National Youth Choir of Hungary

National Youth Choir of Hungary2018-08-17T10:26:12+00:00

National Youth Choir of Hungary: community, quality, life-long memories

Choral singing, through which communities are formed, is a fundamental element of the Kodály Concept. The National Youth Choir of Hungary was established to fulfil this aspiration, and their performances were planned as noteworthy events of the Kodály Memorial Year.

The choir, with the support of the Hungarian Ministry of Human Resources, was organised by the Kodály Institute of the Liszt Academy of Music (Kecskemét). For more than 40 years, the Kodály Institute has been training several generations of music pedagogues with the aim of making Kodály’s music educational concept a daily practice in schools. In 2016, UNESCO selected the Kodály Concept to be on the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices.

On 16th December in 2017, the birthday of Kodály, the National Youth Choir of Hungary opened applications for choristers. Members of the choir were selected by two nationally and internationally renowned conductors, Péter Erdei and László Norbert Nemes. The concerts take place between 15th – 28th July, 2018. The first week is one of intense preparation. Following this, the choir goes on tour, performing five concerts, with a wide-range of repertoire that includes two world premieres.

The National Youth Choir of Hungary is comprised of young singers of Hungarian nationality that live within and outside of Hungary. It strives for the highest excellence in representing the country, and this is reflected in the high calibre of the singers. The conductors and choristers hope to give the audience a memorable musical experience.

Professional management: commitment for excellence

Péter Erdei

Péter Erdei is an honorary professor of the Liszt Academy of Music, Artist of Merit, holder of the Bartók-Pásztory Prize for performing arts in Hungary as a conductor, and a renowned and determinant figure of international choral life. He is the founding director of the Kodály Institute, Kecskemét, and was the director for over thirty years. During his rich career he conducted the Debrecen Kodály Choir, the Hungarian Radio Choir, the Kecskemét Pedagogue Choir and currently the National Youth Choir of Hungary. In 2010, he founded the New Liszt Ferenc Chamber Choir to renew the traditions of the earlier, homonymous choir. He remains active in his retirement, conducting the Kecskemét Choral Society which he founded.

László Norbert Nemes

László Norbert Nemes is a professor of the Liszt Academy of Music, holder of the Bartók-Pásztory Prize for performing arts in Hungary as a conductor. He became the director of the Kodály Institute of the Liszt Academy of Music, Kecskemét in 2008. Between 1997 and 2009 he worked as the Associate Conductor of the Hungarian Radio Children’s Choir. Since 2014, the New Liszt Ferenc Chamber Choir  has been under his direction. In 2017 he received the civilian Golden Cross of Merit of the Republic of Hungary for his artistic work. As the director of the Kodály Institute he is a travelling ambassador of Hungarian music education, and holds very popular courses, lectures and workshops all around the world.

Members of the Choir: the unity of diversity

Where are they from?

53 Hungarians residing in Hungary, 9 Hungarians from outside the borders of the country, 1 Greek-Hungarian

What are they doing when not singing in the choir?

  • recent secondary school graduates planning the future
  • studying music at university
  • studying subjects other than music, like Chemical Engineering, English, Graphic Design, Hungarian, Media Studies, Community Coordination, Chemistry and Architecture, etc. at universities
  • working as music teachers, woodwind teachers, industrial design engineers, medical masseurs, customer service assistants, artistic coordinators, agriculturists, nurses, IT managers, assistant researchers, students in the faculties of humanities, teachers of Hungarian, pedagogues developing linguistic and speaking skills, etc.

Programme

Mendelssohn composed four sets of part-songs – some published posthumously – in which he mostly sets poems about springtime, forests and wandering. Op. 48 is a set of part-songs published in 1840 and features six poems, dealing with topics of springtime (no. 1-3), lark song (no. 4), wandering (no. 5) and autumn (no. 6). This last poem comprises of two parts: a slower, meditative first section which is followed by a more vivid second section, following the meaning of the text which speaks of the inevitable return of spring when each new leaf will bring new hope.

