Zoltán Gyöngyössy (feat. Jónás, Kemenes, Ittzés, Budapest Chamber Symphony, Serei) Kurtág | Szőllősy | Sáry | Serei | Sári | Gyöngyössy
One day in 1979 I found myself in the Concert Hall of the Academy of Music, where the International Flute Competition was just then taking place. Zoltán Gyöngyössy was playing.
Such instrumental and musical competence radiated towards me from the stage, such a sense of responsibility towards the works performed, that to say he played beautifully or well would be an understatement. It was more than the performance of a young, talented artist - it was a performance that held the promise of greatness.
23 years have passed since then. Zoltán Gyöngyössy has fulfilled the promise.
Zoltán Gyöngyössy is a great artist. It is an honour for me to be included among the composers of this album.
About the album
Recorded at Phoenix Studio, Hungary
Recording producer: András Wilheim
Balance engineer: János Bohus
Digital editing: Veronika Vincze
Portrait photo: Huszti István
Cover art by Yasar Meral, based on photos by István Huszti
Portrait photo: István Huszti
Produced by Gőz László
The recording was sponsored by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and the National Cultural Fund of Hungary
András Szőllősy: Tre pezzi per flauto e pianoforte
Zoltán Gyöngyössy: Duo
József Sári: Parallel lines that meet before infinity
Music equals contemporary music – this is the formula that has governed centuries of European musical culture from the moment composed, written music was born. (In the case of music that is unwritten, like folk music or Gregorian, the distinction between “old” and “new” is meaningless, anything newly performed qualifies as new.) The popularization of music from the past began as late as the 19th century and came to an end in the second half of the 20th. “Old” music pieces which first emerged as curiosities on the periphery of musical life now occupy a major part of the domain of classical music, and it is contemporary music that has been relegated to the former esoteric position of “old music”. In this confined and ever narrowing space a small but determined team continues to explore the new potentials of classical music while the very concept of classical music is undergoing a transformation, so much so that there is some question as to whether repetitive music as represented on this recording for example should classify as the avant-garde of classical music, or whether one should be forced to acknowledge that the school of thought determined by the polarity of classical/popular has become out of date.
Similarly to every respectable esoteric, contemporary composers hide their work rather than make it readily accessible. The frequent accusations levelled against Baroque composers – that as compared to the richness of their music as it was performed, their pieces were imperfectly, incompletely written down, appear to have resurfaced in our age. There is obviously a certain similarity between Baroque and contemporary music as regards the division of labour between composer and performer in that the performer is promoted to co-creator in both cases. However, while a composer of the Baroque age could rely on both the performer’s knowledge (acquired through playing by ear) and familiarity with the unwritten laws of performing, today’s composer must establish a special style of performing for practically every piece which he will then pass on to his unfamiliar performers in part and in cipher only. With the passing of the golden ages of music, there is no longer a single, generally accepted mode of performance and thus the interpreter now has the additional task of deciphering the mode of rendering.
