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8th ESZTERGOM LISZT WEEK (August 16th – 31st 2018)   The   organizing   committee   of   the   8th   Liszt   Week   in   Esztergom   had   worked   out   a   large   scale   programme during   the   early   time   of   preparation,   however,   as   time   was   passing   by,   these   plans   seemed   more   and more   come   to   naught;   and   the   reason   was   not   the   absence   of   the   invited   musicians’   willingness,   but   a lack of money. Actually   in   May   it   already   seemed   that   even   though   the   city   of   Esztergom   for   example   supported   our project   with   enthusiasm   and   pleasure,   the   Liszt   Week   could   not   be   held   even   with   a   schedule   reduced from   8   to   6   days   –   when   we   unexpectedly   received   help   in   the   form   of   financial   support   from   the President   of   Hungary   János   Áder,   which   made   it   possible   for   us   to   set   off   in   a   “rush”   to   prepare   all   the necessary   elements   and   conditions   of   the   Liszt   Week   (from   August   26th   to   31st)   in   the   short   time available. In   our   previous   issue,   we   published   the   programme   of   the   8th   Liszt   Week,   now   we   provide   short   reviews about those concerts to our readers. The   first   piece   on   the   programme   of   the   Liszt   Week   was   Ad   Nos,   ad   salutarem   undam,   performed   by Péter   Kováts,   choir-master   and   organist   of   the   Esztergom   Basilica,   who   launched   the   series   of   concerts with   his   most   individual   and   slightly   overwhelming   interpretation   –   as   far   as   the   volume   of   the   sound   is concerned – of this large-scale composition. Following   the   festival's   tradition,   one   of   Liszt’s   masses   was   on   the   programme   at   both   the   opening   and   closing   concerts   in   the   Basilica.   This year,   local   musicians   from   Esztergom   played   a   major   role   in   the   Liszt   Week:   on   August   26th,   at   the   opening   concert,   the   Hungarian Coronation   Mass   was   performed   with   the   contribution   of   the   Balassa   Bálint   Mixed   Choir   of   Esztergom   and   the   Choir   of   the   Basilica,   partly with   local   soloists   –   however,   this   time   not   in   the   orchestral   version,   but   in   the   organ   transcription   by   Csaba   Király,   Liszt   Prize-winning   pianist and   organist,   played   by   himself.   The   conductor   was   László   Reményi.   On August   31st,   the   162nd   anniversary   of   the   Basilica’s   consecration, the   Missa   solennis   (Gran   Mass)   was   conducted   by   József   Reményi,   who   participated   in   the   Liszt   Week’s   musical   events   for   the   first   time. The   performers   were   the   Esztergom   Symphony   Orchestra,   the   Balassa   Bálint   Mixed   Choir,   the   Choir   of   the   Basilica   (in   the   Gran   Mass completed   by   the   Choir   of   the   National   Széchényi   Library),   while   the   soloists   were   Gabriella   Daróczi,   Sára   Dezső   (Coronation   Mass), Adrienne   Miks,   Mercedes   Heim   (Gran   Mass),   Árpád   Pálmai   and   Zsolt   Lettner   (in   both   masses).   Both   conductors   are   the   sons   of   Károly Reményi,   the   founding   director   of   the   Esztergom   Music   School   and   retired   choir   master   of   the   Esztergom   Symphony   Orchestra   and   the Balassa Bálint Choir. There was a nearly full house in the church on both occasions. On   August   27th,   there   was   another   concert   in   the   Basilica,   this   time   with   guest   performers:   József   Ács,   the   pianist,   organist   and   conductor who   lives   in   Germany,   gave   a   concert   with   the   contribution   of   his   wife,   Violetta   Palatinus,   the   excellent   soprano   singer.   Ács   played   –   with   the exception   of   Ferenc   Liszt's   organ   composition   Hosannah   –   his   own   organ   transcriptions.   The   programme   included   works   by   Händel,   Mihály Mosonyi,   Richard   Wagner   and   most   of   all   by   Liszt,   and   the   organ   transcriptions   represented   a   unique   sound.   We   shall   remember   for   a   long time   Liszt’s   extremely   rarely   played   Jeanne   d'Arc   au   bûcher   (Joan   of   Arc   at   the   Stake),   a   dramatic   scene   for   voice   and   organ,   as   well   as Mihály   Mosonyi’s   Ave   Maria,   also   performed   by   voice   and   organ.   The   audience   was   deeply   touched   by   the   organ   transcriptions   of   Ferenc Liszt's piano pieces from his old age – Grey Clouds and Unstern! (Evil Star) – as well as the Dich teure Halle aria from Wagner’s Tannhäuser, and Ferenc Liszt's Hosannah, as the final number of the concert. There   was   a   forced   change   in   the   programme   –   due   to   unfortunate   illness   –   on   August   28th,   when   instead   of   the   chamber   version   of Chopin's   piano   concerto   in   E   minor,   Renáta   Konyicska   gave   a   full   evening   solo   recital:   the   programme   included   Beethoven's   Pathétique sonata,   Schumann’s   Kinderszenen   (Scenes   from   Childhood),   Liszt's   Transcendental   etude   in   F   minor,   followed   by   Schubert’s   Ständchen   in Liszt’s   transcription,   and   finally   Schubert's   magnificent   Sonata   in   B   flat   major.   