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

Brahms and The Chairs

Three Brahms compositions in two concerts mark the Finale of the Huntsville Symphony’s 15-16 season. Yesterday evening, celebrated by a large audience at the Von Braun Performing Arts Center HSO was playing Brahms Symphony #3 and Violin Concerto in D. After a long standing ovation the mesmerizing sounds of the first movement of Bach’s Violin Sonata No.2 in A-minor ended the last classical concert, played beautifully by Nikki Chooi. What an amazing way to end the season!

Now wait a second! There is more. It is a little “encore” to our 61st season if you wish. This afternoon, members of the audience are invited to sit on the stage of the VBC next to and around the principal players of the HSO as we perform Serenade #1 by Brahms. This time it is the wind-quintet+string-quintet version on the program and I will be talking about the music, about the composer, and about the process we musicians rehearse and perform. To start the show I am planning to make our audience just stand in the lime light on stage and stare out into the empty auditorium to get a sense of what it feels like being up there in the presence of hundreds of people. In between movements of Serenade #1 I will ask the audience to switch to a different chair (hence the concert title we used for a similar show last year: Musical Chairs) to experience the acoustics of the stage of the VBC and to be able to watch and listen to different musicians playing different instruments. If you like unusual concert formats, join us at 3:30pm today or sign up for our Casual Classics series next season. The program will be out soon!

http://www.hso.org

Thanks Everybody for making 15-16 a successful season in every regard! We are looking forward to welcome you back in September. Have a great summer and keep up listening to good music!

In Between Enescu and Dvořak

Two World Premieres by Gregory Vajda were presented in between pieces by Enescu and Dvořak in about a two week time period.

Enescu: Romanian Rhapsody #1
Gregory Vajda: Clarinet Symphony
Dvořak: Symphony #8 in G

Enescu: Romanian Rhapsody #1
Gregory Vajda: Drums Drums Drums
Dvořak: Symphony #8 in G

As for the Enescu and the Dvořak I can’t remember “double dipping” a concert program like this for a long time, if ever. To tell you the truth it was not even planned this way at first. Mostly guest artists scheduling led to this situation, but in hindsight I don’t mind it at all. Having two new compositions of mine played for the first time in a short timeframe (and BTW almost exactly a year after the World Premiere of Georgia Bottoms, A Comic Opera of the Modern South) gave me a rare opportunity to get into my own music as a listener. Being the conductor of your own work does take away from being able to truly listen “from outside”. Performing music – your own or someone else’s – always comes with a lot of “on the ground” work and with having to fix small details as you go. To get the big picture, to listen and to judge a composition as a whole requires distance, both physical and mental. For some reason premiering two pieces (about 50 minutes of music all together) shed more light on musical problems (orchestration, tempi, form, etc.) and helped with finding solutions as well. This was definitely much better than having just one piece premiered and waiting for its next performance to occur.

There was also a third World Premiere just three days ago, a short duo for two violins entitled “Schnitte”. I wrote the duo at the request of the string players of the Hungarian Radio Symphony who wanted to play a new two-violin composition to precede Alfred Schnittke’s ‘Moz’Art á la Haydn’. They performed the piece “in stereo”, in front and in the back of the audience, and all in dark. Then during the last chord of “Schnitte” the first few contrabass notes of Schnittke’s music started. I think I managed to inject some “70s avant-garde sound” into my work that nicely prepared the audience for Schnittke. I hope to get a recording of the concert soon.

Here is a nice review of the Budapest (MUPA, Palace of the Arts) concert with many details about my Clarinet Symphony on the classical site backtrack.com
http://www.bachtrack.com

As for Drums Drums Drums, a concerto for timpani, drum-set, concert bass drum and orchestra I am looking forward to its next performance (including corrections based on the World Premiere performance with Scott Christian, Gergo Borlai, Sean Rittenauer and the Huntsville Symphony at the Van Braun Center) with the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra (Hessischer Rundfunk) in June 2017.

