of HSO’s loyal audience was there to experience Kirill Gerstein’s amazing piano playing, and the true bonding of musicians and audience with the help of Bruckner’s powerful Symphony #4. Both the Bruckner and Bach’s Sinfonia in E-minor, the encore played by Kirill were dedicated to the dead and the wounded in the Paris attacks.
This afternoon Kirill Gerstein, three principal players of the HSO and myself (with my clarinet in hand) kicked off the Causal Classics series with a show called “Beethoven Conversations”. Kirill and I had a lively conversation about musicians’ every day challenge of interpretation and authenticity. We all got to listen to two Liszt Transcendent Etudes then, after a short demo of Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds we performed Beethoven’s composition of the same title. Everybody who came to Roberts Hall at University of Alabama, Huntsville had a grand time, and I had fun playing some great chamber music as well. Once a great player like Kirill Gerstein comes to town we better take advantage of it and hear him play more than just, an otherwise glorious, piano concerto.
I am on my way to Budapest, Hungary to start rehearsals for the fully staged production of Verdi’s Don Carlo and also to perform new music with Ensemble UMZE at the Budapest Music Center.
Onward to make more beautiful and exciting music.

“ceux qui aiment. ceux qui aiment la vie. à la fin, c’est toujours eux qui gagnent.”
“Those who love. This who love life. In the end, they’re the ones who are rewarded.”
[Quote from a drawing of a Charlie Hebdo cartoonist after Friday’s Paris terror attacks.]

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!

Dumb Art On Oaks

First of all, let me apologize for the title of this post.
1) The more I post the more I recognize the difficulty of finding a title that draws attention and will make people read my blog entry. The more I post the more I understand the pressure on online journalists and the direction online media is going. Do I like it? Not really, but I do understand the inevitability of things going the “tabloid way”. You really don’t want to end up like “white noise”.
2) I could not resist. 🙂
3) Please, do google ‘Dumb Art’ and look at the pictures. There are awesome, great pictures there. You are going to be surprised how many amazing works of great artists you will find this way, let alone all the really great street art.

OK, now that this is out of the way, I just have to say there is nothing ‘dumb art like’ about the program I am doing with pianist Lilya Zilberstein http://lilyazilberstein.webs.com/
and the Columbus Symphony this weekend. CSO website calls this Masterworks program a “Concerto Festival” http://columbussymphony.com/
and indeed three out of the four pieces are concertos (and very different ones)

Beethoven: Leonore Overture #3
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonore_Overture_No._3
Bach: Concerto for Piano and Strings in D major
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harpsichord_concertos_(J._S._Bach)
Stravinsky: Concerto in Eb “Dumbarton Oaks”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concerto_in_E-flat_%22Dumbarton_Oaks%22
Shostakovich: Piano Concerto #1
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_Concerto_No._1_(Shostakovich)

There are two other elements that make this program exciting for me.

1) “Time Travel”
OK, so you can say that every classical concert is like taking a trip back in time, and you’d be right about that. However having one of the most famous neo-classical pieces on the program (Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks) is a true artistic time travel. This piece is like a 20th Century Brandenburg Concerto. Also I dare to say, that Shostakovich Piano Concerto #1 has many neo-classical moments in it as well. This makes the second half of the program a kind of ‘homage’ to the two composers in the first half. Then there is the fact, that we are playing a Harpsichord concerto with a modern piano as the solo instrument. J.S. Bach would have loved a Steinway if he could have possibly known one. I am afraid that the sound you’ll be hearing, as wonderful as it may be, is historically inappropriate. So there is another type of time travel for you, this time to an “alternate universe”. Bach’s music on the modern piano.
2) “The Trumpet Player’s Progress” (sorry, another Stravinsky reference)
In Beethoven’s Overture our principal trumpet player will leave the stage at a certain point then he’ll play two fanfares from back stage (he shall return to finish the first orchestral trumpet part). At the end of the concert the trumpet takes center stage as the secondary solo instrument of the Shostakovich Piano Concerto. Tom Battenberg, principal trumpet is doing an amazing job as he travels with ease between styles, genres and centuries.

Tax Day Concert

Who does a concert on a Tuesday? Well actually I do with the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (MR Symphony) and chorus and four wonderful soloists.
On the program:
Brahms: Song of Destiny
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schicksalslied
Dvorak: Stabat Mater
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stabat_Mater_(Dvořák)

Two touching and deeply spiritual works, one is only 18 minutes long, the other one is about an hour and a half. Two works written by friends (one also being the mentor of the other). Both compositions are very personal and masterfully written. This year’s Easter falls late in the calendar year. This is why the day known as Tax Day in the US happens to be the Tuesday before Good Friday.
The concert program I designed is about preparation, soul searching and meditation with the help of vocal-orchestral music. I would like to invite our audience to a spiritual journey.
Faith Prayer. Doubt. Consolation.

I would like to invite You All to join us and listen to our concert LIVE at
http://www.mediaklikk.hu/bartok
You can also stream the concert later for another two weeks.

What’s Up With Sussmayr?

“He was born in Schwanenstadt, Upper Austria, the son of a sacristan and teacher (who spelled the name Seissmayr, reflecting the Austrian pronunciation). His mother died when he was 6, and he left home at 13. He was a student and cantor in a Benedictine monastery (from 1779 to 1787) in Kremsmünster. When his voice changed, he became a member of the orchestra as a violinist.
The abbey performed operas and Singspiele, so he had the opportunity to study the operas of Christoph Willibald Gluck and Antonio Salieri. He composed a number of stage works and a good deal of church music for the abbey.
He became (after 1787) a student of Salieri in Vienna. In 1791 he assisted Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as a copyist with La clemenza di Tito and Die Zauberflöte and is presumed to have written the secco recitatives in the first. Their relationship was close and playful, to judge by surviving letters to Constanze, whom Süssmayr accompanied to Baden.
For many years he was also thought to have been a student of Mozart, but there is reason to think that the notion of such a relationship was concocted by Mozart’s wife Constanze in order to legitimize his completion of Mozart’s Requiem. During Mozart’s last days, it is possible that they discussed his Requiem, and Süssmayr took on the task of completing the piece upon his death and did so, turning it over to Constanze within 100 days of Mozart’s death. Süssmayr’s version of the score is still the most often played, although several alternative versions have been written.”
[from Wikipedia]

Yeah, what’s up with this whole Sussmayr thing? According to Harnoncourt in no circumstances could he complete Mozart’s work. (Who did it then?) As far as I am concerned there are more “Mozart Requiems” and the one under the name of Sussmayr has its own life and has been proven to engage musicians and audiences despite its flaws. This is the version I have played many times as a young clarinet player (Oh, those cold churches in Hungary around Christmas time!) and this is the version we performed yesterday with the Huntsville Symphony in front of a full house at the Von Braun Center. The concert started with Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music (another gorgeous piece using Basset horns) and we performed Haydn Symphony #93 before intermission. Our trumpet and horn players –as adventurous as they are– decided to use natural horns for the entire show. It sounded great and added an extra layer of artistry to the show.
Fun fact: I am traveling to Hungary today where I am doing a new music show next week. One of the pieces is going to be “Into The Little Hill”, a mesmerizing chamber opera by British composer George Benjamin. Guess what, he uses not one but two Basset horns (and Contrabass Clarinet among other “unusual” instruments) just like Mozart in his Masonic Funeral Music and Requiem. I love the sound of the Basset horns!

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 “Hungarian” 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… 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! ☺

See the website of the Calgary Philharmonic here with details about the upcoming concerts:
http://www.cpo-live.com

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