Renáta   Konyicska   had   already   appeared   at   the   Liszt   Week   in Esztergom   10   years   ago,   when   she   was   almost   a   child,   and   she   has   been   a   regular   contributor   at   Liszt   events   ever   since.   Thus,   one   could follow   her   artistic   development.   This   time   her   playing   the   piano   was   somewhat   more   moderate   and   veiled,   compared   to   what   we   have   been used   to   from   her.   The   conference   room   at   the   St. Adalbert   Centre   was   fully   crowded   with   fans   of   the   Esztergom   resident   Renáta   Konyicska, who   were   proud   of   the   promising   and   continuously   developing   musician   of   their   town.   At   the   end   of   the   enormous   programme   –   which   was not   only   an   artistic   achievement,   but   also   a   proof   of   her   great   endurance   –   the   pianist   even   had   the   energy   for   encores,   much   to   the   joy   of   the audience. On   the   fourth   evening,   on   Wednesday,   August   29th,   it   was   time   for   the   closing   concert   of   the   international   singing   course   held   by countertenor   and   professor   of   singing   Nicholas   Clapton.   The   one-week   master   class   attracted   pupils   from   England,   the   Czech   Republic, Poland   and   Japan,   and   two   future   Hungarian   singers   attended   as   well.   Unfortunately,   the   male   participants   of   the   course   were   not   able   to stay   in   Esztergom   until   the   end   of   the   course,   so   the   closing   concert   was   a   bit   “one-sided”   as   all   the   performers   were   ladies,   mostly   soprano singers.   Nicholas   Clapton   has   already   excelled   on   many   occasions   in   Esztergom   with   his   students,   and   this   was   the   case   again   in   spite   of what   we   have   written   above:   the   colourful   programme   of   the   singers   featured   songs   by   composers   from   Mozart   and   Purcell   through   Hugo Wolf,   Ferenc   Liszt,   Bedřich   Smetana,   Giacomo   Puccini,   and   all   the   way   to   Vaughan   Williams,   Peter   Warlock   and   Roger   Quilter.   Particularly noteworthy   were   the   singing   voices   and   the   very   good   technique   and   performances   by   Anna   Havar-Ferenczy   (Tosca)   and   Czech   singer Zuzana Kohoutová (The Bartered Bride). Nicholas   Clapton,   as   has   become   usual   from   him,   talked   about   each   song   and   poem   in   more   and   more   perfect   Hungarian,   and   then performed them with extraordinary sensitivity and vocal technique. We   must   give   a   special   credit   to   Gabriella   Gyökér,   who   was   the   pianist   of   the   course   and   the   closing   concert.   Gabriella   Gyökér   knows   this "profession"   at   an   incredibly   high   level,   and   her   deeply   musical   piano   performance   in   accompanying   the   most   various   musical   compositions was organically infiltrating into the performances of the evening. On   Thursday,   August   30th,   there   was   a   concert   at   the   Franciscan   Church   performed   by   the   string   chamber   ensemble   of   the   Budapest Hegyvidék   Chamber   Orchestra   and   the   Choir   of   the   National   Széchényi   Library,   also   featuring   a   première:   Géza   Gémesi’s   transcription   of the   instrumental   part   of   Ferenc   Liszt’s   Via   Crucis   (the   14   Stations   of   the   Cross)   –   originally   composed   for   organ   or   piano   –   for   string   chamber ensemble.   The   performance   of   the   composition   with   string   soloists   (2   violins,   1   viola,   4   cellos,   1   double   bass)   and   choir,   with   its   special sound,   had   an   impact   of   extremely   profound   feelings   touching   the   depths   of   the   soul.   This   performance   will   remain   one   of   the   unforgettable moments in the history of the Liszt Weeks. All   in   all,   we   can   say   that   the   Liszt   Week,   now   having   a   history   of   10   years,   was   a   success   in   2018.   The   city   of   Esztergom,   the   inhabitants   of the   region   –   including   the   settlements   across   the   border   –   visited   the   concerts   daily   with   great   interest   and   enthusiasm,   and   many   of   them expressed   their   wish   for   them   to   continue.   Let   us   hope   that   two   years   from   now,      circumstances   will   make   it   possible   to   organize   the   next Liszt Week as well. (Judit Rozsnyay)
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