Interview with Zsolt Hamar

Hamar ZsoltYou have been with us for the second time as course instructor. Would you tell us what it feels like being part of a fifty-year-old tradition?

I am most honoured, as attending these festivals looks back on a long tradition in my family, too. When I first visited the festival forty years ago, I was still a child and we came to listen to the performance of my uncle who attended one of the courses, and performed at the final concert. Later on I was fortunate enough to get enrolled as a student.

Can you tell us, in what way is it different to attend the festival as a professor from attending it as a student?

When I look at my predecessors, I realise that this job demands great responsibility. After all I am following in the footsteps of Péter Eötvös, Zoltán Peskó, Howard Williams, or from times bygone in that of László Somogyi.

Could you tell us a few words about the atmosphere of festivals in the past?

When I was a students at the academy of music, we came here as if we were on a pilgrimage. Since I was a student at the Academy of both composition and conducting when I arrived here I had to make a difficult decision, whether to attend the conducting course of Péter Eötvös or the composition course led by György Kurtág. Meanwhile we had other renowned artist like Zoltán Kocsis, Miklós Perényi and Ferenc Rados. The festival offered a lively and stimulating experience, the city was flooded by musicians, students, professionals as well as it also attracted a huge audience.

The students who came here must have built up a social network, have they kept in touch, do this acquaintanceship help their work?

Being a musician, especially a conductor is a lonely profession. We can’t really cooperate, ideally, we may follow up and know about each other. Working together in the course of these seminars helps to build personal relationships, but this doesn’t necessarily lead to professional cooperation. Naturally, I have many colleagues that I have first met here.

Can you recall any similarly vibrant experience than being at the Bartók Fesztivál?

I have really been spoilt by life, as I had the opportunity to participate at the Salzburg Festival first as the assistant of Lorin Maazel, and later on also as a performer. That is really a most vigorous and vibrant place! In the first fortnight of August Salzburg becomes the capital of Europe and probably even that of the world. In addition to artists also many political and economic leaders are present. Obviously it has been a life-forming experience for me to attend these festivals.

This year one of the master courses is led by Ildikó Komlósi, and she is also performing in the role of Judith in Bluebeard’s Castle. How does it feel to work with her?

We have already worked together several times, she is one of the best musicians and the most professional singer in her vocal range I have ever met. When I perform with her I always need to give my very best. It is a great pleasure and honour to be able to work with her on this occasion as well.

Since we have mentioned Bluebeard’s Castle… You have conducted at some of the leading operas of the world, and this time at the gala and at the opening concert of the Iseum Plays you are going to make your debut as a director. What are your motives for directing operas?

Yes, I have spent several years conducting at famous operas, I have participated in many productions, I have worked with several directors, with some of the best ones and also with some who were not the very best. All this experience has challenged me to try out myself as a director.

Has Bluebeard’s Castle been something that you really wanted to direct?

Yes, probably I was dreaming of putting it on stage. I also have another two or three operas almost ready for production, but let’s wait and see how the first one goes. I have a second thought, that if we can’t perform in case it rains, then that is probably God’s message for the future, that I shouldn’t direct operas.

Why do you think it is essential for a conductor to take all the steps of a traditional conducting training?

Because this is a profession that has to be learned, similar to that of becoming an instrumental musician. Not to mention that this is a complex sign- and tool- structure, similar to that of language. We can only master the skills of a foreign language, if we learn its grammar and the ways of using it, otherwise we won’t be understood.

What can master courses add to the traditional forms of conductor training?

Ideally they build on and synthetize the competences acquired in the course of the basic training, and they also open up new perspectives.

As we approach the end of the week, how would you evaluate this course?

Compared to the course two years ago, I think the participants are more prepared. There are a couple of outstanding students, and another few whose names are worth remembering.


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