Thursday, October 11, 2007

Preview of Endre Hegedűs piano recital

The virtuoso Hungarian pianist Endre Hegedűs will play tomorrow evening at The Old Church. His concert is sponsored by Oregon Hungarian Communion of Friends, and this is the second time that he has played here. Hegedűs has won several international piano competitions, soloed with many orchestras, made 24 recordings, is a Steinway Artists, and teaches at the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music.

I talked to Hegedűs over the phone about his life and upcoming concert.

Did you grow up in a musical family?

E.H.: Yes, my father was a self-taught musician. He played piano beautifully and played popular songs, folk songs, jazz, everything except classical music. He established a dance orchestra in my home town. My mother wanted to be a professional pianist, but her dream was cut off by the WWII, and she had to find work to make ends meet. So music for me was a given.

When did you start becoming interested in the piano?

E.H.: I was interested as soon as I could walk. My walkings as a young child led me to this mysterious flat box that was in the center of our living room. At that time, the keyboard was just my head, so I would stretch and try to tickle the keys. As a child, I spent a lot of time alone, I didn’t have any sisters or brothers. Since the age of four, both my parents had to work, so they left me at home and taught me how to use the radio. So, as soon as I heard a nice melody I would rush to the piano and try to figure it out. I began piano lessons at the age of five.

You are beginning your program with Chopin. Is he one of your favorite composers?

E.H.: Yes, I consider myself a Romantic. I like the ideas of the great Romantic composers: that the piano is capable of expressing the color, voices, even the volume of an entire symphonic orchestra. Music is a mirror of our lives, but it can also take us to a better world. Music must come from our hearts.

The composers gave us their works, but there is a lot of freedom within each score, and that gives the performers a chance to put their personal perspective on the music. So there are many, many ways to interpret a piece.

Can you tell us about the other works you’ll be playing?

E.H.: Liszt’s “At the stream - from the 1st Year: Switzerland” describes the mood and attitudes of being in the forest. It’s a beautiful description of nature. I think that this a beautiful miniature.

The “Mephisto Waltz” is program music that describes a scene from Nicholas Lenau’s Faust. This is the story about the learned man Faust who makes a contract with the devil. At one point, there is a wedding reception where the town musicians are playing slowly and poorly. Mephisto takes the violin out the hands of the violinist and plays a wild and fiery tune that gets everyone to dance crazily. And Faust is swept off to hell in the end. It’s an exciting piece.

Liszt also made transcriptions and fantasies of operas. I’ll a couple of these that retell the music from Bellini’s “Norma” and Wagner’s “Tannhaeuser.” When Liszt wrote these pieces, they became a great way for people to experience the music of these operas. This also helped to make the music of these composers better known. Liszt had an extraordinary technique and limitless imagination. I have recorded 34 opera transcriptions and fantasies of Liszt. He wrote 85 of them. Most pianists play only three or four of them.

When did you last perform in Portland?

I played in Portland last year at the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian revolution of 1956. I enjoyed Portland and hope to take a walk again in the woods near the home of my friend Lajos Balogh. It’s wonderful to perform in Portland again.

Endre Hegedűs "The Tender Chopin and Fireworks Liszt"

October 12, 2007 at 7:30

The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th, Portland

Tickets: General admission: $25.00, Students: $10.00, Children under 14: free. Available through Brown Paper Tickets: 1-800-838-3006 or

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