Interview with András Szecskay
Dr. András Szecskay, patron and member of the Board of Directors of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, has been the owner of a magnificent and impressive law firm for many years. In our interview we would like to find out what motivates someone to constantly support a symphony orchestra at such a high level, while it is generally recognised that in Hungary only a handful of people are willing to spend money on culture.
When and why did this need arise?
Culture has always meant a great deal to me. First of all I owe thanks to my parents and teachers because of the way I was raised. I studied music when I was a child, my first instrument was the piano, which I didn’t really like, but when it turned out that my excellent mathematics teacher was secretly a jazz pianist, both he and the piano itself went up in my estimation. From then on I was a fan of contemporary jazz, since I was lucky enough to attend his classes. Just like any other young man in the sixties, I also founded a band, and played all the greatest rock hits from the Beatles to the Rolling Stones along with my high school friends. And because the piano was difficult to take with me, I changed my mind and started to play the bass guitar. Music also served an excellent purpose during my national service, because I was often released to perform with my professional band in the army, but before that I had to go home to pick up my instrument. I only stopped playing music when I was a university student, because then I got interested in completely different things. Anyway, it was not only music but many other genres of culture that soon caught my attention. At the József Katona High School in Kecskemét I had an excellent literature teacher, Imre Szekér, deputy editor-in-chief of the journal entitled “Forrás” (literally: “Source”), who unfortunately passed away last year. I have a real enthusiasm for literature and reading thanks to him.
In your office there is an extremely impressive collection of contemporary Hungarian works of fine art on the walls, an evidence of refined and good taste. Is every piece of art your own choice?
This collection is part of my life, I take enormous pleasure in it. My aim is never to buy increasingly expensive objects, but to enrich my collection exclusively with materials that are close to my heart and which I like. I only collect things I am happy to live with, pieces I like to hang on the walls where I can see them every day.
Classical music must also be an vital component of your life.
It is very good to know that I can be so close to the Budapest Festival Orchestra in every respect. I have remarkably good, intimate and friendly relations with almost all of its leaders, including Iván Fischer. I am very happy to support this great company, and because I know them so well, I can understand even better what and how they add to the continuous success. With this proximity I can call the orchestra my own more easily than a member of the audience enjoying their music, which is, of course, an excellent thing as well.
How long have you had a relationship with the BFO for?
Wonder, adoration and enthusiasm since the beginning actually, though I could not attend the first concert because the now 30 year-old Festival Orchestra is exactly the same age as my son. He was born two days before the famous concert at the Academy of Music, and so I couldn’t take my two-day-old child and particularly his mother with me; I don’t go to concerts without my wife. Afterwards, however, we became enthusiastic concert goers. Then during a concert – after my lawyer friend Domonkos Asbóth, whom I was really fond of and who led the Board of Directors of the Budapest Festival Orchestra for years, suddenly died at a very young age – another Board member asked me if I would sit on the Board of Directors. I was delighted to accept this offer, it has been an honour for almost ten years now.
In a civilised world today there is no question, but rather a social responsibility, that those who can afford it spend a great deal on supporting culture either from their private means or as a high-level employee in their joint private enterprises. This practice has not yet taken root in public thinking in Hungary. You are one of the few people who feel that they want to give something back in exchange for what culture gives them. How did you find yourself in this position?
I couldn’t explain the process itself exactly, how I came to this conclusion. I know that I mainly looked at whether I can do this, and whether I can afford to provide support from my own financial means. When I saw it was possible, there was no doubt in my mind. Only the level of support may raise further questions, since it is directly reliant on financial factors. The fact whether somebody gets this idea depends on how important they consider culture, to help artists create new enjoyable pieces of art, events, etc. Those who truly consider this important will only think how to do it and how much they can spend on it. I must admit that the Budapest Festival Orchestra is not the only cause my office supports. I am also a member and founder of the János Bozsó Foundation, which operates in my home town of Kecskemét, and deals with the fine arts. Apart from that, we support several other causes as well, not just in the field of culture, since we also provide financial support for ELTE and Pázmány Péter University students to help with applying for international tenders. I think these are good purposes.
I suppose it helps you to feel satisfied if you can afford this kind of charity, and you actually make it happen.
Of course, that’s very true, but you also have to know that because we have a law firm with many people, decisions are made together. So I am not the only one who makes such gestures, but all the partners of my office, in each and every case. I am so proud and glad that we are in complete agreement about the sponsorships, we have never had a single objection to our sponsorship decisions.
For more information on the Supporters’ Club please visit our supporters’ web page.