Founded in 1875, the Liszt Academy is the only institution bearing the name of Ferenc Liszt in which the great composer himself had an active role in establishing. The university, which has been functioning for more than 140 years, is the bastion of music teaching and musicology in Hungary. The Grand Hall boasting unparalleled acoustics is a legendary concert venue in the Art Nouveau conservatory (1907) on Liszt Ferenc Square. Since its reconstruction in 2013, the institution has handled independent professional concert organizing activities and earned itself a reputation globally both as a university and a concert centre.
The founder also defined the mission of the Liszt Academy. The unique performing career, the compositions combining music traditions with a progressive approach, and the far-reaching, altruistic personality of Ferenc Liszt frames a heritage on which the music teaching of the academy has been able to sustain itself to the present day, and which serves as a benchmark for the very highest professional standards. The ‘forebears’ of Liszt Academy piano professors can, without exception, be traced back to Liszt since all were indirectly students of the great artist. Highly respected professors currently teaching in the institution are the heirs of such legendary musicians as Jenő Hubay, Dávid Popper, Leó Weiner and Ernő Dohnányi, while Liszt Academy students follow in the footsteps of such world-famous alumni as György Solti, Antal Doráti, Sándor Végh, Tamás Vásáry, György Pauk, András Schiff, Dezső Ránki and Zoltán Kocsis. The university considers its primary objectives to be the creation of the music of the future as well as nurturing traditions. From this point of view, too, there are precedents: amongst the great innovators of the 20th and 21st centuries, Bartók, Kodály, Ligeti, György Kurtág and Péter Eötvös are closely associated with the Liszt Academy in countless different ways. The spirit of the Liszt Academy is firmly international. Many former students were forced to leave Hungary in the wake of historical upheavals, going on to become key figures in the 20th century history of music performance art around the world. Seeing the university’s many alumni and honorary professors, one can be in no doubt whatsoever that the Liszt Academy is one of the most significant wellsprings of music’s world heritage.
By tradition, the Liszt Academy is the custodian of the ‘Hungarian school’, whether one is talking about the significance of chamber music, the passionate perfectionism so typical of teachers of the arts, or indeed the legacy of the Kodály method defining the foundations of music education. Classes are organized on a one-to-one basis or in small groups, and masters-level training is available in virtually every department, the majority in English as well. The Special School for Young Talents accepts applications from highly gifted students from the age of 8 upwards. Musicology candidates can study for a PhD and artists a DLA qualification in the Doctoral School. Students from more than 40 countries attend courses at the Liszt Academy; the proportion of foreign students has been around 20% for several years. The international status of the institution is indicated by the fact that the 2016 top list of one of the most recognized global educational surveys ranks the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music as the 30th best performance arts university in the world.
The Liszt Academy is deservedly popular not only for its traditions and refined, passionate methods of teaching but also for its central location. The university is positioned in one of the most culturally inspiring capitals of Europe, indeed right in the heart of the bustling downtown. Today, following the total reconstruction of the music conservatory on Liszt Ferenc Square (completed: 2013) and the inauguration of the new educational block named after György Ligeti, its superb infrastructural conditions also lift it among the world’s leading academies. In the course of the reconstruction of the main building of this historical monument, the principal goals were to preserve the art history values of the building, revive the original magnificence of the spaces as well as shape an educational and concert environment meeting – in every respect – the requirements of the 21st century. Modern stage and studio technology and backstage systems were installed alongside the creation of instrument storage areas, orchestra, chorus and soloist dressing rooms. By roofing over two inner courtyards and carrying out construction work in the basement and loft it has been possible to extend the areas open to the public, new lifts and wheelchair accessible ramps have been built, and air-conditioning installed in the building. Classrooms have been fully sound insulated and fitted with multimedia teaching aids. Last but by no means least, many new instruments have been procured. The reconstruction project was awarded two major prizes at the real estate development tender of the FIABCI Grand Prix d’Excellence and the project also won a Europa Nostra prize in 2015.
Prior to the redevelopment, the Liszt Academy focused almost exclusively on organizing programmes related to its teaching programme. This meant that the institution generally rented out the space for concerts held there, in other words, it was not an active participant in shaping concert programmes. This situation was transformed in 2013: now the Liszt Academy Concert Centre arranges the majority of concerts itself, although naturally the halls are made available for other events and organizers. Since the institution now organizes its own concerts, professors and the most gifted students of the academy have become familiar figures on the Budapest concert scene and over the years the Liszt Academy has extended invitations to such major domestic and foreign stars as Steve Reich, Joshua Bell, Steven Isserlis, Pekka Kuusisto, Isabelle Faust, David Lang, Jordi Savall, Chick Corea, Denis Matsuev, The King’s Consort, Charles Dutoit, Magdalena Kožená, Mischa Maisky, Pinchas Steinberg and Rachel Podger.
The image and communication programme completely overhauled in parallel with the main building derive from the rebirth of the Liszt Academy that attracted international attention. Logos, the publication portfolio and the new websites embedded in the fabric of the rich tradition of the Liszt Academy build on the fertile tension of patina and progress, forming an immediately recognizable code system through the characteristic laurel motifs, the ultramodern font types and the tonal system using primarily cyan and shades of gold. Since 2013, the redesigned image and communication have received numerous accolades from the creative profession both in Hungary and abroad: two Red Dot Design Awards, the Chicago Film Festival’s Silver Hugo and tributes from Communication Arts Magazine, the Design Management Prize, the Mediadesign and Kreatív Craft Award, and a total of 16 diplomas from Hipnózis and Arany Penge advertisement competitions.
In 2016, the Liszt Academy won the European Heritage Label for its outstanding role on the European music scene, for its preservation of European traditions, its creativity and openness worthy of the spirit of Ferenc Liszt, and for its dynamism springing from the duality of university and concert centre activities. The Liszt Academy is an exemplary cultural institution of the highest standard in Budapest. Its foundation coincided with the birth of this metropolis on the Danube, it is located in the heart of the city and its intellectual-artistic influence is truly universal.