The two Hungarians not only played music, they were themselves the music – in every nerve – down to their fingertips.

Adelheid von Schorn on Reményi and Liszt

Around the millennium

In 1994, István Lantos was elected president of the Liszt Academy, and it was during his presidency, in 1995, when the three-year PhD programme was launched at the university: first, in musicology, then in church music, followed by composition, and finally, the DLA (Doctor of Liberal Arts) programme was introduced at the various instrument and vocal departments in the autumn of 1998.

In September 1997, the pianist Sándor Falvai was appointed head of the university. His goals were to keep the institution afloat and to enhance the slow development of the Liszt Academy in this difficult period of restructuring of higher education. In the first year of Mr Falvai’s presidency, the idea of a PhD programme in music therapy was seriously considered, but was then dismissed.  As the result of the 1998-2000 deintegration process in higher education, music teacher training faculties in other Hungarian cities gained their independence: first, the University of Miskolc Bartók Béla Institute of Music, then the University of Debrecen - Faculty of Music, followed by the Institute of Music in Pécs in 2000 were founded. This was when our institution received the name still used today: Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music.

The millennial year 2000 coincided with the 125th anniversary of the foundation of the Liszt Academy, which was celebrated by the university with two publications (Gábor Szirányi-Ágnes Gádor: Liszt Academy of Music and Great teachers, famous students by the same authors), an exhibition and a benefit concert. In 2001, the Liszt Academy hosted the 9th International Franz Liszt Piano Competition, where Péter Tóth came second, while Gábor Farkas won third prize (no first prize was awarded that time). The Sub-Department of Guitar was established in the same year, led by József Eötvös. In the Hungarian history of the instruction of the instrument, this was the first university-level degree programme.  

In the years following the millennium, the Liszt Academy was also greatly influenced by the significant general changes in higher education. The winners of the reconstruction tender of the main building of the Liszt Academy were announced in 2003: the Art Nouveau building on Liszt Ferenc Square was renewed based on the designs of the architect team led by Éva Magyari, Béla Pozár and Ferenc Potzner. This was in the same year the credit system was introduced into the education programme (the more work and preparation a subject required, the higher number of credits it was worth). In 2007, the 5-year university degree scheme was replaced by the Bologna two-cycle system (three-year undergraduate studies – Bachelor of Arts, BA – completed with a bachelor’s degree, to be continued by a more specialised graduate course, possibly at another institution – Master of Arts, MA).

In 2004, András Batta, professor of musicology, was appointed president of the Liszt Academy. He retained his position for two cycles, until 2013. During his presidency, beyond the infrastructural developments, a highly momentous renewal process took off, which affected both the educational and the cultural activities of the institution. At Mr Batta’s proposal, the Kodály Institute in Kecskemét became an integral part of the university, which enabled the institute housed in a beautiful historical building to launch accredited music programmes. The Foundation ‘Génie Oblige’ established in the 130th academic year set goals like the conservation of the values accumulated at the Liszt Academy and the modernisation of the institution’s organisation and operation structure. A new concert series was kicked off under the title Alma Mater Concerts, and with this the Liszt Academy could return to the Hungarian cultural scene with own-organised concerts.

The folk music departments of the Liszt Academy embarked upon their journey in 2007, at first within the framework of the Department of Music Education, but since 2009, the five sub-departments have been organised in an ‘umbrella’ department led by Richter, first hosted at 8 Köztelek Street in the building of the 9th District Jenő Ádám Music School alongside the Jazz Department, then it was relocated to the Teacher Training College of the Academy in Semmelweis Street. In November 2009, prior to the commencement of the large-scale reconstruction works funded mainly by the European Union, the Liszt Academy celebrated a three-day long event series with the title Da Capo 2011 – Farewell Festival. As part of the vast array of various programmes, the wider audience could also get a glimpse into the everyday life of the Liszt Academy and had the unparalleled chance to attend the concerts of the greatest Hungarian musicians. Beethoven NonStop was also on the event schedule: the National Philharmonic Orchestra complemented with students of the Liszt Academy, conducted by Zoltán Kocsis, performed all nine Beethoven symphonies in their entirety in the Grand Hall. With the co-financing of the European Regional Development Fund and the backing of the Hungarian government, Central Hungary Operational Programme (KMOP) No. 4.23.1/A_1-2008-0002, “Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music, the renewing centre of European higher educational music teaching in Budapest” (with a grant of over HUF 13 billion financed to 90% by the EU) not only impacted the distinguished main building: by 2003, it was obvious that the main building on Liszt Ferenc Square was long overdue for renovation. The development was made possible with the use of a new university site in an old school building at 52 Wesselényi Street, where academic activity commenced in academic year 2011/12 following the reconstruction undertaken within the framework of the same project. The six-storey building now hosts offices, practice rooms, classrooms, sound studios, IT room, catering and community facilities. 

