March 15 in Budapest/ Március 15 Budapesten

I am writing this post on March 15, Independence Day of Hungary, in Budapest. This long, festive weekend marks the first three consecutive days off for over a month. I have been working and traveling a lot, and it won’t change much until the end of the season. Since my last post I have conducted the Hungarian Radio Symphony at the Liszt Academy (including the World Premiere of my newest orchestral composition, Gloomy Sunday Variations), the Huntsville Symphony in two different programs, and taught a masterclass at the Budapest Music Center with Heinz Holliger and Peter Eötvös. I am getting ready to conduct the magnificent Symphony No. 3 by Gustav Mahler with the Hungarian Radio Symphony at MUPA (Palace of the Arts) on March 20,
http://www.mupa.hu
then Brahms Piano Concerto No.1 (Jozsef Balog as soloist) and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring with the Miskolc Symphony on two occasions.
March 15, a beautiful Spring day, National Holiday in Hungary. My musical journey continues on Monday.

Március 15, Nemzeti Ünnepünk, gyönyörű tavaszi nap Budapesten. A mostani hosszú hétvége az első összefügő három nap, amikor egy kicsit megpihenhetek, és erőt gyűjthetek a következő nagy kihívásra. Március 20-án vezényelem Mahler III. szimfóniáját a Magyar Rádió Zenei Együttesei élén a MÜPÁban.
http://www.mupa.hu
Februári blogbejegyzésem óta két különböző programban vezényeltem a Huntsville Symphony-t, a Zeneakadémián a Rádiózenekarral bemutattam Szomorú Vasárnap című zenekari művemet, mesterkurzust tanítottam a BMC-ben Heinz Holligerrel és Eötvös Péterrel. A Pannon Filharmonikusokkal folytattuk az angol nyelvű “Classical Chill” koncertek sorozatát. Mahler Harmadikja után a Miskolci Szimfonikusokkal lesz két hangversenyem Brahms I. Zongoraversenyével (Balog József) és Sztravinszkij Tavaszi Áldozatával a programban.
A zenei utazás hétfőn folytatódik.

SOLD OUT Dinner & Russian Music / Teltházas vacsora és orosz mesterek

Our second classical concert of the season here in Huntsville is coming up on Friday. Prokofiev: Symphony No.1 “Classical”, Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No.2 with the amazing Kathy Chi returning
https://www.katherinechi.com
and Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.5
Join us for this powerful program of Russian music at the Von Braun Center!
https://www.hso.org

On Sunday as our first Casual Classics show of the season, at the beautiful Carriage House of the Huntsville Botanical Garden, we’ll be presenting our annual dinner concert. And we are officially SOLD OUT. Everyone who will be there will find out if Stravinsky’s Octet for Winds improves digestion, and if Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings is sweet enough to make it to the Dessert Menu.
https://www.hso.org

E hét pénteken a Huntsville Symphonyval, a Von Braun Center színpadán orosz mesterek műveit játsszuk. Zongora szólistánk, visszatérő vendégként, a fantasztikus Kathy Chi lesz Kanadából.
https://www.katherinechi.com
Nyitánynak Prokofjev Klassszikus Szimfóniája, a második félidőben pedig Csajkovszik Ötödikje hangzik majd fel.
https://www.hso.org

Vasárnap az idei szezon első Casual Classics koncertjét tartjuk, amelyen a vacsora mellé felszolgált zenei menü Mendelssohn és Sztravinszkij egy-egy oktettje lesz, előbbi vonókra, utóbbi fúvóshangszerekre. Az évente egyszer megrendezésre kerülő koncert-vacsora rendkívül népszerű, és egy pár hete már minden jegy elkelt.
https://www.hso.org

Jó étvágyat!

It Has Begun / Elkezdődött

Season 2018-19 has begun. On Friday, September 21 we’ve opened the season in Huntsville in front of a packed and very enthusiastic house. We have played an Americana program with a twist: Bernstein: Slava!, Gershwin: Concerto in F, the solo piano part was played beautifully and with lots of energy by Gilles Vonsattel
http://www.gillesvonsattel.com
Stravinsky: Symphony in 3 Movements, Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. The latter was dedicated to the memory of HSO’s principal bassoonist-music librarian-personal manager, Hunter Thomas who’ve passed away at the age of 62 at the end of August.

