In Two Languages / Két nyelven

I believe, I owe my Hungarian friends the courtesy after so many years, so here we go: I will be posting, from now on, in two languages. As it turns out many people from Hungary follow my blog, and I feel I should make it easier for them to keep up with the items from my news desk.
In exchange, as promised, I will post translations here of Hungarian reviews, but for that I ask for you patience. I am in the middle of composing my opera “The Giant Baby” (actually completely re-composing it, since Giantbaby was actually my very first opera written in 2001), and as soon as I am done with the music I will have more time on my hands.

After a successful concert with the Danubia Symphony (see two reviews below in Hungarian)
http://www.toptipp.hu
http://www.fidelio.hu
I have taught at the conducting-composition masterclass of the Peter Eötvös Contemporary Music Foundation for a few days (Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle, Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale and newly composed pieces were on the program) for a couple of days. We have had the pleasure of working with young composers and conductors, including the four talented young men who were chosen as the first participants of the very special mentoring program.
See details here:
http://www.eotvosmusicfoundation.org

On Sunday I have flown to Hamburg where I have started the rehearsals for the revival of the double bill Senza Sangue/ Bluebeard’s Castle at Staatsoper Hamburg. I am doing two out of the four performances on March 3 and 9. Before that, on March 1, I will be conducting a concert I am really looking forward to, with the soloists of the Hungarian Radio Symphony at the Liszt Academy. Schonberg: Pierrot lunaire, Berio: Folksongs, and Stravinsky: Renard are on the program.
http://www.zeneakademia.hu
On March 8 there will be another great program with major works by Kurtág, J.S. Bach and Rachmaninov as part of the Pannon Philharmonic Orchestra’s “In Memoriam Zoltán Kocsis” concert series.
http://www.pfz.hu

Úgy hiszem, itt az idő, hogy mindazok kedvéért, akik szívesebben olvasnák a blogomat magyarul, elkezdjek két nyelven posztolni. Ez úton is köszönöm az eddigi bizalmat és érdeklődést, és remélem, hogy ezzel a pozitív változással még többek érdeklődését felkeltem majd. Januárban az óbudai Danubia Zenekart vezényeltem a Zeneakadémián a “Gépek” című izgalmas, és nem ellentmondásokat nélkülöző programban. A fenti két első link ennek a koncertnek két, magyarul megjelent, kritikájára vezet. Néhány nap tanítás után (az Eötvös Péter Alapítvány karmester-zeneszerző kurzusán a BMC-ben, ahol ezúttal a több éves mentor program első fiataljai is részt vettek http://www.eotvosmusicfoundation.org ) Hamburgba repültem. Hétfőn kezdődtek a Staatsoper Hamburg tavalyi Senza sangue-Kékszakállú produkciója felújításának próbái. A négy előadásból kettőt vezényelek majd, március 3-án és 9-én.
Mindeközben magyarországi koncertjeim is folytatódnak. A Magyar Rádió Zeenekarának zenészei és Meláth Andrea énekművész közreműködésével március 1-én Schönberg: Pierrot lunaire, Berio: Folksongs, és Stravinsky: A róka című darabjait dirigálom a Zeneakadémia Solti termében.
http://www.zeneakademia.hu

Március 8-án a Pannon Filharmonikusok élén, a Kodály központban, a Kocsis Zoltán emlékére rendezett koncertsorozat részeként vezényelem Kurtág György, Johann Sebastian Bach és Rachmaninov műveit. A zongoraszólista Palojtay János lesz.
http://www.pfz.hu

Mindeközben komponálom első operám, Az Óriáscsecsemő teljesen új verzióját, melynek bemutatója az idei Armel versenyen, a bécsi MUTH színházban lesz. Az opera librettőja (Horváth Péter és jómagam munkája) Déry Tibor azonos című, 1926-os “dadaista drámáján” alapszik, a produkciót a Kolibri Színház jegyzi majd, rendező Novák János lesz.

