Toward The Sea Into the New Year

The season of the Huntsville Symphony is always busier between January and May than it is in the fall. The reason? College football. In the fall we are doing our classical concerts on Fridays so we do not have to compete with the games on Saturdays. Also it seems it takes a while for everybody (definitely our core audience) to settle into the usual rhythm after the summer months. After presenting a no-orchestra New Years Eve show with the amazing Bela and Abigail Fleck the Huntsville Symphony is back on the stage of the Von Braun Center and we sure have a lot of notes to play for the second half of the season. Between February 1-4 we are doing 4 Youth Concerts, a Free Family Concert and a Pops concert with all John Williams movie hits. We are presenting our ever popular “dinner-concert” Casual Classics on February 12, then another classical concert with the music of Wagner and Offenbach on February 18.

Yesterday, with a smaller than usual orchestra on stage, I conducted the HSO in a show called “Flute and Harp Impressions”. Principal flutist Evelyn Loehrlein and harpist Katherine Newman joined guest flutist Gergely Ittzes in a selection of pieces by Vivaldi, Debussy, Takemitsu and Respighi.
Gergely Ittzes has also performed two of his own solo flute compositions presenting unusual virtuosity on his instrument along with many special effects never heard before by our audience. Ittzes is capable of playing clear double stops (intervals) on the flute and special effects that sound like walking bass or an Indian, or Japanese traditional instrument. Our audience was very enthusiastic and thrilled about all the music that was presented. I believe we did justice to Vivaldi as well, since his music —due to the big size of our concert venue— has been definitely underrepresented in the classical series.
My favorite part of the concert was when Gergely Ittzes played Debussy’s famous solo flute composition, Syrinx then we went right into playing Takemitsu’s mesmerizing “Toward the Sea II” for alto flute, harp and strings. Great job HSO string section!
I admire Takemitsu for his beautiful sound colors and soothing rhythmical complexities (yes it does sound like a contradiction, but Takemitsu is just doing, in his own language, what Debussy has invented more than a 100ys ago now). I was very pleased with the audience’s positive response.
Our New Year has just started, and we are sailing on toward new adventures. Come and join us in 2017, too!

Operas & ballets 1998-2013 (40 is the new 40/2)

Tonight is the second performance of Ferenc Erkel Istvan Kiraly (King Stephen) at the Margaret Island Open Air stage. Almost by the time we start the second half of the performance (right after the August 20 Festivities fireworks) Duna TV (Hungarian Public Media’s only satellite channel) starts the broadcast of yesterday’s performance. (21:35 local time) This is a nice occasion to list all the operas, musical theater works and ballets I have conducted in the last 15 years. My own operas are not included here.
Side note: being 40 does not feel any different than being 39. 🙂

Bartok: Bluebeard’s Castle
Erkel: King Stephen
Peter Eotvos: The Three Sisters
Peter Eotvos: Radames
Gounod: Romeo and Juliet
Ligeti: Le Grand Macabre
Emil Petrovics: C’est la guerre
Puccini: La Boheme
Rossini: La Cenerentola
Gyorgy Ranki: The King’s New Clothes
Schoenberg: Erwartung
Verdi: Masked Ball
Wagner: Lohengrin

Fully Staged Ballets:
Bartok: The Miraculous Mandarin
Dohnanyi-Seregi: Variations on a Nursery Song
Prokofiev: Rome and Juliet

Musical Theater:
Bartok: Cantata Profana (fully staged)
Ligeti: Aventures & Nouvelle Aventures
Peter Eotvos: As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams

Lohengrin dress-rehearsal

Tomorrow is the day of the dress-rehearsal for Wagner’s Lohengrin at the Palace of The Arts as part of The Budapest Wagner Days. First performances on June 9 & 16.
Here is the wonderful cast:
Lohengrin: Istvan Kovacshazi
Elsa: Ricarda Merbeth
Telramund: Anton Keremidtchiev
Ortrud: Linda Watson
King Henry: Peter Fried

Opera-Symphony, Anti-Anti Opera and the missing link

Busy 6 weeks ahead in Budapest, Hungary. I am starting with the final classical subscription concert of the MR Symphony Orchestra (Hungarian Radio Symphony) at Palace of the Arts. The program includes two symphonies numbered 9, one by Shostakovich and one by Beethoven. Two very different “Number Nines” juxtaposed. Now that I am doing Beethoven’s Choral Symphony three times in three months (April: Huntsville, May: Budapest, June: Music in the Mountains, California) I rediscovered the operatic, theatrical side of the final movement of this titanic piece for myself. (BTW I always thought that the Funeral March of Eroica was “music for a play”, just like Egmont) The famous opening lines by the bass-baritone
“O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!”(“Oh friends, not these tones!”)
written in recitativo style set the tone for this very special Rescue Opera called “The Last Movement of Beethoven Nine”.

As part of a now decade old tradition the Palace of the Arts remembers the great composer Gyorgy Ligeti on (or around) his Birthday. He would be 90 years old this year. The time has come for Ligeti’s only opera, well his Anti-Anti-Opera as he called it to be performed as part of the Hommage To Ligeti series. I’ll be the conductor of the concert performance of the 1997 Salzburg Version of The Macabre at the helm of the Pannon Philharmonic in cooperation with
Neue Oper Wien
and Amadinda Percussion Group

Here is the summary of the story of this Anti-Anti-Opera
Link to the Palace of the Arts production

Now it seems that I could just move into the Palace of the Arts for the next couple of weeks. (BTW check out the architecture on their website. It is a gorgeous building.) After finishing the Ligeti project I dive into a “Real Opera” at last. As part of the internationally known Budapest Wagner Days I get to conduct Lohengrin semi-staged.
The great thing about being a conductor, or a musician in general is that you get to wear many hats. From Beethoven through Ligeti to Wagner: one feels like an actor playing different characters. You are only as good an actor as much you can be yourself in the role you are playing. Studying Lohengrin is giving me great pleasure. Just like I re-discovered the operatic nature of Beethoven 9 for myself I did just make a discovery about Wagner’s romantic “Knight on a Swan” tale. Learning this opera made me realize how organically Wagner’s artistry is rooted in German musical theater tradition. It might sound like a cliche or a no-brainer to many (or to all who knows even a little about W) but it is different knowing something from your studies and actually living it as a musician. NOW I see (and feel) that Lohengrin is the “Missing Link” (along with The Flying Dutchman and Tannhauser of course) or rather the straight path between Weber’s Freischutz and Tristan und Isolde.

Ligeti 90
Wagner 200
Vajda 39 and One Lucky Guy with great pieces to conduct between now and mid June.

The Shostakovich-Beethoven and the Ligeti performances will be streamed live by the Hungarian Public Radio at