Despite his young age, Máté Bella has received numerous prizes is Hungary and his pieces are frequently performed abroad as well. He is a member of the Studio 5 group of composers and teaches composition at the Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest. He set the poem Peace (‘Béke’) by Gyula Juhász for the European Concert Hall Organization’s commission for the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. He treats the poem with utmost sensitivity, the harmonies evoking the abundant style of late romanticism in a modern way.

György Orbán is one of the best-known composers in Hungary for setting sacred Latin texts is, but he has also written many choruses and songs inspired by secular texts. His 70th birthday last year was celebrated at the Liszt Academy of Music with a large-scale concert of his works. His Da Pacem, Domine (‘Give Peace in our time, O Lord’) is going to be premiered by the National Youth Choir of Hungary. It begins with the simplicity and purity of a Gregorian chant, but soon becomes agitated, expressing the inner turmoil of the lyric subject. The change of dynamics and frequent modulations are a characteristic feature throughout this gem of modern Hungarian church music, and it closes in perfect peace in F major.

Z. Randall Stroope is an American choral conductor, composer and lecturer and is very active both internationally and in the United States. The Conversion of Saul is one of his best known shorter choral works, published in 2004. The opening lines are in Latin and they illustrate the brutality of the persecution of the early Christian church – the music contains occasional shouts and stomps to demonstrate this as well. However, when a voice calls Saul and asks him to turn hatred into love, the music becomes slower and much more friendly, and the piece finishes in a delicate pianissimo.

Judit Varga belongs to a younger generation of composers, but she has already won numerous prizes and her compositions have been performed in prestigious festivals and concert halls. She is a member of the Studio 5 group of composers and teaches composition at the Liszt Academy of Music. Her new piece ‘The Night’ was written on the English translation of a poem by Hermann von Gilm zu Rosenegg, and it was commissioned for the National Youth Choir of Hungary. It contains numerous exciting vocal effects like whispering, or a special vibrato that enhances text and music alike.

Several generations of Hungarian children have grown up on the choral work of Miklós Kocsár, although he also composed numerous instrumental works. He was inspired by the Bartókian tradition and used it to develop an individual style. This piece is a setting of the poem ‘Májusi kétségbeesés’ (Despair in May), written by the recently deceased Sándor Kányádi in 2006. The poem is about springtime, but it is very different from the texts which Mendelssohn, as it seems as if there is no hope for the future. The music is simple, the harmonies almost desolate, yet the composer surprisingly finishes the piece with a major chord. With this piece we also would like to commemorate the recently departed Sándor Kányádi.

The choral piece Evening (‘Este’) was written by Kodály during his studies at the Liszt Academy. The late romantic style of his composition teacher, Hans Koessler, can be noticed, but the characteristic Kodályian sound is already present. The poem was written by Pál Gyulai who was part of the generation including Sándor Petőfi, Mór Jókai and János Arany, and who was one of Kodály’s professors at the Budapest University.

The text of Annie Miller (‘Molnár Anna’) tells the tale of a soldier abducting a young woman from her family. After much struggle, she manages to kill the soldier and go back to her beloved ones. Just like many other Kodály choruses, the libretto was the outcome of conscious arrangement. The composer’s intention was to juxtapose the most poetic sentences with the strictest possible structure and dramaturgical discipline. This dramatic choral piece, written in 1936,  is based on a folksong which he collected in 1914.

János Vajda’s momentous piece entitled ‘Istenes ének’ (Godly Song) was performed in Kecskemét last year, written for the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. This ‘Alleluia’ is based on a poem ‘Bénára, mint a megfagyott tag’ (Numb, as a frozen limb) by Mihály Babits and was composed for the 100th anniversary of the poet’s birth. It is a demanding piece which is very moving at the same time, because the text is about serious struggles, yet the ‘Alleluia’ text appears quite early on and it will be the only word uttered in the glorious finale of the piece.

