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!

Queen Of The Night and Private View

Tonight we concluded the 2015 Armel Opera Festival in Budapest, Hungary with two one act operas performed by the Josef Kajetán Tyl Theater (Plzeň,Czech Republic). The international jury Esther Lehoczky, Commissioning Editor of the Arts Department of Arte TV, Henry Little, Chief Executive of Orchestras Live, Dieter Kaegi, General Director of Theater and Orchestra of Biel-Solothurn-Bienne/Soleur, Kjell Englund, Managing and Artistic Director of Norrlandsoperan, Umea, Sweden and myself decided on Best Performance and Best Singer of this year’s festival.
French soprano Marlène Assayag won Best Singer Award for her performance in The Magic Flute directed by Robert Alfoldi.
Best Performance Awared went to: Van Parys: Private View performed by Muziektheater Transparant (Antwerpen, Belgium), directed by Tom Creed.
The Jury decided to give a Special Award to Pannon Philharmonic for their outstanding work in Donizetti’s The Siege of Calais and in Van Parys: Private View.

Everyone can cast a vote online for one production during the next four weeks.
Click here:
http://concert.arte.tv/fr/search/site/armel
The production that gets the most votes from the audience will be presented a prize once the voting ends. Please consider watching this years performances and voting for the one you think is the best!

May, The Month Of Bells

Two concerts with Symphony Silicon Valley this weekend, one down one more to go. On the program:
Tchaikovsky: Romeo and Juliet Overture Fantasy
Debussy: Nocturnes
Rachmaninov: The Bells
http://symphonysiliconvalley.org
This is my second time conducting Rachmaninov’s “choral symphony”. Here is my blogpost from 2013 about my performance with the Hungarian Radio Symphony with an “all about bells” theme:
http://gregoryvajda.com
The sound of the famous “Russian Bells” of course can be found in Tchaikovsky’s Overture Fantasy as well, and also in the delicate sounds of Debussy’s mezmerising Nocturnes, with female voices added to the mix of the orchestra timbres.
More bells for me in the coming weeks. In between rehearsals and performances I spent most of my time in my hotel room while in San Jose, CA. Let me tell you, I was missing out on some beautiful weather. I spent several hours preparing my score and making additional cuts to Busoni’s opera, Doctor Faust. Two semi-staged performances are coming up at the Budapest Opera. The entire opera starts with the sound of Easter Bells and ends with the sound of more bells accompanying the strange and actually pretty blasphemous apotheosis of Dr. Faust.
http://opera.hu
I am happy to have some of my Huntsville friends in Budapest for the second performance. They will be on a cruise ship on the Danube and will be stopping by in Budapest just in time to see me conduct Doktor Faust. I am looking forward to showing them around in my hometown and to spend some fun times together in my neck of the woods.

All About Horns

No, not about the fantasy-horror with Daniel Radcliffe in the main role. Huntsville Symphony’s 5th Classical concert this season was about different horns like the post horn, a tuba and French horns. Our soloist on Saturday, playing the Tuba Concerto by Williams was my good friend and amazing musician- Alan Baer, Principal Tuba, New York Philharmonic.
http://www.baertracksmusic.com
I conducted this beautiful piece a long time ago, but with a bass trombone soloist. In all honesty, the piece works much better with tuba. I am surprised that it is not on the repertoire of all the orchestras around the world. I guess it takes some courage to invite a tuba player as a soloist instead of a violinist or a piano player :). The audience loved the piece and rewarded the performance with a long standing ovation.

The second half of the concert started with one of my all time favorite compositions, the Sextet from the opera ‘Capriccio’ by Richard Strauss (I rearranged it for a small string orchestra) and ended with Till Eulenspiegel’s Marry Pranks. HSO rocked the piece!

In the first half, as an homage to Richard Strauss’s admiration for Mozart’s music we performed the Posthorn Serenade. I had the flutes, oboes and bassoons seated in the front of the orchestra. This emphasized the fact, that the two middle movements of the Serenade are really a hidden Sinfonia Concertante for woodwind instruments.
Chris Coletti http://www.trumpetchris.com
played the famous Post horn solo beautifully. Other than the famous 2nd Trio of the 2nd Menuet with the post horn in it, the trumpet section played on natural trumpets for the entire piece.

One more casual classic about The Science of Music and a classical concert with Liszt, Bartok and Brahms on the program are in store for this season with the HSO. Visit our website for details!
http://www.hso.org

Pulcinella and The Super Bowl

Apparently more than half of the population of the United States will be watching The Super Bowl today. I won’t. Well I guess this makes me the member of the biggest minority in this country. 🙂 I could actually watch it, since our afternoon show ends just on time for everyone to get home and get comfortable on the couch (I do care about our audience!). Doing a concert on Super Bowl Sunday might sound like a social and financial suicide at first. The good news is that our Casual Classics 2 called “Musical Chairs” is practically sold out.
http://hso.org

Yes, there are people who are not into football. And yes, our core audience would come out to see and hear HSO players perform Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite
http://wikipedia.org
on the day of the biggest televised event in the country.

In case you don’t know what Super Bowl is click here 😉
http://superbowl.com

During our performance “Musical Chairs” members of the audience will get to sit in and around the players while Stravinsky’s masterwork is being played and rehearsed live. There is no better way to learn about how an orchestra works and what classical musicians are capable of doing. Playing an instrument alone is complex in itself, now imagine doing it in a group and watching the conductor while listening to your fellow musicians.
I just remembered that a year ago we were doing a Casual Classics show called “Brass Attack” exactly on the day of the Super Bowl. I guess the NFL does not really care about our concert schedule. 🙂

More Pulcinella will be played and danced next week for our Young People’s Concert and for our annual free Family Concert. Works by Leopold and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Copland and Shostakovich will be performed as well.