Tuesday, March 10, 2015

An Explosion of Music: Fifty Years of Jazz in Budapest and Mahler's Third

We just experienced two nights of amazing music.  The first night was a gala celebration of "Fifty Years of the Jazz Faculty" in Budapest.  Here from the program is what that means:

In 1965 the jazz faculty was created in the Béla Bartók Music College. This was more than the foundation of a new faculty: for the first time jazz as an independent genre had found itself a place in Hungarian state music education and this to a degree represented the recognition of jazz's improvisatory creative and performance practices as a sovereign art form. But it was also significant because jazz – through its improvisatory technique – demands new styles of teaching and mentality that depart from those in traditional education.
The circumstances surrounding this important moment were anything but favourable. The cultural policy of the time was blinkered and prejudiced, deeming jazz to be the cosmopolitan music of the American upper classes and, in common with other music forms created in the West or at least linked to it, its performance was strictly banned. As a consequence, Hungarian audiences were deprived of experiencing that particularly valuable period when modern jazz music became a podium form. During the cultural thaw that occurred in the sixties, there was considerable misunderstanding about jazz. The task to overcome was twofold: enlighten the general public to the fact that jazz was significantly different from popular light music; and convince the powers that be that their assessment of the genre was a profound mistake, because – although it has exerted its influence on many aspects of Western music culture – it evolved from Afro- American folklore, which was and remained the folk music of the American black community, which had been brought to America as slaves.

The performance was held in the home of the music school, the Lizst Academy of Music, a beautiful 1907 Art Nouveau building designed by Floris Korb and Kalman Giergl.

Here we heard distinguished alumni of the Jazz Program performing in honor of their alma mater--every kind of jazz, from modern to contemporary, avant garde to the blues.

The next night we were at the Hungarian State Opera House to hear the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra plus two choirs and a soloist perform Mahler's Third Symphony.

It was an astonishing two nights--and it left us artistically exhausted!  But tomorrow we are headed to Bratislava for three days.  We are going to hear the Slovakian Philharmonic Orchestra perform the Dvorak Violin Concerto at the Redute, the newly re-opened 1919 concert hall designed by two of my most favorite architects, Marcell Komor and Deszo Jakab. I'll blog again when we get back.

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