What should we call this unparalleled institution in its new unity? College or academy? This very question was posed by professor of music history János Kárpáti, director of the music academy's Central Library, in the columns of the journal Muzsika in 1997. Although in the meantime the college was transformed into a university, the reply remains valid even after a decade and a half: "This question never arose for the concertgoer […]. The concertgoer came to the Grand Hall or Chamber Hall of the Liszt Academy, where he or she could listen – in an elegant environment and amidst ideal acoustic circumstances – to, for instance, the piano playing of Béla Bartók and Ernő Dohnányi, the violin playing of Jenő Hubay and Ede Zathureczky, who were teachers or directors of this very institution. However, for those studying here this was not always so unambiguous."
In 1875 the institution was formally titled the National Hungarian Royal Academy of Music, and this name was inscribed in the facade of the building on Liszt Ferenc Square, which was inaugurated in 1907. Logically, the Art Nouveau palace of music took on the name of the institution. In 1918, both the ‘Royal' and ‘Academy' were dropped: the minister of religion and education authorized the academy of music to bear the title National Hungarian College of Music, which then took on the name of Ferenc Liszt on its fiftieth anniversary, in 1925. Although up until the reconstruction work started in 2011 the facade of the building still displayed Liszt Ferenc College of Music, the situation was further complicated by the fact that the institution was awarded university status in 1971, and only 30 years later did the name Liszt Ferenc University of Music become commonly applied, while the principal concert venue continues to be called the Zeneakadémia (literally, Academy of Music) by the Hungarian public (in English, the concert venue is called the Liszt Academy).
From now on the name represents an umbrella brand expressing the extended educational, cultural and concert centre functions in a common unit, but at the same time it refers to the renovated main building as a concert venue. The full formal name of the institution is used for protocol purposes only, while the section with rights for the organization of public concerts, independent programme making and sales will, according to plans, shortly be a separate legal entity, albeit operating in nonprofit corporate form in 100% ownership of the university, as the Liszt Academy Concert Centre.
In the period before the renewal the Liszt Academy in effect only ever arranged (under its own organization) programmes connected with its teaching; the institution made space available for the majority of concerts and it had no part to play in shaping the programme. This situation has changed, with the Liszt Academy Concert Centre organizing the majority of concerts, although naturally the chambers remain open to artists and orchestras performing here. Professors and students of one of the most distinguished higher educational academies of music teaching in Europe receive – through their own concert organization – plentiful opportunities to perform; and they can showcase those talented young people who, it is to be hoped, will eventually become much sought-after artists on the international concert scene. We consider it equally important that the lustre of the Liszt Academy is further burnished by the presence of the greatest Hungarian and foreign performers and many memorable concerts.
"The building has been transformed. The old message has been preserved, and is now reinforced by the rationality of the modern age: well thought-out functional spaces have been established in the courtyards (a buffet and event hall), in the basement (changing rooms, audio and visual studios, an instrument storeroom), behind the stage (rooms for the stage service team) and in the roof space (technical areas). The late 19th, early 20th and 21st centuries all meet under one roof. Some places we tread into the past, some into the future; some places belong to the here and now. However, time is suspended in the Grand Hall and Chamber Hall; or to be more precise, musical time reigns supreme here. [...] We teach on the upper floors and stage concerts on the lower floors. Although the appearance of in-house lifts is a sensation, it is still the stairs – figuratively speaking – that remain imperious. They lead from the classroom to the concert hall, from workshop to public approval. Gradus ad Parnassum! Not only is the institution of the structure undergoing transformation, but also the structure of the institution. Organizing concerts is now one of the fundamental tasks of this university of music. Speaking more professionally, one can say the institution will have a dual capacity. Teaching and culture have come as close to each other as the laughing and serious satyr heads visible on the walls of this great building. Our creed runs thus: nurture the culture of teaching and the teaching of culture." (Dr. András Batta)
"Concert organization and career development are specialized fields of the music industry; however, the selection and promotion of the most talented students of the Academy is the responsibility of the teachers, who execute this not merely as a profession but a real vocation. So, the students who get a chance to make their debut in the Liszt Academy Concert Centre are recommended by the professors, while the staff of the Concert Centre – as well as that of the soon-to-be-opened career office – provide them with a solid professional background, and help them advance their careers. For someone who proves to be exceptionally talented and is able to grasp his/her opportunities, graduation from the Academy will not only mean a degree but also "start-up capital" for a future career. I truly believe that this kind of duality, and the unparalleled opportunities it entails, put the Liszt Academy into a very privileged position, and our unique model can serve as an example in the international music scene as well." (Dr. Andrea Vigh)
A 108-year-old palace of music, home of an academy with a 140-year-old living history and a world-famous university founded by Liszt, reconstructed to perfection, now launches its own concert organization: the two together are essentially a new unique entity. This is the key location for music in the centre of this tiny country, nestled in a vast European continent: a global brand, to use a modern term.
