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Budapest celebrates 90 years of György Kurtág


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Budapest celebrates 90 years of György Kurtág

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As Hungarian composer György Kurtág celebrates his 90 th birthday Budapest is marking his career with a week- long festival.

British conductor Sir Simon Rattle, artistic director of the Berlin Philharmonic is an admirer and passed on his birthday wishes: ‘‘Dear Mr. Kurtág, the warmest birthday wishes and greetings from all of us. We just want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts and congratulate you on reaching this mysterious zero (90) in your age. Your music is deep in all of our hearts.’‘

After a decades spent teaching and composing music he is writing his first opera based on ‘Endgame’ by Samuel Beckett.

György Kurtág explained how he writes music:’‘I have the paper here and I sit at the piano. Always, always. I must touch the piano, even if I don’t play it. It’s giving security for me.”

Rehearsals for his long awaited opera are well underway with British contralto, Hillary Summers taking part.

She spoke about working with the composer: “It’s actually very vocally written, it’s not difficult or hard for the voice. So you go away, you learn it, you work with the pianist and you think great, I can do this, it’s fine, then you come to present it to Maestro Kurtág, and he is so specific, he has such a particular style, it’s so special and so different. The notes on the page don’t reflect, maybe a tenth of what he wants from the music. So you think you do a good interpretation, but he says it’s nonsense, it’s rubbish, no good at all. You have to work at what he wants.”

‘Endgame’ features four characters:
Hamm – unable to stand and is blind
Clov – servant of Hamm; unable to sit.
Nagg – Hamm’s father; has no legs and lives in a dustbin.
Nell – Hamm’s mother; has no legs and lives in a dustbin next to Nagg.

The composer continues: ‘‘This absurd drama moves round and round. The beginning is the end. The very first word is ‘fini.’ The play fails to reach the end. Meanwhile we ponder on human existence.”

All the birthday concerts have been a great success and the artistic director of the Barbican Centre, Sir Nicholas Kenyon, visited the
Liszt Academy to pay his respects: ‘‘I would say among musicians, among audiences for contemporary music no one has a higher reputation among living composers than Kurtág.”

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