Lots of Work and Plenty of Travel Already in 2018

Hello there and a Happy Belated New Year! I am writing this post at the Atlanta airport lounge, waiting for my flight to Huntsville, replacing the one that was just cancelled a couple of hours ago. Yes, IT IS WINTERTIME and it is coming down hard on the South now, after hitting the North-East of the US.
After a demanding and successful trip to Taiwan and Mainland China (with the Kaohsiung Symphony then with the players of the Hungarian Radio Symphony) I traveled back to Budapest for a couple of days (FYI Turkish Airlines is great!) then packed again to drive to the city of Pecs, where I got to conduct the great Pannon Philharmonic Orchestra. We presented an exciting program, including my piece, Drums Drums Drums, of which we played the Hungarian premiere. Other pieces on the program were: Weill: Little Threepenny Music, Stravinsky: Concerto in D for string orchestra and Hindemith’s powerful Concertmusic for brass and strings. As for Drum Drums Drums, it is now the third set of soloists playing it (however the drum-set part was played by the amazing Gergo Borlai again, who has been part of the World Premiere in Huntsville in 2015), and the piece, I am happy to report, works really well for the audience.
After spending a couple of days in beautiful Southern Hungary (Pecs is only about a 2hr drive from Budapest) I was ready to fly to the Big Apple. Representing Armel Festival as its Artistic Director I have attended 5 shows at the Prototype Festival. I have seen staged concert albums, multi-media music theater works and operas in the traditional sense. It was an impressive line up. I hope that Prototype Festival can become a partner for Armel by as early as 2020, and together we can bring some interesting new works to Budapest, Vienna, and to the screen of ARTE TV as well. Yes, IT IS WINTERTIME, and NYC was way colder than usual. However in the summer I always complain about humidity and high temperatures in manhattan. 🙂
I am ready for a couple of extremely exciting and challenging programs in the next couple of weeks. On Saturday with the Huntsville Symphony I will be conducting Brahms’ Haydn Variations, Beethoven’s Symphony No.7, and sharing the stage again with Elina Vähälä from Finland, who’ll be playing Berg’s beautiful Violin Concerto. More information on the concert here:

http://www.hso.org

After Huntsville it’s Budapest time again, and time for music about machines with the Danubia Symphony at the Liszt Academy. Yes, you read that right, MACHINES!

More about that later!

Until then, here is the link for your enjoyment:

http://www.odz.hu

100 Years Old Music

“Arbitrary as the choice of any year between 1880 and 1930 might be, 1913 was certainly distinguished by modernist landmarks in music, art, literature, fashion, and film /…/”

As it happens many times I don’t have access to my books in Budapest, Hungary when I need them. I have purchased and read a book entitled ‘1913’, and as much as I would love to use a couple of quotes here I cannot remember the author’s name. I tried finding the book online, but all the books of the same or similar title that pop up in a search, deal with politics and world history only instead of art. I found a great article at the Telegraph however and that is where the opening quote is from. Read the full article here:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk

Here are the dates for the pieces played by the Huntsville Symphony this Saturday for our last classical concert of the season.
Stravinsky: Rite of Spring -1913 (time of the infamous premiere performance)
Ravel: Alborada del gracioso -1905 (as a piano piece), -1918 (orchestra version)
Szymanowski: Violin Concerto #1 -1916 (composed), -1922 (premiered)

Yes, as unbelievable as it is, “The Rite of Spring” is over a 100 years old. So are the two other pieces. As you can see we are talking about a period a little over 15 years here, including some of the most turbulent times of the 20th Century, especially in Europe.
‘Rite of Spring’ was sure a “Vision of the Future” just one year before WW1 started. Ravel’s colorful Alborada del grazioso (The Jester’s Aubade) from the ‘Miroirs’ (Mirrors) piano series is one of the most popular examples of his “Spanish flavor” musical pieces. In its orchestral version it possesses the rhythmical and sound-color qualities of ‘Rite of Spring’.
I would like to encourage you to read the Wikipedia article below on Polish composer Karol Szymanowski. Upon reading his biography it’ll be clear how his gorgeous late-Romantic Violin Concerto No. 1 fits into the program.
https://www.en.wikipedia.org
By programming this beautiful piece of music, and by engaging the amazing Philippe Quint to play the solo violin part, I hope to contribute to the re-discovery of the music of this forgotten genius.