The composers of the premiere works

Judit Varga (1979, Győr)

Coming from the small city of Gönyű near Győr, Judit Varga studied in the music academies of Budapest and Vienna before appearing in the greatest concert halls of the world as a pianist and composer. From an early stage in her career she became known for her musical versatility, composing works for a variety of genres including opera, film, orchestral works and even multimedia compositions. Her career has been marked by prizes and awards from many prestigious, international competitions for her work as apianist and composer, including the Creative Award of the Austrian Education and Training Ministry and the Bartók-Pásztory Prize. She also won a commission from the Hungarian State Opera for he opera ‘Love in Budapest’ to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 1956 revolution, and is a recent Erkel Prize winner. In Austria, her film music is recognised by the nominations and awards from the Austrian Film Academy. Today she is an appointed lecturer of the music academies of Budapest and Vienna.

György Orbán (1947, Marosvásárhely)

Born in Marosvásárhely, György Orbán is one of Hungary’s most important contemporary composers, who also reaches back to classical musical traditions, eras. His rich lifework has been acknowledged with many decorations, like the Kossuth Prize and the Erkel Prize, and now includes ‘Da pacem’, a piece commissioned by the National Youth Choir of Hungary. Although he has written a diverse range of pieces for various instrumental ensembles, it is not an exaggeration to say that his artistic ideas are best conveyed through human voices in his vocal works. This is proven by the vast number of songs, masses, oratorios, operas and over 140 choral works that he composed in the past decades, which have become part of the contemporary repertoire in both Hungary and abroad.

Concert Tour Venues: Five days, five concerts

Keszthely, Hungary –Hall of Mirrors at the Helikon Palace Museum (Festetics Palace, Hungary)

23rd July, 2018 at 7 p.m.

Keszthely was once the heart of the aristocratic Festetics’ family estates. The construction of this Baroque palace began in 1745, and it now houses the Helicon Palace Museum. The Festetics were well-known patrons of culture and education. Besides delighting the locals of Keszthely, the concert also aims to attract music lovers who are spending their holiday by Lake Balaton.

Vienna – Hungarian Embassy, Vienna (Austria)

24th July, 2018 at 7 p.m.

The Embassy, among all its duties, places an emphasis on introducing and imparting knowledge of Hungarian culture to Austrians. Prominent figures in the cultural life of Vienna will be invited to the concert, especially those connected to choral music.

Galánta –King Saint Stephen Parish Church (Slovakia)

25th July, 2018 at 6 p.m.

Consecrated in 1805 this neoclassical church, that shows some baroque features, belongs to the Roman Catholic Parish of Galánta.  The parish has a community of about 10 000 people, and their services are held in Slovakian and Hungarian. The choir hopes to welcome both Slovakian and Hungarian music lovers to their concert.

Budapest – Pesti Vigadó Concert Hall (Hungary)

26th July, 2018 at 7 p.m.

Since its opening in 1865, Pesti Vigadó has been the centre of social and cultural life in Budapest. It has hosted prominent musical figures such as Franz Liszt, Ernő Dohnányi, Béla Bartók, Johann Strauss, Pietro Mascagni, Antonín Dvorak, Claude Debussy and Artur Rubinstein. In 2014, the renovated Vigadó became the headquarters of the Hungarian Academy of Arts, which, as a centre for all art forms, aims support and represent the rich Hungarian culture of high artistic value.

Kecskemét – Big Catholic Church (Hungary)

27th July, 2018 at 8 p.m.

The National Youth Choir of Hungary will perform at the Kodály Art Festival in Kecskemét. This year’s festival honours the 650-year-old city of Kecskemét by placing concerts in famous buildings in the city, thus displaying their history to the audience. The Big Catholic Church is the highest building in the region of the Great Hungarian Plain and was built in Zopf style at the end of the 18th century.

We would like to thank the Helikon Palace Museum, the Hungarian Embassy in Vienna, the Roman Catholic Parish of Galánta, the Hungarian Academy of Arts and the associated cathedral  of the Kalocsa-Kecskemét Main Diocese, for providing the concert venues of the National Youth Choir of Hungary.