Soloist of the EUphony Orchestra: István Lajkó

2011.03.19. 21:15


Within a few months' time, István Lajkó has won the Junior Prima Award, the scholarship of the Klassz Talent Program, and was chosen by Zoltán Kocsis for the soloist position in the EUphony Central European Orchestra. Endre Tóth talks with the successful young pianist about his career and, naturally, about Liszt.

- There are plenty of Liszt-pieces in your repertoire. You won third prize at the International Liszt-Bartók Piano Competition in 2006 and the same a year earlier at the Liszt competition in Pécs. What is your relationship to Liszt?

- I remember how inspiring it was when at the age of 15 or 16 I first met the technical challenges of Liszt's piano pieces in a visual form, in the scores of Trascendental études, the Paganini études or the Rigoletto paraphrases. I felt probably just as enthusiastic on the widening limits of piano playing as Liszt's contemporary audience must have felt at the time. After that, I got acquainted with his most popular opera fantasies and began to dream about being able to play them one day.

Talking about the the Liszt competitions, I have to admit that I did not apply only because of the Liszt pieces, but because I knew that as a Hungarian musician, performing in an international competition and then winning as well was an incredible experience. But I did apply to the Pécs competition because of the optional Liszt-concerto in the final round programme, De Profundis, one of his early works. In the end I did get to play the piece in the final, and I won special prize for it. So I like the less common Liszt pieces as well and I think all of his pieces bear traces of his strong personality. There are still parts in the Liszt-oeuvre which are yet to be exlored, and I'm really glad that in the Liszt Year the audience will hear some rarely played works, too.

- Last December you received the Junior Prima Award, together with numerous other young musicians. What does such an award mean to you?

- It is a great honour for me to be one of the laureates. The Junior Prima Primissima Award is a kind of feedback that you are on the right track, and at the same time, a responsibility you have to take, which motivates you to work even harder. Of course, it came totally unexpected, since it is not a competition prize that you consciously work for, but an acknowledment by the profession which nobody expects to get, but which makes everyone happy and honoured when they get it.

- Apropo, prizes: you are the proud winner of several competitions. Do you enjoy participating in these events?

- Yes, I do, for many reasons. A competition is always a challenge for me, and apart from that, each of these events is an opportunity for getting concert invitations. If I come across a competition that might bring me professional advance in any way, I will go for it. However, I also see these tournaments as a necessary evil, since despite their advantages, performing music is not a genre that can be measured in objective terms, so we are always exposed to the jury's subjective musical taste. In other countries I have heard people claim that the most effective way to achieve the best results in a contest is to adapt your interpretation to the jury members's personality and taste. I don't know if this method is really effective or not, but I prefer to stay authentic and play honestly.

- You have recently received a scholarship opportunity in the Klassz Talent Program to the United States. Why did you choose the Juilliard School in New York?

- When I was doing my PhD with the Erasmus programme, I spent 3 months at the Hannover University of Music and Drama, and at that time my professor was teaching in Germany and in the States simultaneously. When he stopped working in Hannover last summer, he offered me to keep giving me lessons at the Juilliard, and the KLASSZ Talent Program helped me to realise this plan.

- Does the Liszt Year mean more concerts for you? Are you planning to take on more Liszt pieces in your repertoire?

- It definitely gives me more opportunities to appear on the stage. This year I have already performed at the 2nd International Liszt Conference in Stuttgart and I have played Liszt's Hungarian Fantasy with the Szeged Symphony Orchestra under Sándor Gyüdi. But I also get many invitations regardless of the Liszt Year, so I'm looking forward to a very busy and exciting year. I have a lot of plans regarding the Liszt anniversary, I would like to put some more and some less popular pieces as well on my repertoire. If I had to mention just one, it would be the piano transcriptions of the Two episodes from Lenau's Faust, which I will play both in Hungary and abroad. Liszt always wanted these two pieces to be played within the same concert, of course, in the original orchestral version. But even the premiére featured only the second composition, the famous Mephisto Waltz, and this is still a common practice. Liszt made a four-hands piano transcription of both pieces, but according to most sources, only the waltz has a solo piano version. Robert Freund, one of Liszt's students made a piano transcription of one of his first works, Midnight procession to which later Liszt added his amendments and published the final version as his own transcription. Playing the Two episodes is a real mission for me, as this complies with the original intention of Liszt.

- What are your plans for 2011?

- I play in several chamber concerts in Hungary, Norway and the Netherlands, with such great partners as the Bartók String Quartet, Péter Szabó, Dénes Karasszon and Ádám Banda. Apart from that, I have many solo evenings in Italy: I play in the Music Academy concert hall in Rome, the La Fenice theatre in Venice and the Verdi Theatre in Triest. In the autumn I play Liszt's Malédiction with the Liszt Chamber Orchestra, and I will also play for the audience at the Liszt birthday festival in the Old Music Academy and in the Bartók Memorial House.

- Next time the audience can hear you as the soloist of the EUphony Central European Orchestra on 26th February, when you play Dohnányi's Variations on a nursery tune under Zoltán Kocsis. Is it true that Kocsis selected you out of five candidates?

- Hungary's acting EU presidency was the reason for starting up the EUphony Central European Orchestra, which is made up of students from the Music Academies of Graz, Vienna, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Belgrade, Bukarest and Budapest, with Zoltán Kocsis as conductor. I really like this humorous piece by Dohnányi, which he wrote „for the pleasure of those who enjoy humour, and for the irritation of the others". Interestingly, I first heard this piece in Kocsis's interpretation. I feel truly honoured that he chose me from the international list of candidates and I believe that it will be a great experience to play under his direction.