Ferencsik Season Pass 1.
The season opening concert of the National Philharmonic Orchestra is linked with the anniversary of the death of Béla Bartók. This tradition goes back to the time of János Ferencsik and Kobayashi Ken-Ichiro. We wish to cherish this tradition; however, this year, as an exception, instead of works by the great maestro, we have put together a programme featuring works by Hungarian composers who inspired Béla Bartók through their works or their friendship. We have done this as a mark of respect for one of the greatest interpreters of Bartók of all times, Zoltán Kocsis.
Zsolt Hamar, musical director of the National Philharmonic Orchestra
The conductor Zsolt Hamar is an Artist of Merit, winner of the Liszt Award and the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary. He headed the Hungarian National Philharmonic as Musical Director from March 2017 to August 2020.
Kodály composed his first mature work, Summer Evening for orchestra, between August and September 1906. The history of the piece is nevertheless remarkable. Originally composed as a degree piece, it received its first performance on 22 October 1906 in Budapest. After that it was only performed twice, so Kodály committed it to the bottom drawer. However, in 1928 Arturo Toscanini, who had just premièred Kodály’s oratorio Psalmus Hungaricus at La Scala in Milan, commissioned an orchestral work. Declining the request to write a new work, Kodály returned to this early work of his and rewrote it.
He kept the simple A–B–A form, did not change the small-ensemble orchestration (strings, woodwind and two horns), and he did not change the conservative tonality either. Rather, he sought to highlight the folk-music elements in the piece.
Liszt’s two piano concertos evolved side by side over two decades, originating during his years as a traveling artist and completed after the move to Weimar. (Liszt also started a third piano concerto at the time; this work, in E-flat major like the well-known No.1, was reconstructed in 1988 by Jay Rosenblatt and first performed in 1990.) The earliest sketches for the A-major concerto date from September 1839, but Liszt did not complete the work until 1849, and made further revisions, sometimes extensive ones, through 1861.
The concerto form favored by Liszt consists of a single movement, whose inner divisions may take on the characteristics of a slow movement or a scherzo. The second concerto’s main idea, an intimate, lyrical melody, is stated at the very beginning by the woodwind and immediately repeated by the piano. It is contrasted with a more energetic second subject that evolves into an Allegro agitato assai section. This second subject later reappears thoroughly “tamed” as an expressive string melody, preparing the return of the main theme as a quintessentially romantic cello solo, accompanied by the piano. The following Allegro deciso functions as a development section where both subjects are taken up simultaneously. The last portion of the concerto is a triumphal march incorporating some contrasting episodes such as a final lyrical solo and a scherzo-like Allegro animato.
Ernő Dohnányi’s Symphony No. 1 (op. 9) was premièred under the baton of Hans Richter in early 1902 in Manchester. The Bratislava-born pianist and composer could boast a remarkable oeuvre even though he was not even 25 years old. Four years earlier, freshly graduated from the Music Academy, he had embarked on an immensely successful musical career that took him on tour around Europe and the United States, while he also composed many important works. His D-minor first symphony (1900–1901) was one of them. It was in fact his second work in the genre. (The first, the F-major symphony, which won a Millennial Royal Award, never came out in print and was not assigned an opus number either.) Composed for an immense orchestra in five movements, the ambitious work attests to creative invention and virtuoso skills. While the monumentality and even pathos of the work was not typical for Dohnányi, it will reveal the composer’s hallmarks – the always subtle, charmingly affectionate music, eclectic in an individual way – to the attentive listener.