Interview with Gergely Ittzés

Ittzés Gergely 2Your master course this year is putting into practice the flute methods outlined in Flautology, your new book under publication. Could you tell us a few words about it?

I have more or less summarised my teaching experience of twenty-five years together with my knowledge of practising and learning to play the flute. This feels like walking along a very long and never ending road. One has to pay attention to three things: when playing, it is crucial to learn to use our body in a way that is the most adequate to the nature of our body, at the same time one has to serve the music and also take into account the facilities of the instrument. This becomes obvious when examining even the smallest technical detail. I have been searching for some kind of scientific clearness, because there are several belief-systems related to the teaching of flute techniques, and some of them may indeed work, but they often go against common sense and scientific knowledge. I have tried to apply relevant acoustic and anatomical knowledge and when necessary I also did some research, all that with the intention of keeping in touch with music and with my aesthetic principles, and at the same time with the intention of designing a system that could also help people with different aesthetic notions.   

What is your advise to people at the beginning of their musical career, in addition to being talented what holds the key to success?  

It might sounds like a commonplace, but it is true: earning a degree is just the beginning. The thought of “at last, I have learned to play the flute” hardly ever occurs to me. The last time I had this feeling was after I earned my degree and when I have followed my own instincts or tried to pick up bits and pieces of information from many different places. It is also of primary importance that we should have a passionate relationship with our instrument. Unending learning and research is vital, but there are plenty of other circumstances and conditions that influence success. These things are difficult to handle for people who are more interested in music than marketing. I am like that too, so I can’t advise about the latter one.

Why would you recommend the Bartók Seminar to your students?

This event boasts with a long and great tradition, and by now I have also become part of it, and in my view the present conditions may pave the way for a new golden age in the history of the seminars that could be similar to earlier times back in the past when I started working here. The festival has evolved its own traditions, its corner stones should be left intact, and if suitable people do the building, then the old traditions will continue to flourish. In the past, it was the personal acquaintances and students of Bartók who started teaching at the seminar, and we were fortunate enough that while leading the courses we also had the opportunity of learning from Péter Eötvös, Zoltán Kocsis or György Kurtág, who used to return and participate together with the younger generations in the master courses. We tried to hand over what we learned from them as best as we could. In my opinion the mission statement of the seminar is to cultivate contemporary music embedded in the traditions. If the seminar can fulfil this mission, then it will continue providing a unique opportunity for young people. In my experience, these two things are often separated: something is either connected to contemporary music or it becomes a strictly traditional course that hardly ever considers teaching or performing the contemporary. This connection should become more lively and accessible.

Could you tell us how you work with students in your master course?

In comparison with regular classes students participate in a master course differently: they are more relaxed, they enjoy the festive spirit of the summer holidays, so everything is a lot freer, more spontaneous, there are no exams. Besides learning students also have the chance to meet new people, and they are also encouraged to sit in different courses, so teaching becomes a group experience. This is very inspirational and in my opinion everyone can benefit from observing how others are instructed. It is also important that students can get used to performing with the help of the daily practice of playing for half an hour in front of an audience. The other way my teaching differs from my regular teaching is that here I have students that I am not likely to meet again, so in the course of these nine days I have to collect enough information about their playing in order to provide them with adequate advise that they can also make use of later on when they work independently. In certain aspects I am more pushing, because there are a great many things to be handled, at the same time I also have to be careful, because it is very dangerous if the teacher takes the student apart and doesn’t have enough time to reassemble him or her.

How do you prepare for your master course?

The course itself doesn’t need any additional preparation, since after a while teaching becomes a skill, and we are working with compositions that I am really familiar with. Obviously the concert was well rehearsed, and the compilation of the program and the concert needed a lot of attention. Emotionally I am filled with expectation and some tension too, as I am going to meet new people under new conditions. On the other hand, most of the students and colleagues are familiar, this gives a sense of security. So the general mood is rather positive and happy.

With the seminar drawing to its end how would you evaluate your course?

The knowledge of the students is very impressive, even that of the secondary school students. I have met a lot of promising, talented and well-motivated students, and it is a great pleasure to work with them. This also means that my job is easier. The conditions are excellent, I am grateful to the organisers for their helpfulness and for looking after us in every aspect. When I think of other courses that I have organised myself, then this is a real luxury and absolutely ideal in terms of the physical environment and the working conditions alike. I hope that this will continue in the future as well.  

You have also performed a concert at the Bartók Seminar. Do you think that the fact that students have an opportunity to attend your solo concert also contributes to the success of your master class?

I think that teaching and interpreting music go together. The most important thing is to show students the goal for the future that can best be achieved by improving their technique and musicality. I also play my own compositions, in order to show innovative technical methods that are new in Hungary and can be surprising. Ideally this can inspire the students and it can help them to make a connection between what they have learnt in the course with what they experience in the concert. Consciously, or unconsciously they might realise that I am trying to help them to achieve a similar stage of development in order to be able to express themselves on their instrument.

What do you think about Filharmonia Hungary, how does it do its job?

Filharmonia Hungary looks back on a long tradition of organising concerts and over the years it underwent major transformations. In my opinion at present it is very stable, it is in good hands and it is open enough. It must be difficult to earn a place on the market while trying to preserve values. In my experience the company is doing a great job and I am personally satisfied with communication and the exchange of ideas is also satisfactory.

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