This evening, the National Philharmonic Orchestra will give a special concert at the Italian Institute with a programme comprising of 20th century composers. It will be conducted by the ensemble's music director, Zoltán Kocsis, and feature Swiss pianist Ueli Wiget and the Amadinda Percussion Ensemble. Zoltán Kocsis would like the National Philharmonic orchestra to master modern music like a native language.
“I do not just regard the playing of 20th century works and contemporary music as being interesting excursions in an orchestra's life,” says Zoltán Kocsis, “but as something much more important. The primary objective of such concerts it to widen perspectives. I would like the National Philharmonic Orchestra to follow musical events and tendencies in the world on a daily level, and be able to play modern music as if it were their native tongue. Widening perspectives is helped by work, in the case of early music with György Vashegyi and in contemporary music with Péter Eötvös. I think it is useful from all points of view if besides Baroque, classical and romantic music, the 20th century is also regularly programmed at our concerts.”
Of Friday's programmed works, only Thomas Ades “…but all shall be well” , written in 1992, can be truly said to be contemporary music. The other three pieces, by Charles Ives, John Cage and Edgard Varese, although 20th century classics, are virtually unknown in Hungary. “Thomas Ades, despite his French sounding name, is English: he is one of the most successful composers in Europe, whose works are characterised by the spare use of material, but worked skilfully, creating an almost impressionistic effect,” says Zoltán Kocsis. “Charles Ives Central Park in the Dark was written almost a century ago in 1906, and can be regarded as program music: it depicts the New York's Central Park of the 1870s. An interesting aspect of the work is that it requires two orchestras and two conductors: for a brief while, concert master Barnabás Kelemen takes over direction. Ives was a unique composer, outside his time and environment, who with this atonal (keyless) music pre-empted Stravinsky and Bartók by decades. John Cage composed his concerto for prepared piano and orchestra in 1951, the soloist will be one of my former pupils, the resident pianist of the world famous Ensemble Modern, Ueli Wiget from Switzerland. Edgard Varese's composition Amérique was written in 1921, and owes much to Stravinsky's style, particular the Rite of Spring. It requires immense use of percussion – which will be performed by the Amadinda Ensemble – and it radiates a kind of nobility with its occasionally penetrating sound effects.”
Since January 1st, the National Philharmonic Orchestra has ceased to be a State Institution and is now a Public Benefit Company. Zoltán Kocsis says that this means no change to daily work. “I do not feel that my rights and obligations have grown or decreased, there have been no changes of personnel and the working conditions of the musicians have not changed. The orchestra is progressing as always, they have concerts, tours and recordings in store. I am sure we are travelling the right direction, and that soon we will reach the first of our stated objectives: that the orchestra can attain concert standard in any style with a few days of rehearsals behind them,” said Zoltán Kocsis, who recently completed the orchestration of seven new Debussy songs. He is currently working on an orchestral transcription of a Rachmaninov song cycle.
(Magyar Hírlap, January 11th 2002.)