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.
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.

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!

Conduct Me!

Just got home from an hour long live radio interview at Klub Radio. I spoke about the past, about Hungary and the U.S., about conducting, playing the clarinet and composition.
I got to speak about Peter Eötvös
the Huntsville Symphony
the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
and first and foremost about the Armel Opera Festival.
If you happen to speak or at least understand Hungarian, you are welcome to listen to the show online here 🙂
The show is called ‘Örömzene’ which translates as “jam session for fun”.
The last segment of the interview was all about the two hour daily program of the Armel Opera Festival in the frame of the the Sziget Festival
the biggest rock-pop music summer festival in Central Europe.
Starting tomorrow the Armel Opera Festival presents a two hour long fun and interactive musical program including a series of “Opera Sitcom” performed by the students of the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, directed by Andras Almasi Toth. I’ll be leading the audience in an interesting improvisation exercise based on a composition by Peter Eötvös called “Triangel”. Audience members will be distributed triangles of all shapes and sizes and I will play along with me, also hitting three different size triangles wherever I can. The program ends with ‘Conduct Me!’ where brave audience members can get a crash course in conducting from me and get in front of the orchestra and singers and conduct live. On the rep: Aria of The Queen of the Night, Brindisi by Verdi, Prelude and Habanera from Carmen.
I am looking forward to the challenge of engaging audiences that are not necessarily familiar with classical music and opera and make them realize how much fun it actually is to discover Mozart and even contemporary classical music for yourself. I am also happy to share the same island (on river Danube) with several thousand of music lovers and artists like Robbie Williams, the Gogol Bordello or Mariza.

The Bad, The Good and The Great

The GOOD news: tomorrow (Friday) Amadinda Percussion Ensemble and the Hungarian Radio Symphony is going to play an awesome concert under my direction.
The concert will be broadcast live on the radio and can be listened to here
The broadcast starts at 1:35PM EST.
The BAD news: we won’t be premiering my piece, ‘Drums Drums Drums’.
The GOOD news: I will have a chance to do the World Premiere of ‘Drums Drums Drums’ in Huntsville one year to the date of tomorrow’s concert. I will keep you posted on Saturday, February 13, 2016!
The GREAT news: USA Today picked up on Georgia Bottoms and made it the News of the Day from Alabama (2 days ago)
Here is a FaceBook post about the USA Today preview
And here is the complete story on AL.COM
Stay tuned for more Georgia Bottoms news!

The Luxury of Composing

After a successful run of The Tenor by Ernst von Dohnanyi and before a crazy busy October (more later!) I managed to do something unheard of. I squeezed in a week (or so) time for composition only. Since completing ‘Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South’ I have finished a 3 minute long piece for piano solo entitled ‘sol-Etude’. The piece is dedicated to Peter Kiss who will be playing it twice in the US along with piano compositions by Kurtag, Ligeti and Eotvos.

After completing ‘sol-Etude’ I started working for Edition Schott for a very special project. Peter Eotvos has asked me to do the English language adaptation of his newest opera called ‘The Golden Dragon’. The work was premiered in German in Frankfurt. The next production of it takes place in Cardiff and they want to do it in English. I have done something like this before with another Eotvos work. I’ve got to tell you, that it is a lot of fun and a great challenge to try to understand the composer’s thinking and to try to stay true to the work and the musical needs of the English language alike. Since Edition Schott wanted to publish one particular aria during this calendar year as a stand alone piece, I started my work by doing the English version of a soprano aria called “Ballade”.

After completing “Ballade” I immediately started working on my newest composition (world premiere in February, 2015 in Budapest) called ‘Drums Drums Drums’. This work is a special kind of triple concerto for three percussion players and orchestra. I am going to have three top notch soloists for the premiere: Zoltan Racz and Aurel Hollo from the famous percussion group, Amadinda on Timpani and Bass Drum, Gergo Borlai on drum-set.

Btw I did download the iPad app ‘Drum Guru’ and it is an amazing tool not only for drummers but for composers like myself who are writing for drumset and want to learn about the intricate details about playing drums in different styles. I promised to put the solo parts of Drums Drums Drums under the Christmas tree for my amazing soloists. No time to waste. Another intense few months of composition are ahead of me. I am loving it!

Pre-Super Bowl Brass Attack

As Renee Fleming was warming up to make history as the first ever opera singer to perform the National Anthem at the Super Bowl the players of the Huntsville Symphony and myself were doing our share in history making. Seven brass players, Terry Cornett -principal percussion and myself as 2nd percussion performed the US Premiere of a piece by Peter Eotvos called ‘Brass. The Metal Space’. The special venue for our second Casual Classics concert was the Round House at the Huntsville Depot. This ‘action piece’ or ‘instrumental theater’ is a cool way to entertain audiences and educate them at the same time. The concert was all about sound and space (with a very cool glass wall in the background through which you could see an old engine outdoors), about the acoustics of a room and how a contemporary composition enables audience members to re-discover the real meaning of LISTENING. Musicians and audiences alike had a blast this afternoon, and yes, everybody made it home to watch the Super Bowl.

Yesterday evening I led the Huntsville Symphony in another US premiere. We performed ‘The Gliding of The Eagle in the Skies’ (commissioned by the Basque National Symphony) by Peter Eotvos TWICE in one concert! For the pre-concert talk I did a live Skype interview with the composer himself (another historic event for the HSO!), translating his words live to the audience. At the top of the show I introduced his orchestral piece with some demos then played it. At the top of the second half I told everyone in the hall what a great audience they were and made them listen to the Eotvos piece one more time. The Huntsville Symphony is indeed fortunate to have a sophisticated and receptive audience. People listened for the second time and from many comments I know that they appreciated the idea.
The rest of our Classical 4 concert had Alexander Korsantia playing Rachmaninov’s popular Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini. It was a highly charged, very touching and beautifully executed performance. We concluded the concert with Symphony #5 by Sibelius. This is the symphony with the musical depiction of high flying swans at the end. It was an effective ending to the show and created a nice arch with the opening “Eagle in the Skies”. Birds as symbols of freedom put into music.