Following an unexpectedly long preparatory period, the reconstruction project of the main building on Liszt Ferenc Square was finally launched in 2011 - during the bicentenary of the birthday of the institution’s founding father, Ferenc Liszt – controlled by the project leader, László Csepeli, and the chief engineer, Gergely Lakatos. The supporting structure of the edifice, the rooms in the basement and on the levels above the second floor were renewed, while an air conditioning system, new electrical systems and machinery technologies were also installed as well as a new lift. The two inner courtyards were utilised in a completely novel way: the one closer to Király Street now serves as a café, while the yard next to Dohány Street accommodates the Library’s main office and an atrium fit to host events and receptions. The ornamentation of the Grand Hall was completely restored, and the hidden Art Nouveau frescoes in the ‘Small Hall’ - now named after Sir Georg Solti – were ‘re-discovered’. By pulling down the built-in elements added later and by restructuring the functions, the orchestra pit and the flies were utterly rebuilt within the framework of an overall heritage reconstruction project, and thus the hall was again appropriate to stage chamber operas.

From academic year 2010/11 until the re-opening in the spring of 2014, teaching normally taking place in the main building was temporarily transferred to a building next to the Köztelek Street site: 25 Üllői Street. During this difficult relocation period, however, the Liszt Academy maintained its traditional high standards. In 2010, the Electronic Music Media Programme, and a year later, the programme Applied Composition, were introduced. Music teacher training was similarly transformed: originally, it was after the B.A. programme when students could decide whether they wanted to continue their studies at the 120-credit, two-year artist M.A. diploma programme or at the two-year music teacher M.A. programme. Those, moreover, who wanted to take an artist’s degree and additionally a teacher’s degree would participate in a 60-credit complementary course. In academic year 2013/2014, however, new single-cycle programmes were launched: by graduating from the 4+1 year or 5+1 year music teacher training programmes (the final year representing school practice), students are qualified to teach instruments or music theory at elementary or secondary level, respectively.

The Art Nouveau music palace took on a new lease on life under the slogan “the overture of a new era” on the anniversary of Liszt’s birthday, 22 October 2013, and on 1 November, the presidency was ceded to the first female president of the institution, Andrea Vigh. As the result of the ambitious reconstruction project, not only the physical but also the organisational structure of the university underwent a major renewal. The former Department of Concert and Event Organisation exclusively dedicated to student concerts was replaced by the Cultural Directorate in the autumn of 2012 led by András Csonka, and then in the spring of 2013, under the leadership of Imre Szabó Stein, the Communications, Marketing and Media Contents Development Directorate was established. Their activities have transformed the Liszt Academy into an internationally acclaimed concert centre – adding to its fame as the peak of Hungarian music pedagogy. Since its re-opening in 2013, the refurbished Grand Hall (although with the same extraordinary acoustics) has welcomed such renowned international artists as Brad Mehldau, Steve Reich, Isabelle Faust, David Lang, Kim Kashkashian, Pekka Kuusisto, Steve Isserlis, Vilde Frang and Joshua Bell. The students of the university could not only admire the art of great musicians like Rivka Golanival and Jordi Savall from afar but could also get to know them in person by attending their masterclasses and workshops. Besides concerts, other events have been hosted by the restored and renewed Liszt Academy, such as the annual congress of the Association of European Conservatories – AEC. The unparalleled success of the renovation project is reflected by a plethora of national and international architectural and communication awards won since 2013.

In 2014, the Liszt Academy opened up toward public education: within the project The Kodály Method in the 21st Century, the university entered a strategic partnership with three institutions in Budapest – Károly Kós Music and Singing Advanced Level Primary School, the Városmajor Street Kindergarten and Városmajor Secondary School – to revive and reform the Kodály Method in a practical way and to establish a sample division representing the entire range of public music education in Hungary, which will grow into a significant methodological centre.

The institution’s re-created image, which expresses the dual identity of the institution yet remains harmonious and highly identifiable, was awarded the most prestigious product design and communication design prizes. The concert magazine printed on recycled paper and single-night concert sheets were acknowledged repeatedly at the Media Design, Kreatív Craft Award and Golden Blade (Arany Penge) competitions. In April 2015, the Liszt Academy’s communication activity was recognised in a unique way: its image spot Lisztery – Music Here Lives won the Silver Hugo Award at the prestigious Chicago International Film Festival Television Awards, where it was qualified as best in the commercial and corporate design category.

As to the architectural prizes: the acclamation of the Hungarian Real Estate Association came in December 2014, thanks to which the reconstruction project of the Liszt Academy could also be one of the nominees of the FIABCI World Prix d’Excellence Awards founded 24 years ago and which has been considered the most prestigious international award in property development ever since. The Liszt Academy was judged exceedingly successful: its restoration project was a World Silver Winner in the category Heritage (Restoration/Conservation) in category Purpose Built. In April 2015, it was announced that the reconstruction of the main building of the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest merited a Europa Nostra Award in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage category for being an outstanding example of best practice in restoration. Out of the 28 awardees, the Liszt Academy was also announced the Grand Prix laureate at the award ceremony in Oslo on 11 June 2015.