Concert film by Zsolt Hamar and Zoltán Czigány on Duna Television.
A fascinating concert film has been made of Béla Bartók's masterpiece from 1930, Cantata Profana, to be shown on Duna Television on Sunday evening at quartet to ten, as part of Hungarian Culture Day. We spoke Zsolt Hamar, who conducted the National Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Choir and the Soloists (András Molnár and Viktor Massányi) as well as director Zoltán Czigány.
Zoltán Czigány has made numerous documentary films – among them many literary and other portraits, but his career entered a new chapter with Cantata Profana. This is his first concert film, but we can also say that it is the first Hungarian concert film, since nothing of its kind has been made in the past ten years. The idea came from editor Magda Kelemen who selected the work and also picked the National Philharmonic and National Choir to perform it, as well as the location, the Kiscelli church ruins. (…)
Zsolt Hamar, who is the National Philharmonic's principal resident conductor has given many concert which were filmed or broadcast live. The Cantata Profana though is the first concert film on which he has worked. “We worked with a very special technique” – said the young conductor – “We first recorded the music, and although we, the performers can be seen throughout, we appear on the screen following a very deeply worked out dramatic scheme. And all the while there is that breathtaking background, our co-star, the Kiscelli church ruin. It was very good to work with Zoltán Czigány, with whom we discussed the score, and who placed before us an entirely worked out concept. He incoporated my ideas into his. We worked throughout in a very constructive spirit. And we did it having prepared well, and apart from the odd second, without tension or nerves.
Zsolt Hamar learned the Béla Bartók Cantata in great detail while a composition student, studying it for months. He has conducted in Hungary and abroad – true, on only a few occasions. “It is difficult to talk of my relationship to this work without pathos”, he says. “I have spent my life in the company of masterpieces, and it is difficult to name a favourite from among the many. Nonetheless I must say that I know few composers, in whose works such divine perfection is more unmistakable than Bartók. I can only compare him to the cathedral builders, to Michelangelo, Bach and Mozart. In the twentieth century, where I have many favourite composers, for me Bartók was the only one who could create something new that was immediately formed into a whole and with order. I would like to quote that famous scene from the play Amadeus, when the Emperor asks Mozart if there are not perhaps too many notes in his opera. The genius replies, there are precisely as many note in it as are needed. This is also entirely true for Bartók.
“These days” added Zsolt Hamar, “when it is not uncommon to hear people asking who is Hungarian and who is more Hungarian, it is good for people to have an example, to set them on the right course. For me, Béla Bartók is just such an example. Few people did more than him to discover where we Hungarians have come from. He investigated, he dug up our roots from the soil. And afterwards, he did not use it to state that we Hungarians are somehow better than other peoples, but rather directed attention to what is common between us. Finally, he made this polished diamond European in its miraculous synthesis and created a true precious stone from it. If someone asks me how I define my Hungarian-ness, then I can reply: as Béla Bartók did. How good it would be if I could live and create like he did.
(Magyar Nemzet, January 19th 2002.)