The question is, how far can the interpreter get his own? The exact meaning of a notation in the score is often hidden behind schemas and can only be brought to light through the collaboration between composer and performer. It is no accident that the path chosen by the few resolute musicians devoted to the propagation of contemporary music inevitably lead towards the personality or personal contact with a composer. Workshops are springing up spontaneously around a given composer or performer, and in a modern world undergoing the process of globalisation, this lends a special intimacy to the performances of contemporary music. We are witnessing what new aesthetics call the “collective construction of a work of art”, the dialogic relationship between author and interpreter, a relationship in which the exact origin of the work is lost. A considerable number of the flute works that bulk large in the Hungarian musical harvest of recent years are the fruit of such workshop activity and owe their existence in great part to the inspiration of the performer, which can be said of this recording, as the dedications will attest (see the pieces of Zsolt Serei and József Sári on this CD), as well as the fact that the technical elements worked out experimentally by Zoltán Gyöngyössy are regularly integrated as a source of inspiration in the audible, if not in the written version of the pieces concerned. (For that matter, the pieces by György Kurtág recorded on this album were written for specific performing artists: Doloroso is dedicated to Anna Garzuly, ...Après une lecture de Rimbaud to Anne Longuet-Marx, C’erano due Fiori to Francesca Camerana, Auf! Schwung! to Ádám Szokolay.) Gyönygyössy’s attitude as a performer suggests that any effect can be elevated into the work of art sphere if the co-creators can convince us that it is justifiable. His duet series is an ingenious, lexicon-like compendium of acoustic effects of his own creation, which blurs the essential difference between unique effects (such as the occasional, playful imitation of the trumpet mouth position or the pizzicato) and established modes of performance like the frullato or the over-blowing of chords (both of which are to be found in András Szőllősy’s Tre pezzi per flauto e pianoforte, written in 1964 and dedicated to Severino Gazzelloni). The secret of the present-day popularity of the flute may lie in the almost limitless possibilities of the instrument, born of the uniquely direct relationship between instrument and player and the easy transition between established and ad hoc modes of performance. Gyöngyössy realised that there is no single instrumental technique valid for flute works of all periods – a belief held today only by academic musical instrument teachers who are deaf to the music of their age – and in the course of experimentation opened up a new dimension of flute technique (surpassing even the pioneer István Matuz) not easily accessible to other flute players but one that creates ideal conditions for the composer.
However, the reciprocity that influences and inspires both the work itself and the performing artist involves the risk that the recordings made under the supervision, with the approval and occasional contribution of the composer will serve as a model for future performers. It can be said with absolute certainty that neither the composer nor the performer can consider the process of the canonization of performed music desirable, as this would run counter to the artistic licence of the performer encoded in the works and expected by their creators. The countless alternatives offered to the performer with remarkable frequency and compliance by the composers attest to this – and indicate yet another link between contemporary and Baroque music (Kurtág’s Hommage à J. S. B., for example, can be joined at will by an additional instrumental part; the instrumental accompaniment of Sáry’s Magnificat can be extended to three flutes.)
A recording approved by the composer may claim the status of superior interpretation, but if it were to become the point of departure of further performances, this would imply that succeeding performers did not have the courage to break with their predecessor and start the process of interpretation from scratch.
translated by Fruzsina Balkay, Eszter Molnár
Zoltán Gyöngyössy was born on 20 February 1958 at Komló, Hungary. He began studying music under Mária Apagyi (piano) and Mária Révész (flute) at the Zoltán Kodály Elementary School of Music, and sang in the well-known school choir under Liszt Award winning conductor Ferenc Tóth. From 1972 on, he continued his studies at the Pécs Vocational Secondary School of Arts under István Barth, and from 1976 under Henrik Pröhle at the Flute Department of the Academy of Music, where his professors included András Pernye, Melinda Kistétényi, István Láng, György Kurtág and Albert Simon among others. He graduated with honours in 1981. Subsequently he studied at the Dresden Carl-Maria von Weber College of Music under flute artists Johannes Walter and Arndt Schöne, and in 1982 he was awarded a three-month scholarship to IRCAM in Paris, where he established professional contact with Pierre-Yves Artaud and Robert Aitken.
He was a member of the Europe Chamber Orchestra led by Claudio Abbado, and initially a member of the Budapest Festival Orchestra as well. He regularly takes part in the activities of the Szombathely Bartók Festival headed by Péter Eötvös. In 1993, he toured with Ensemble Modern (Frankfurt, Vienna, Berlin). He plays regularly with the Budapest String Ensemble, the Budapest Chamber Symphony and the Erkel Chamber Orchestra, and used to play with the New Music Studio, which has since disbanded. He is currently a member of the ensembles Componensemble, UMZE and Intermoduláció.
Many contemporary composers have dedicated their pieces to him. He won the Artisjus Award several times, and the Ferenc Liszt Prize in 1993.
To date, he is Professor of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Sciences in Pécs, Assistant Professor at the Ferenc Liszt University of Music in Budapest, and an active participant of concert life.