Soon you will be 29 years old, you gained your degree as a composer six years ago, you’ve been teaching at the Budapest Academy of Music, your chamber music and choral works have been performed all over the world, you have won prizes in composers' competitions, and now the Dutch Philharmonic Orchestra premieres your new orchestral work Blue in Concertgebouw of Amsterdam. What does this event mean to you?
I have already had the opportunity to compose for an orchestra a few times: my diploma composition was an oratorio, and then in 2020 my piece Journal was premiered by the Hungarian Radio Orchestra. In this, I mostly transferred musical thoughts I’ve experimented with in my chamber music to the orchestra. Of course, this method might be an option for orchestral writing, although it should be borne in mind that the richness of detail that is inherent in chamber music may cause difficulties for an orchestra. Instead of going too much in detail in a formal or instrumentational sense, it is more practical to strive for a less particularized notation that sounds easier on a larger ensemble. In Blue that will be premiered soon, a more unified handling of the orchestra stays in the foreground.
In 2021–22, you are the mentored composer of Péter Eötvös: Has the mentoring so far been a lesson in this respect?
Yes, I have written two pieces so far as part of the mentoring program: one of them is an ensemble piece that will be premiered in June 2022. In discussions with Péter Eötvös, he usually points out small details that however go beyond themselves, such as what makes the mass of an ensemble perceptible or that one should not use effects that are difficult to perform or hard to perceive. I was able to attend some rehearsals of Eötvös’ latest opera: it was also clear there that Eötvös himself was striving to enable the opera orchestra to perform the work, even when reading it prima vista.
The title of your new piece is Blue. In your program note to the work, you refer to examples of fine art, such as Yves Klein’s cultic blue paintings. How does your music relate to these images?
In Yves Klein’s blue paintings, I found it captivating that although they are monochromatic, they can be studied for a long time. Even if they are restrained in some of their ingredients, they are even richer in others, and that strikes a very interesting balance for me. I have been inspired not only by paintings, but also by books in cultural history about the color blue. But, of course, this knowledge can only be indirectly incorporated into a musical composition. What can make my new piece technically similar to Yves Klein’s work, however, is its monothematic thinking and the way the piece unfolds its musical material in slowly, gradually changing sounds. In this respect, I was particularly concerned with how to handle an approximately 7-minute duration, which requires a kind of richness and variety, but also a concise writing, at the same time. In response to a commission, I also wanted to try to show as much as I can about how I think of my own music today.
And how do you think of your music today?
My piece Komm for choir and string quartet, which was completed in 2019, is the most relevant example. In this, I contrast different textual and musical contents with each other, amplify one with the other, and so different worlds collide in it. In addition, my experience so far shows that performers or listeners with very different tastes discover alike something in my music that appeals to them. Although I don’t usually use musical quotes, I still try to evoke tonal feelings with my music. For example, I feel it is important to evoke with my harmonies a similar dynamism that modulation, the change of keys, meant in classical-romantic music. And that doesn’t mean going back to an old musical language, but rather re-creating it.
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Photo: Andrea Felvégi