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.

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.

Eine Kleine Stravinsky

Symphony Silicon Valley invited me to conduct an interesting “pasticcio”-program this week at the beautiful California Theater in San Jose, CA.
Two concerts, one on Saturday evening and one on Sunday afternoon start with Mozart’s “way-too-well-known” Serenade in G K.525 nicknamed ‘Eine kleine Nachtmusik’. It is a challenge to do music that is always on the “Your Favorite Classical Music” selection at your local radio station or can be found on a Holiday CD for $2 each at Walmart. The only thing a conductor can do is to read the score with fresh eyes and concentrate purely on the musical information on the sheet music. Knowing and loving Mozart’s genius and work also helps. I spent a long hour rethinking phrasing, articulation, tempi and ornaments for this lively piece of string orchestra music. As always I am having fun with the challenge.
The second piece on the program is Symphony in C (Symphonie en ut as the score says in French) by Igor Stravinsky (or Strawinsky according to Edition Schott). This is a 28 minute long so called “neo-classical” composition written in 1940 for a medium size Beethoven orchestra. I don’t want to go into details here about the intricacies of orchestration, chord-engineering or thematic development. Let me just say one thing. There is no 20th Century composer who can dress up a seemingly simple chord or motive like Stravinsky can. This piece shows great mastery of pretend-simplicity and gives us a captivating musical portrait of the “Key C” in all its glory.
Read the program notes by Phillip Huscher here:
https://cso.org
In the second half of the program I get to be the musical partner of Mayuko Kamio
http://www.dispeker.com
in her colorful and imaginative interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.

To The Moaning And The Groaning Of The Bells

Last Friday I conducted the concert version of Puccini’s La Boheme with the Huntsville Symphony, the Community and Children’s Chorus and a wonderful cast at the Von Braun Center. This was the first time ever in my life when I started a dress rehearsal with not all the principals present. Due to an unforeseen illness we needed to hire a replacement Mimi. She drove 4 hours from Atlanta and was just pulling into the parking lot as I started Act One (5 minutes late). She just walked on stage about 10 minutes into the act (Mimi’s first appearance) and did a wonderful job. See names and more read more details in FaceBook posts by Huntsville Symphony and myself. No matter in what format you are doing opera, the usual “operatic excitements” always do occur.
From the happy morning bells of Act 3 in La Boheme I have arrived to some very different bells in Budapest, Hungary. As part of the Hungarian Radio Symphony’s (MR Symphony) 70th Anniversary season concert series I am conducting a concert at the Palace of the Arts (MUPA) this Saturday. On the program:
Andras Szollosy (a great composer, often remembered as “The Great Third Master” with Gyorgy Ligeti and Gyorgy Kurtag): TRASFIGURAZIONI
Stravinsky: SYMPHONY OF PSALMS
Rachmaninov: THE BELLS

Fro the lyrics of the latter composition (a great symphony for orchestra, chorus and solo voices) see the following link
http://www.recmusic.org

I designed the entire concert program around “The Bells” theme. Andras Szollosy (FYI the letter “SZ” next to Bartok’s compositions refers to his name, since he was the one -a composer AND a musicologist- who put together the chronological order of Bela Bartok’s works) was obsessed with the sound of the bells. In this energetic and very much “Rite of Spring”-like piece (16 minutes of music) has a lot of great bell-effects masterfully orchestrated for a group of triple woodwinds, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 3 (!) violin sections, violas, celli and basses (note that the lack of percussion instruments including any type of bells here!) Szollosy was a big fan of Igor Stravinsky and his music. Needless to say, that the unmistakable Russian bell sound plays a big part in this unique and captivating composition entitled Symphony of Psalms. Here is the unusual orchestration of this piece:
5 flutes (incl. piccolo), 5 oboes (incl. English Horn), 4 bassoons (incl. Contrabassoon) 4 horns, 5 trumpets (incl. Piccolo Trumpet), 3 trombones, tuba, timpani + percussion, two pianos, celli and basses. Yes, you read it right, while the Szollosy piece has three violin sections this piece has NO violins or violas whatsoever.
The Psalms used by Stravinsky for the three movements are:
Psalm 38, verses 13&14
Psalm 39, verses 2,3 & 4
Psalm 150 (complete)

Here are the words for Psalm 150

1 Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.

Piccolo Concerto and Rite of Spring in Costa Rica

Ready for my trip to San Jose, Costa Rica. My first ever trip to Central America and my debut with
Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional
http://www.osn.go.cr
Concerts on Friday and Sunday
Program:
Allen Torres: Tres Acuarelas (see the orchestra’s website about the composer)
Lowell Lieberman: Piccolo Concerto
See blog post by Crysania4 from 2010 with YouTube links to the piece
http://crysania4.livejournal.com

And of course it is still the 100th Birth-year of Good Old Rite of Spring. He has not aged a minute since his birth, I got to tell you that.