Programs at the Liszt Academy Concert Centre
The fundamentals of the new programming policy is shaped by the acoustics of the Grand Hall which mediates the sonority of symphonic orchestra with crystal clarity but also reveals the most intimate detailing of solo and chamber concerts.
The legendary piano recitals of the Liszt Academy are synonymous with the performances of the giants, from Ernő Dohnányi and Béla Bartók to Annie Fischer, Géza Anda and Sviatoslav Richter. In the new series, following the opening concert featuring Dezső Ránki, Edit Klukon and young Fülöp Ránki, we continue with recitals by Kálmán Dráfi, Gergely Bogányi, Balázs Szokolay and Tamás Vásáry. The next generation will be represented by Ivett Gyöngyösi, László Váradi and Zsolt Medgyesi.
The Liszt Academy's orchestra in residence from autumn 2013 is Concerto Budapest which is directed by András Keller. Their Grand Hall performances will primarily cover the symphonic repertoire. Their concerts will see collaborations with world renowned soloists such as Andrea Rost, Isabelle Faust, Kathia Buniatishvili and Dezső Ránki. The legendary Gennady Rozhdestvensky will conduct them, as will Alexander Sladkovsky representing the younger generation. Concerto will be partnered in the Mozart Requiem by the New Ferenc Liszt Chamber Choir led by Péter Erdei.
The Budapest Festival Orchestra will regularly give concerts at the Liszt Academy and they open their Grand Hall series in early November with a true world star Mikhail Pletnev. The Géza Anda Festival will pay homage to perhaps the finest Bartók and Mozart pianist of the middle third of the 20th century, whom Wilhelm Furtwängler called the troubadour of the piano. This festival of four concerts will feature the prize winners at the 2012 Géza Anda Piano Competition in Zurich, as well as Alexei Volodin, Filippo Gamba and Dénes Várjon.
With chamber music experiencing a global upswing, a trendsetting initiative has created the Chamber Music for the Grand Hall series. This is launched by the Kelemen Quartet, Péter Frankl and fellow artists, all of whom have multiple links to the Liszt Academy. In 2014, the world class quality of this series is guaranteed by Yevgeny Korolov and the Keller Quartet, world renowned Takács Quartet, Kristóf Baráti, Joshua Bell, Steven Isserlis and Dénes Várjon, as well as Pekka Kuusisto and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Elena Bashkirova and the Jerusalem Chamber Music Festival.
A series of song recitals brings a return of vocal chamber music, opening with a concert by Judit Németh and Izabella Simon. An eye-catching concert in the series features Andrea Rost and jazz pianist Kálmán Oláh. Szabolcs Brickner and Júlia Hajnóczy have assembled a programme of love songs from the song literature, and the multiple Grammy winning Chanticleer also will be flying the flag for vocal music.
The exceptional properties of the Chamber Hall can be well exploited with the growing popularity of opera performances and chamber operas. The Chamber Hall is equipped with an orchestral pit, flies and comprehensive stage machinery. The first opera to be staged there will be Mozart's Magic Flute in a new translation by Dániel Varró, under the artistic direction of Éva Marton. The performance will be choreographed by Tamás Juronics and directed by András Almási Tóth. In 2014, there will be Mozart Late Night evenings and the programme offering will be augmented by an opera festival organised with the participation of foreign academies. Thomas Hengelbrock and the Balthasar-Neumann-Ensemble will be guest performers of a Händel Opera in the Grand Hall.
The Liszt Academy celebrates the anniversary of its foundation every year with a concert. "Génie Oblige – 138 years of the Liszt Academy" features the most gifted students and teachers who will pay homage to the august institution by performing works by Liszt and the legendary Liszt Academy chamber music teacher and composer Leó Weiner.
Besides serious music, jazz and folk music is also part of the repertoire, as befits the world class tuition offered by the university in these genres. In the 2013/2014 season, Brad Mehldau and Chick Corea will give solo piano concerts, as will that most modest guitar playing genius Ferenc Snétberger in December. The internationally celebrated Vijay Iyer Trio from the USA represents the newest sound in jazz. The most progressive formations of the Hungarian scene will perform at the Chamber Hall in programmes titled Jazz Now. In folk music, the Grand Hall will host performers such as András Berecz, Ágnes Herczku, Muzsikás Group and the Balogh-Lukács cimbalom duo.
The On The Spot series showcases the talent at the Liszt Academy, first off being a prestigious gala concert by student folk musicians at the Academy representing the highest standards in world famous Hungarian folk. Then the 115 year old trombone faculty will entrance the public with great international names. The jazz faculty's big band will also be On The Spot, and in the future, the year will begin with concerts by the vocal and composition faculties.