Zoltán Kocsis says he received all his awards too young
The record industry is practically dead, said Zoltán Kocsis when he picked up his lifetime's achievement award at Midem this year at the world's largest record fair. Mr Kocsis sees the role of the family as the solution.
Aren't you too young to receive a lifetime's achievement award? What does this honour mean for you?
The lifetime's achievement award means that I have received acknowledgement for things I have done so far. So as I have done a great many things, I don't know if I will pick up something at Midem when it is organised in thirty years time, or indeed if I'll be able to pick up anything. Generally, I received my awards too young. I received the Kossuth Prize in 1978. Many still insist that this was because I was a friend of György Aczél [the controversial culture minister in the Socialist era]. This was not true. Aczél liked me, and in some respects I regarded what he did for Hungarian culture – when it was not being dictated by snobbery – with sympathy. Because there is no question he did. He also did things against it, but he did things for culture. However we were never friends. I told him that I regarded myself far too young for the Kossuth Prize, perhaps Dezső Ránki was too, because we received it together. Since then we have both done vastly more than we ever did between 1970 and 1978. Interestingly, we haven't received any acknowledgement from the Hungarian State for this. By the same token, I hastened to inform Aczél in 1978 that actor László Mensáros and poet János Pilinszky had both done far more for Hungarian culture than us and still they had received nothing. Perhaps that is why the following year Mensáros and Pilinszky received the Kossuth Prize. Then both died early …. Returning to your question, yes, these awards were far too premature for me, and so is the lifetime's achievement award. I ought to receive a different type of award, if they have to honour me with something. A lifetime's achievement award emphasises the closing of a career or at least, a completed, entire past. My oeuvre is far from being complete. I am now working on an orchestration which the relates to Mahler's First Symphony that will be heard in the National Philharmonic Orchestra's next concert.
Which work is this?
It is a Chopin nocturne, a motif from which Mahler lifted into his First Symphony and I thought we would show everything which had an influence on Mahler. Every connecting theme, so Wagner' Parsifal Overture, a French children's song and the Songs of a Wayfarer cycle. I've just noticed I am talking about current activities. So it is out of the question that I have complete my life's work and am now resting on my laurels, gathering up awards. The truth is that we can' say that Claudio Abbado has finished his life's work and he also received a lifetime' achievement award.
You went to Cannes for the prize in the midst of a concert tour.
I arrived from Antwerp and set off to Treviso. The most interesting aspect of the tour is that I began it as a soloist with Gilbert Varga in Cologne and finish it as a conductor with Gilbert Varga's orchestra in the Basque country.
Where do you stand with your series of Bartók recordings? How near is it to completion?
It is complete. It comprises of seven albums and the seventh is available in shops. This last one contains Bartók' own transcriptions of his works and his earliest compositions, so the Rhapsody op. 1 and the four piano pieces.
After the Bartók series, which has occupied a central space in your career and earned you tremendous praise, what would you like to go onto next as a pianist? Will there be another long term fantastic undertaking like the Bartók set?
Perhaps… Not really in Mozart' case and I have exhausted Bach's piano concertos… But Beethoven's sonatas really interest me. I feel that I could say things about them which no one else can. Sadly the record industry is on its last legs, it is practically dead. At Midem I bumped into Bruno Monsaingeon who is one of the most successful classical music film directors. He directed the famous Glenn Gould films, Richter's Enigma film and most of András Schiff's serious music films. He was really complaining too. Midem this, Midem that, he said, but certain classical music CDs only sell ten thousand copies world wide, while an average pop music CD sells six or seven hundred thousand.
Looking at your own career where do you see the situation?
Crossover does not help, it is a sick match. By crossover I mean things that Csilla Szentpéteri and Eszter Horgas do. So we take a bit of pop and mix it with classical. The experiment of adding pop rhythms to classical pieces doesn't help either. I think the only thing that will help is if musical instruments were to return to people's flats. If musical education – although it wouldn't be compulsory – would become a habit again within the family. So if family life could return to how it was fifty years ago. I don't want to be nostalgic but the world has changed a great deal. I am convinced that new fashions and heroes are simply sweeping people's away need for Debussy and Beethoven and what is left are things that can be consumed easily. And what can be consumed easily? Things that are cheap.
But concert halls are full, even today.
Yes, it is surprising. It is very interesting that in Budapest it is very varied. In the West, for example Germany, Holland, England, concert halls really are full. Truly they are. It doesn't matter about quality, they really are full. But they complain there as well. There are many complaints generally, and particularly about record sales. Record shops encounter this problem most critically of all. There they have to impersonally confront the fact in the mirror of sales figures. That is alarming.
Despite this, you are making new records.
I have three records coming out because of Midem. BMC have released two which feature live recordings from the National Philharmonic Orchestra's concerts of two season ago where I conduct works by Schoenberg, Varese, Dohnányi and Debussy. Hungaroton has released a new CD of Bartók works. These include the Concerto and Dance Suite. They sound really good but you have to look at the sales figures. So, what kind of reaction there will be? It is possible to plan and I have a great many plans. But the question is how many of them can be realised?
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ZOLTÁN KOCSIS received in addition to the Midem Lifetime's Achievement Award, the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres honour. This is one of the four highest cultural honours bestowed in France and it was handed over to Mr Kocsis by the French cultural minister.