I am off to Hungary now to conduct my first concert with the Hungarian Radio Symphony this season. It is a beautifully crafter program (thanks to Program Director György Igric!) featuring the members of the orchestra as soloists. The program is as follows: Debussy: Afternoon of a Faun (in Schoenberg’s arrangement), Debussy: Two Dances for Harp and orchestra, Debussy: Rhapsody No.1, Bartók: Rhapsody No.1&2, Bartók: Divertimento for strings. This concert is the closing event of the all concert marathon of “The Day of the Music Ensembles of the Hungarian Radio”. There will be live broadcast online as always. Please tune in!
http://www.radiomusic.hu

A 18-19-es szezon elkezdődött. Szeptember 21-én pénteken a Huntsville Symphonyval lelkes és számos közönség előtt játszottuk első klasszikus koncertünket. A program Bernstein Slava! nyitánya, a West Side Story Szimfonikus Táncok, Sztravinszkij Szimfónia három tételben című múve, és Gershwin F-Dúr zongoraversenye voltak, utóbbi szólistájaként Gilles Vonsattel mutatkozott be.
http://www.gillesvonsattel.com
A West Side Story szvitet Hunter Thomas emlékének ajánlottam, aki a zenekar első fagottosa, kottatárosa és zenekari menedzsere volt, és aki augusztus végén, hosszú betegség után távozott. Hunter a zenekar régi és megbecsült tagja volt, és a környék legismertebb fagott tanára is egyben. Szombat delután a University of Alabama Huntsville kis koncerttermében tartottunk egy koncerttel egybekötött megemlékezést is, ahol az HSO nevében én búcsúztattam, és emlékeztem meg a közös évekről.

Hamarosan indulok Budapestre, ahol idei első koncertemet vezénylem a Magyar Rádió Zenekarával. A Magyar Rádió Művészeti Együtteseinek Napja a Bartók Rádióban egész napos sorozat zárása képpen egy Debussy-Bartók hangversenyt adunk a zenekar tagjainak szólóival. A részletes program itt elérhető:
http://www.radiomusic.hu

A concerted a Bartók Rádió élőben közvetíti.

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

Music For Different Summers

Bartók: The Wooden Prince (complete ballet with live sand animation)
Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (performed with live dance)

I have started my summer by leading the conducting master-class with the rep above at the International Bartok Seminar and Festival. It was an honor to be a professor at this esteemed festival. John Cage, Gyorgy Ligeti and other world class musicians and composers have visited the Bartok Festival in small town Szombathely, Hungary back in the days. It was truly the place to be in the summer when I was a student. I myself have started there as a conductor student some 20 years ago, also have studied chamber music with Gyorgy Kurtág as a clarinetist.
This year I’ve had the honor to teach 10 active and a few passive students from all over the world. The closing concert was beautifully presented and very well attended.
After a short stop in Huntsville (there is always something to do when I am in town, and I did use my time wisely for business luncheons, meetings and planning) I have spent the last 10+ days in Portland, OR. I have taken on the role of Incoming Music Director of the Portland Festival Symphony in the last couple of years.

http://www.portlandfestivalsymphony.org

This wonderful organization has been providing free classical music for the Portland audience for over 35 years now. Playing live classical music in very different neighborhoods of the city for kids and adults is a fascinating and very rewarding mission. This year I have programmed overtures by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert along with my own piece “Rough and Ready, an American Outdoor Overture” composed directly for PFS and its outdoor concerts. The concert series ends today with an all strings concert.

I am ready for a brief vacation with my two sons, Balazs and Vince after this week. Well be spending our time in and around Huntsville, AL, and will be visiting the great city of New Orleans, too. After our annual “father and sons” vacation I will be flying to the Island of Jersey to start a hopefully long tradition of “Opera Island”. Armel Opera Festival is branching out and I am really excited about being part of this exciting new experiment. I will definitely post more about “Opera Island” at the end of this month. In the meantime, please check out the Jersey Opera House website for the Armel Festival program here:

http://www.www.jerseyoperahouse.co.uk

It sure feels like the extreme hot weather has been chasing me around. Hot and hotter weather in Szombathely, Budapest, Huntsville, and even in Portland (it was 109 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday, that’s over 42 degrees Celsius). Yet the character of Summer is still different at these very different places, so is the music I have been working on. I find the summer of 2017 striking a nice balance between time off and good work. And yes, there is always composition time whenever I can get it. The new version of my first opera, “The Giant Baby” is in the making. Premiere at the end of June, 2018.

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!

My Father’s Son

It’s not so much that “the show must go on”, rather, that I am my father’s son.
My Dad, József Vajda, former principal bassoonist of the Hungarian Radio Symphony and retired professor of the Liszt Academy in Budapest passed away 10 days ago. Since then I have done a Casual Classic show with the Huntsville Symphony and I am getting ready to start rehearsals for our Classical 5 program with the Canadian Brass. My Dad worked all his life and was a master of his craft, and a great teacher. I am finding that work helps me cope with my loss and staying active means staying true to my father’s spirit.

