Requiescat in pace: Péter Eötvös (1944-2024)

A few weeks after his 80th birthday on 24 March 2024, PÉTER EÖTVÖS, composer, conductor and teacher, an outstanding figure of Hungarian and international contemporary music, passed away. Many of us knew this was imminent because of the illness that plagued him for the past year—which he bore with steadfast optimism and patience—as it shows no mercy to anyone. His passing was unexpected, regardless, and his music remained a constant on the international and Hungarian concert scene throughout his illness, even when he himself as a conductor was no longer able to participate in performances. He worked until his last months. His last opera, Valuska, premiered in Budapest in December 2023 at the Hungarian State Opera. In 2023, he was still able to complete his Harp Concerto, which premiered in Paris in January this year. The Hungarian premiere of Focus (Saxophone Concerto) took place a few days ago in Budapest.

"I search, I experiment, I take risks," he said in an interview—and he did. His work was dedicated to seeking new paths, expanding further possibilities in classical and contemporary music genres and, even more importantly, exploring hidden dimensions of sound. He began composing at the age of fourteen, and his compositional oeuvre encompassed almost every genre. His music is influenced by his Hungarian roots (Liszt, Bartók, Kodály) and by the greatest innovators and discoverers of the post-WW2 era (Stockhausen and Boulez), but these influences were only the starting points for him to generate his own compositional world.

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Péter Eötvös 80

We salute Péter Eötvös on his 80th birthday with the recording of Dialog mit Mozart - Da Capo für Orchester.  Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra is conducted by the composer. (BMC Records 284) More about the work here.

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Works by Kurtág, Eötvös and young Hungarian composers in Zürich

The beginning of Máté Balogh’s, Máté Bella’s, Péter Tornyai’s and Balázs Horváth’s musical career is in many ways tied to Péter Eötvös, who was their driving force in the past few years. It is therefore no surprise that the majority of the programme of the Peter Eötvös Contemporary Music Foundation’s (which Eötvös founded in 2004) concert in Zurich on 26 June consists of works composed between 2010 and 2016 by these young composers. Jam Quartet by Máté Balogh, Chuang Tzu’s Dream by Máté Bella, QuatreQuatuors by Péter Tornyai will be performed for the first time in Switzerland, pikokosmos = millikosmos by Balázs Horváth will be premiered in Zurich.

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Dialogue with Mozart – a new work for orchestra by Péter Eötvös, premiered in Salzburg

In 2014, following an outstanding collaboration, I received a request from the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra, to write a new work for the 150th anniversary of the ensemble's formation. I felt honoured and, instead of a cake with 175 candles, I composed a cheerful piece using Mozart themes and taking into account the orchestra's virtuosic abilities. And the icing on the cake was that the premiere happens to be in Salzburg!’ – thus wrote Peter Eötvös about the origins of Dialogue with Mozart – Da Capo for orchestra. This new work is an orchestral transcription of da capo (mit Fragmenten aus W. A. Mozarts Fragmenten) composed in 2014 for cimbalom or marimba and chamber ensemble. It will be premiered on 15 December 2016 in Salzburg, conducted by Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla.

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World premiere for Péter Eötvös on 6 May in Portugal

The work da capo for cimbalom and ensemble was composed in winter 2013-2014 at the invitation of Porto’s Casa da Musica, the Salzburg Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum and New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy (Miami). The cimbalom solo was inspired by the performance of Hungarian cimbalom player Miklós Lukács.

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Concert celebrating the 70th birthdays of Péter Eötvös and László Vidovszky

Péter Eötvös celebrated his 70th birthday on 2 January while László Vidovszky will be 70 on 25 February. The careers of the two composers are connected at several points, given their coinciding years of studies and the beginning of their careers, and also their joint work in the Budapest New Music Studio, their friendship and mutual friends. 

The concert in the Budapest Music Center on 30 March features Shadows (1996) by Péter Eötvös, composed for flute and chamber ensemble, and Reverb (2011) by László Vidovszky, written for piano and string quartet. The programme will also include the Hungarian premieres of two works (Stockhausen: Schlagtrio and Messiaen: Un vitrail et des oiseaux) whose composers played an important part at the start of their careers. The UMZE Ensemble is conducted by Zoltán Rácz.

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