Thank You All for supporting the HSO in 2016-17!
Don’t forget to get your tickets to ‘Video Games Live’ on May 6 at the VBC! It will be the perfect ending to a great season.
Please read about our exciting next season here:
https://www.hso.org

Stay in touch and have a wonderful summer!

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!

Sudden and Light

‘What do you make so fair and bright?’

‘I make the cloak of Sorrow:
O lovely to see in all men’s sight
Shall be the cloak of Sorrow,
In all men’s sight.’

‘What do you build with sails for flight?’

‘I build a boat for Sorrow:
O swift on the seas all day and night
Saileth the rover Sorrow,
All day and night.’

What do you weave with wool so white?’

‘I weave the shoes of Sorrow:
Soundless shall be the footfall light
In all men’s ears of Sorrow,
Sudden and light.’

The poem above is by Yeats and it provides the lyrics to my orchestral song composed for my next concert in Budapest. On Tuesday at the helm of the Hungarian Radio Symphony I conduct a program of the following compositions:

Haydn: Farewell Symphony
R. Strauss: Morgen!

Haydn: The Desert Island (L’isola disabitata) Overture
G. Vajda: The Cloak, The Boat and The Shoes [World Premiere]
R. Strauss: Four Last Songs

The concert program is designed as an homage to Jozsef Vajda, my late father who has passed this February at the age of 68. He served as the principal bassoonist of the Radio Symphony for 28 years. It is an honor to be able to present a concert in his memory as part of the Liszt Academy concert series of the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

The program revolves around the gesture of ‘farewell’ and includes pieces I have heard my Father play several times (like the Haydn Symphony). The wonderful Eva Batori will be singing the soprano part for all the songs. Please listen to the concert live or stream it for two weeks after the concert at:
http://mediaklikk.hu

Read a great analysis here about the Yeats poem I put into music in my “Lullaby for Soprano and Orchestra”:
http://stuffjeffreads.wordpress.com

A Great List of Composers

Bartók, Eötvös, Halévy, Henze, Mahler, Offenbach, Saint-Säens, Schubert, Schumann, Verdi.

Schubert: Rosamunde Overture, Schumann: Cello Concerto and Mahler: Symphony #1 was the program of my concert with the Szeged Symphony on May 17. Miklós Perényi, one of the greatest cellists of the world played the solo part. The concert took place in the beautiful National Theater of Szeged. It was a great treat for me to conduct this program and a nice experience working with Szeged Symphony for the first time in a very long time.
Two days ago I participated in the press conference of the Armel Opera Festival 2016. Check out the website!
The upcoming program is very exciting.
http://armelfestival.org
I will be conducting Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers with the Pannon Philharmonic and the young singers of the Academy of Music Budapest. I will also be doing a pre-rehearsal for Peter Eötvös’ newest opera called Senza sangue. This is the same work I will be conducting at the Hamburg State Opera this fall along with Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle.

Yesterday I attended the opening concert and ceremony of the Jewish Art Days, a new festival in Budapest Hungary. I am conducting an evening of opera music with Hungarian and Italian singers at the Italian Institute at the helm of the MAV Symphony Orchestra on Tuesday (May 31). On the program: music by Offenbach, Verdi, Saint-Säens and Halévy.
Check out the details here:
http://zsidomuveszetinapok.hu

I agreed to conduct the diploma concert of Bálint Kruppa. This amazingly talented young Hungarian is playing Bartók’s 2nd Violin Concerto with the Danubia Orchestra on June 7 at the Academy of Music.
http://zeneakademia.hu

Both the orchestra and Bálint will participate in the conducting masterclass organized by the Eötvös Music Foundation. The program is called Focus of Bartók, Kurtág, Lachenmann.
I will be teaching alongside with Peter Eötvös and Olivier Cuendet.
Read about the details here:
http://eotvosmusicfoundation.org

Many great composers and amazing pieces, lots of music, lots of work make me happy.