For now I am back to composing. This time it’s some fairy-tale music for an animated movie. Something completely different and a lot of fun.

On A High Note And More

The 2014-15 Season of the Huntsville Symphony is ending on a high note, well actually on many high notes. The amazing Elina Vahala
http://elinavahala.com
is back to play the powerful and extremely difficult Violin Concerto #2 by Bela Bartok. Our last classical concert opens with Les preludes by Franz Liszt and closes with Brahms’ Symphony No.1.
Just this week HSO has announced its 2015-16 season. Please click on this link to find out about all the details
http://hso.org
My busy 15-16 season continues. Next week I am off to San Jose, CA to conduct a choral program with Symphony Silicon Valley. Right after that I jump into the production of Doctor Faust by Italian composer Ferruccio Busoni at the Budapest Opera, then back to the US to conduct the Rochester Philharmonic. Stay tuned! Also do not forget to Tune In on WLRH tomorrow morning 9AM EST to listen to Ginny Kennedy and myself talking about the Saturday concert and about the next season of HSO.
http://wlrh.org
In the meantime here is the review of my concert with the Omaha Symphony from last week for your reading pleasure.
http://omaha.com

Musical Metabolism

Metabolism: the sum of the physical and chemical processes in an organism by which its material substance is produced, maintained, and destroyed, and by which energy is made available.
There is sure a lot of energy made available during the performance of Métaboles by Henri Dutilleux. What a great showpiece for orchestra! It comes second on our program this weekend with the Omaha Symphony. The concert opens with Debussy’s Danse (Tarantelle Styrienne) orchestrated by Maurice Ravel himself. Concluding the first half is the virtuoso Violin Concerto #3 by Saint-Saens. My soloist for this piece is the amazing David Kim, concert master of the Philadelphia Orchestra
http://davidkimviolin.com
After a varied and fairly long first half we are playing only one composition for the second half of the concert. Shostakovich Symphony #1 is a long time favorite of mine. Written by a 19yo composer this symphony has everything we love Shostakovich for without the long shadow of Comrade Stalin over it.
About 9 years ago I was invited to conduct the Omaha Symphony for its last concert in their old concert hall. I was also asked to do a rehearsal in the then not yet finished new hall to help the acoustic adjustments the venue needed. This time I am really fortunate to conduct two shows of a truly exciting program in the Holland Center’s beautiful concert hall.

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.

The Season That Opens Twice

This is the season that opens twice. The first half of the first concert of 2013-14 starts with Brahms: Academic Festival Overture. The second half of the first concert of 2013-14 starts with Brahms: Tragic Overture. Having the longest continuously operating symphony orchestra in the state of Alabama alone calls for celebration. I also think that number 59 is just as nice a number as 60 (yes, we are already getting ready for a great season of celebration!). The concert will end with the mind-blowing piece of Leos Janacek entitled Sinfonietta. 9 extra trumpets (12 all together) and some other additional brass instruments are joining the HSO to finish the concert with a big bang. In the first half the great Robert McDuffie is joining the forces of the string section along with harp and percussion to play Bernstein’s Serenade. It is a real treat an tons of fun to make chamber music with Robert.
Check out his website here:
http://www.robertmcduffie.com

Brahms, Bernstein, Brahms, Janacek
Check out Huntsville Symphony website here:
http://www.hso.org
Listen to WLRH Radio tomorrow (Friday) morning for a pre-recorded interview with Ginney Kennedy about this concert and the upcoming season.
Let “The Season of Personalities” begin!

Seasons of Santa Barbara

It’s the season of The Seasons. Conducting the Santa Barbara Symphony for the first time this week. Program includes: Vivaldi 4 Seasons and Glazunov The Seasons
See details at the SBS website:
http://www.thesymphony.org/2012-2013-season/


Here are some other “seasons” classical music videos for your enjoyment
Seasons of Buenos Aires by Astor Piazzolla

The American Four Seasons by Philip Glass