Today’s concert will begin with Alabama March by our young composer Máté Balogh. Máté Balogh graduated from the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music, where he received his doctorate and has been working as an assistant professor since 2018. This year he was also awarded the Junior Prima Prize. Tonight’s work was commissioned by Gergely Vajda, principal conductor of the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the founding of the state of Alabama, and was written, by his own admission, in just two days. This is how the composer describes his piece: ‘The march is an existing musical form of movement, and that helped me a lot. The march has a traditional orchestral structure, which gave me a sense of safety. I used the usual soloistic melody forms of the genre, and some of the usual accompanying figures. In an earlier piece, Pseudomarsch, I used similar motifs. Although that piece was written for wind orchestra only, it was not chamber music, but rather I was thinking in terms of block-like sounds. In 2017, I won first prize in a composers’ competition with Pseudomarsch, since then it has been recorded and played several times by the Hungarian Radio, and in the meantime several wind orchestras have commissioned marches from me, so composing marches has become, funny to say, almost a trademark for me.’
The Violin Concerto by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) is one of the most popular concertos in music literature: it is a favourite at concerts and was recorded more than 50 times up to the end of the 20th century. It is certainly particularly popular with violinists because, although it makes great technical demands on the performer, each movement, each virtuoso element offers a rewarding experience, a “hand on” for the player, and a deep connection with the instrument – not coincidentally, since Sibelius was originally a violinist. It was as if he had composed all his love for the instrument, all his virtuoso dreams, into this work – his only concerto, in which the composer rewrites the 19th century virtuoso tradition of the genre in his own style. Although the soloist is at the centre of attention almost throughout the piece, the shaping and elaboration of the movements is as demanding as that of a symphony, and the long solo sections are occasionally replaced by significant tutti “outbursts”. At the same time, the sound of the work is often characterised by a special intimacy and chamber music-like quality: the orchestral instruments, especially the woodwinds, are often featured in pairs or small groups, and play an important role in characterising and controlling the musical process through gestures and specific effects. Tonight Barnabás Kelemen brings Sibelius’ masterpiece to life.