Here are the two programs for Huntsville:
Casual Classics 2 at the Historic Train Depot Roundhouse
Telemann: Tafelmusik Suite #3 “Il delirio fantastico”
Telemann: Alster Echo Suite

Classical 5 “The Americas” at the Von Braun Center
Marquez: Danzon #2
All American music played by Canadian Brass
Bramwell Tovey: Manhattan Music for brass quintet and orchestra
Bernstein: Divertimento

http://www.hso.org

Next week I am going to start a project with the Pannon Philharmonic in southern Hungary. We’ll be playing a show at the Kodaly Center in Pecs and will repeat it at the Liszt Academy as well.

“Dance on the Moon”
Griffes: Poem
Schönberg: Pierrot lunaire (with special projections and lights)
Stravinsky: Song of the Nightingale
Ibert: Flute Concerto

http://www.pannonfilharmonikusok.hu

I will be spending a lot of time with my family members while in Hungary, attending the funeral and doing a Celebration of Life in memory of my Father.

We Are Children

On October 7 the jury of the New Hungarian Music Forum, after a live radio-broadcast orchestra concert, has made its decision. As the conductor of both the chamber ensemble and the orchestra concerts, and a member of the final jury I had the chance to work with all 7 young composers during the heavy workload rehearsal week. For me it was demanding and due to my dual role somewhat schizophrenic, too. It is definitely not easy to put on a concert by doing everything you can to make young composers compositions sound the best and judge them at the same time. The musicians of the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra along with our one soloist, Gabor Czaban Hungarian beat boxer did an amazing job.

Here are the results:

Chamber Ensemble Compostions:
1st Prize: MÁTÉ BALOGH – Melodiemusik
2nd Prize: ALESSIO ELIA – Disappearing Rainbows
3rd Prize: MARCELL DARGAY – Monument of the Immortal Immigrant
and (!)
LÁSZLÓ SÁNDOR – Divertimento – Giuoco dei suoni

Based on the Jury’s unanimous decision there was no first prize awarded in the orchestral round. The money was evenly distributed between the split prize winners.

Symphony Orchestra Compositions:
1st prize: –
2nd Prize: MÁTÉ BALOGH – Quintet and ANDREJ SLEZÁK – inSpiral
3rd Prize:GYULA BÁNKÖVI – Greenlight-garden Night

MÁTÉ BALOGH was the winner of special prizes by the International Eötvös Institute for Contemporary Music, Editio Musica Budapest and the Danubia Symphony Orchestra.
GYULA BÁNKÖVI won the special prize of the palace of Arts Budapest (MUPA)
MARCELL DARGAY and ANDREJ SLEZÁK received a 1.000.000 Hungarian Forints value press portfolio each from fidelio.hu

More info in Hungarian here:
http://fidelio.hu

On October 9 & 11 at the Solti Hall of the Liszt Academy of Music I conducted the new version of ‘Spring Awakening’, a one act opera by Mate Bella. With the beautiful and very expressive staging of Andras Almasi Toth, and the great singing of young singers with the accompaniment of the UMZE Ensemble this opera was an instant success. The music is modern but definitely expressive and audience friendly in the best possible way.
Read details about the production:
http://cafebudapestfest.hu

On Saturday, October 17 amazing cimbalom player, Miklos Lukacs and Thrensemble will be performing a concert under my direction at the Budapest Music Center. On there program: compositions by Igor Stravinsky, Peter Eotvos and Kornel Fekete Kovacs. After the concert we’ll be staying at the concert hall to make the world premiere recording of Peter Eötvös’ piece called ‘da capo’ for cimbalom and ensemble for future release by the BMC label.

For further information on the concert in English click here:
http://bmc.hu

‘We Are Children’ is the title and the theme of the 2015-16 season of the Obuda Danubia Symphony. I was invited to conduct the second subscription concert of their classical series called ‘GAME’ at the grand hall of the Liszt Academy on Tuesday, October 20. I had my third rehearsal with the orchestra this morning and I am already having a lot of fun.
About the program:
http://odz.hu

With Stravinsky, Ligeti, Dohnanyi and Milhaud to conduct I am most definitely GAME! 🙂 Music is PLAYING (both in English and in Hungarian you PLAY when you make music) in the most noble sense of the word. If you make or just enjoy art in any form you preserve something of your inner child. Being able to do just that is a true gift of life.

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.