The least important are not forbidden to dream of great things, and even modestly to aim at them, according to the measure of their abilities.

Liszt to Antal Augusz

"The best country image and promoting Bartók's oeuvre in the world"

6 October 2023

Conductor Péter Halász, first conductor (Kapellmeister) at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf and principal guest conductor at the Hungarian State Opera, is a regular guest at many domestic and foreign institutions. The artist was a member of the jury at the Bartók World Competition for the first time this year, which helped him gain extremely important impressions in several ways.

What did you think of this year's competitors?

After seeing the results of the preliminary rounds in the semi-finals, I was amazed by the number of young violinists who have taken on this very difficult repertoire. Let me add that they have all successfully overcome this spectacular obstacle.

 

Did you see/hear any contestants in the semi-finals whom you felt would certainly remain in the competition until the end or would even receive a prize?

Of course, it was clear to me that, for example, the winner Lilia Pocitari or fifteen-year-old Gáspár Kelemen would be among the finalists. Those who can play the violin like these two talents obviously belong here.

 


photo: Szilvia Csibi

 

Several people mentioned that the complex repertoire is a big challenge. Do you think this is beneficial for such a competition?

Allow me to highlight two things that I particularly like about this competition. First, the fact that it promotes Bartók's oeuvre in the world, since these young people living all over the world have come to know his works intimately. Even though everyone knows in the international music world that Bartók is among the greatest, unfortunately the repertoire of his work performed in concerts is limited to only a few of his popular pieces. This competition can certainly improve this. My other favorite is the structure of the competition itself. I really like this special, six-year period, and the brilliant idea that makes the event come alive, which is that the two award-winning works of the composing round must be selected at next year’s instrumental round. When I spoke to one of the contestants, who played by heart the contemporary piece of his choice, the one by Veljko Nenadić, he said he wanted to use it as an encore in his concerts. This will ensure that the work of a young composer becomes known around the world.

 

What is your opinion about music competitions in general?

The fact that, for example, these young violinists have learned a wide repertoire is wonderful in itself. In addition, this is a great opportunity for them to make themselves known, so agencies may notice them or they may receive job offers. They can also gain self-confidence, which, if used well, will confirm the value of the work invested. Seeing the finalists, I am sure this will be the case. What’s more, contestants have an opportunity to get to know each other and exchange ideas, which is also not a negligible aspect.

 

Did you enjoy working together with other members of the jury? How do you balance between technical and artistic aspects?

The two cannot be treated separately; in my opinion, technique is there to serve musicality. It was a huge responsibility to judge the 32 contestants in the semi-finals; it is incredibly difficult, if at all possible, not to be subjective. I paid particular attention to whether a competitor chose a certain technical solution because his abilities dictated it, or whether it happened the other way around, i.e. he/she had an idea for interpretation and chose a technical solution for it. For me, the latter is the ideal solution.

 


photo: Liszt Academy/Gábor Valuska

 

What is your opinion about the Liszt Academy, as a higher education institution, organizing such international competitions as the Bartók World Competition?

This is a wonderful task and I hope that the Liszt Academy will have the opportunity to do this for many decades to come. The reputation of the Liszt Academy and Hungarian musicians is much greater in the world than the size of the country or that of the population would justify. We are a great musical nation, and this lends us a good reputation in the world. On several occasions when I meet musicians abroad, it turns out that their professor or their professor’s professor was Hungarian. This is the best possible country image and I hope we can continue to focus on this in the future.