‘Clarinet Symphony’ World Premiere

In my new piece composed for principal clarinetists János Szepesi, Gábor Varga and the Hungarian Radio Symphony I combined two things I know the most about. After more than 20 years in music as a professional I regard both the clarinet and the symphony (as a genre and as an ensemble) as my own. The combination of two solo clarinets (the parts are totally equal, even notes played are the same exact number) and the countless sound color— and character— variations of the orchestra helped create a symphonic work based on the characteristics of the clarinet as an instrument. Clarinet Symphony is a piece between a four movement symphony and a sinfonia concertante and it consists of 6 movements:
1) Prelude 2) Ballade 3) Scherzo 4) Adagio 5) Finale 6) Postlude [total duration: approx. 32 minutes]

The Adagio movement is based on a Hungarian-Jewish folksong called “The Rooster Crows” and Postlude quotes my “opus 1” solo-clarinet composition entitled “Lightshadow-trembling” (1993). This and the fact that even the orchestra parts were composed with individual players of the Hungarian Radio Symphony in mind make Clarinet Symphony my most personal composition yet.

Concert and radio broadcast at MUPA (Palace of the Arts, Budapest) on Wednesday, February 3.
On the program:
Enescu: Romanian Rhapsody #1
Vajda: Clarinet Symphony [World Premiere]
Dvorak: Symphony #8 in G
http://www.mupa.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.]

O farther, farther, farther sail!

Just 20 years after it was deemed “obscene literature” by Boston district attorney, Oliver Stevens on March 1, 1882, Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman became the inspiration for Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No.1, A Sea Symphony.
Indeed, Leaves of Grass praises nature and the individual(!) human’s role in it and elevates the human form and mind to the level of topic of poetic praise. Suspicious at best! 🙂 I find it interesting how a young English composer picks a collection of poems by an American poet written in (mostly) free verse to put into music. Apparently Vaughan Williams carried a copy of Leaves of Grass with him at all times. I have to praise his openness and his imagination in selecting parts of Whitman’s work for the first, and longest of his 9 symphonies.
Tonight the Huntsville Community Chorus and the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra with the help of vocal soloists Tiffany Bostic-Brown and Terrance Brown will celebrate the human spirit and the power of live classical music with the Huntsville premiere performance of A Sea Symphony by Vaughan Williams.
http://hso.org
Other compositions on our 61st Season opening concerts are:
Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia from Peter Grimes by Benjamin Britten. I hope you can join us on our MUSICAL JOURNEY of this season!

Sail forth—steer for the deep waters only,
Reckless O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me,
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,
And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!

[The closing lines of Passage to India from Leaves of Grass]

#6-Misi-#6

Tomorrow is the day of two concerts opening the new chamber orchestra series of the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra at the Budapest Music Center.
The first number on the show is the delightful Symphony #6, “The Morning” by Joseph Haydn. The humor and elegance of Haydn’s music always amazes me. This symphony also has a hidden violin concerto in it. It is scary how much Mozart owes to Haydn for his own violin concertos! In the slow movement the solo violin and the solo cello play an amazing duet, a variation on a Minuet-like theme. Sounds just like a Mozart violin concerto, I am telling you! In the first and the last movement the solo flute gets a lot of great music to play. What fun!
Watch this YouTube video to meet my soloist, Misi Boros! He is 11 years old and has the soul of a seasoned musician. I am not keen on child prodigies but Misi is something else. He is not only talented but also a fun and funny, intelligent human being.
http://youtube.com
For the major piece on the program I picked Beethoven’s Symphony #6, “Pastorale”. We are playing this “war horse” with a relatively small orchestra to match the space of the BMC concert hall. This decision gives me an opportunity to work on details that mostly get lost in a big orchestral setting. The end result is: lots of fun chamber music details in a very Haydn-esque Pastorale Symphony. Beethoven had his sense of humor, too!