On Wednesday the National Philharmonic Orchestra (NPO) begins a two month American tour: conducted by Zoltán Kocsis and Zsolt Hamar, they will give thirty nine concerts in the United States. The ensemble is also preparing for lengthy Far East and English concert tours, and by September, will have issued three recordings.
Géza Kovacs, the manager of the NPO, said in answer to our questions: the ensemble – of course then under its former name of the Hungarian State Concert Orchestra – last toured the United States in 1985. The Columbia artist's agency planned that tour with János Ferencsik, but because of his death, ultimately Ádám Fischer conducted the concerts eighteen years ago. At the end of the eighties, another invitation to America arose, but in the end, this was abandoned due to reasons of organisation. Afterwards, the State Symphony Orchestra entered a protracted period of financial and professional crisis. The contract for this present tour – which is again organised by Columbia – was signed in 1999.
The concert became immensely long. The reason for this is that we have to rebuild our own image in the United States – says Géza Kovács. The orchestra's instruments – packed in forty eight immense chests – have already “flown off”, while the musicians will set off on Wednesday for the forty eight day tour. The first concert will be on Friday night (January 17th) in Las Vegas. In the first phase of the tour, the orchestra will remain on the West Coast, performing in, among other places, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. The musicians will then cross over to the East Coast. One of the most important concerts promises to be the New York performance on February 2nd, which will take place in the Lincon Center at the Avery Fischer Hall. The concert tour will conclude in the State of New Jersey. The orchestra will return to Budapest on March 12th. They will plan to give thirty nine concerts in thirty eight cities, conducted by General Music Director Zoltán Kocsis and resident conductor Zsolt Hamar, with soloists Károly Mocsári (piano) Júlia Hajnóczy (singer). The orchestra is taking seven different concert programs, the backbone of which is formed by Hungarian compositions – primarily Liszt, Bartók and Kodály – but other less known works to be performed include Dvorak's Third Symphony, Tchaikovsky's Fourth, Beethoven's St Steven's Overture and Debussy's song cycles orchestrated by Zoltán Kocsis.
On January 20th, the orchestra's sibling institution, the National Choir, will also set off on its tour, travelling to Tokyo, where it will peform the Carmina Burana at the august Santori Hall, with the Japanese Philharmonic Orchestra and Ken-Ichiro Kobayashi. In June and July, the orchestra will also visit Japan, where they will tour with conductors Kobayashi and Zoltán Kocsis. In this concert tour, they will perform Béla Bartók's opera Prince Blue Beard's Castle, with the young Hungarian bass András Palerdi in the title role while Judit will be performed by a Japanese operatic star. Géza Kovács also mentioned the planned November tour to England, when the soloist will be pianist Jenő Jandó.
Besides its domestic and foreign concerts, the NPO expects to issue three record this year. In March, they will premiere their Debussy-Ravel album, largely featuring Zoltán Kocsis's recent orchestral transcriptions, to be released as world premieres by Hungaroton. In September, a Bartók CD will be issued, again on the Hungaroton label, featuring Dance Suite, Five Hungarian Folk Songs and the Concerto for Orchestra. In spring, a double live concert recording is expected to be released by BMC Records.
(Magyar Hírlap, 13th January 2003)