Adam Gyorgy has successfully made the transition from child prodigy (accepted to the Bela Bartok Conservatory at age 12, winner of Hungary's Pianist 2000 award at 18) to mature artist. After studying with Katalin Halmagyi, and then at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest under Professors Gyorgy Nador and Balazs Reti, he has combined excellent technique with musical understanding, impressing competition judges along the way: Vienna Classics Prize in 2000, Special Prize at the 2003 San Remo International Piano Competition, and all prizes (First Prize, Grand Prize, Special Prize) at the First International Chopin Piano Competition in Budapest in 2004. When he played Carnegie Hall three years ago, CultureCatch's Ken Krimstein praised his recital. So when his Carnegie recital this Sunday, November 13, was announced, offering the opportunity to hear him in the challenging Liszt Sonata, I leapt at the chance to attend, and to discuss that program and his career with him.
As a Hungarian pianist-composer, do you feel a special connection to Liszt?
I am a pianist rather than a composer. I play my own improvisations on my favorite melodies, but I wouldn't call myself a composer, even though I compose a little. Liszt was a superstar in Hungary and we all have a special appreciation for him and his music. When I was a little kid, my dream was to attend the Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, I walked through that extraordinary building with a certain excitement, a faster heartbeat every single time. It is an honor to graduate from the Liszt Academy.
When did you begin composing?
I composed a couple of pieces when I was at the Bela Bartok Conservatory, basically since I was 12. They mostly are contemporary consonant melodies, more like songs with refrains and verses, without words. I think music is an international language creating bridges between different cultures, music helps us to communicate our emotions better than any other languages. Every single note has so much information, every moment of music can communicate billions of words. It is an incredible language and I am enjoying to learn more about it every day.
What is the relation of the Chopin Ballade #1 to the Liszt items on your Carnegie recital program?
I will perform almost a full Liszt program. Chopin and Liszt are my two favorites. The Liszt Sonata in B minor tells the incredible story of a human being, from birth to death. I tell my own story through the Sonata; it is an amazing journey for any composers and a must in my repertoire at Carnegie Hall. Chopin inspires something similar in his Ballade No. 1. I've been performing this piece for a long time and feel like I have no choice to add it to the bouquet of my favorite Liszt pieces. Our relationships to compositions are all love relationships. We fall in love with the piece, and if the piece loves us as well, many times we can't let each other go.
The Liszt Sonata is challenging both technically and intellectually. Some performances are very exciting but make it seem more like a very long Fantasia than a Sonata. Do you think it's necessary for a performance of the Liszt Sonata to emphasize the structure? (This does seem to be the trend, at least based on the recent recordings I've heard.) And if you do, how do you approach that difficult task?
Surprisingly, the Liszt Sonata for me is one single beautiful line. A journey with basically no stops. You obviously need to be very much aware of the exact structure of this miracle, but at the end, you tell the story with almost literally one breath. This is probably the most challenging thing to a pianist, beyond the obvious intellectual and technical difficulties. This piece needs years and decades to mature, and I am sure I will play it very differently in a couple of years. This is also the beauty of piano playing. Through the years we keep developing as a human being and it all reflects in our playing. I am taken by the beauty of the Sonata every single time I perform.
What are your recording plans?
I plan to release a recording of my own compositions and the Liszt Sonata by February 2012. This CD is going to be a live recording which will take place at a famous concert hall in New York City as well, on January 29th 2012. - Steve Holtje
Mr. Holtje is a Brooklyn-based poet and composer who is halfway through recording his five songs composed on texts from James Joyce's Pomes Penyeach with singer Kate Leahy and cellist Suzanne Mueller.