//Ad libs: Soaring off to the Continent

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Soaring off to the Continent

The fastest way to get me to read a press release is to include a reference to Hungary in it.

(Oh, now I've done it. In my in-box tomorrow: "Musician Who Thinks Hungary Is Rather Nice Tours Los Altos." "New Exhibit by Artist Who Once Saw A Picture of Budapest -- Or Was It Bucharest?")

Anyway, so I have to notice how many young Bay Area classical musicians play Budapest, my former city of residence, as part of a Central European tour. It's a pogacsa-packed rite of passage.

For example, the El Camino Youth Symphony went in 2005, and the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra is headed there this summer. I also just got a press release about Gunn High School pianist prodigy Kenric Tam soloing with the San Jose Youth Symphony this summer at the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music. (Kenric and co. will preview their European concert on June 16 at the Heritage Theatre in Campbell.)

Even more than cruising the Danube, playing the Liszt Ferenc academy seems to be de rigueur for these musicians. And rightly so. The academy, which was founded in 1875 and has been in its present Art Nouveau building for a century, has a breathtaking large concert hall (look up). You can wander around the building forever, taking in frescoes and the graceful doors and windows and the sculpture of Liszt himself.

And perhaps you absorb some of the greatness of the academy's former teachers: Zoltan Kodaly, Bela Bartok, Imre Kalman...

You can make music in a cellar, or pluck out a timeless melody on a rubber band. But I imagine a violin bow or a singer's voice must simply soar in a jewel box like this.

Photo courtesy of budapest.hotelhungary.com.