Budapest Festival Orchestra
Interviews November 07, 2018


Pianist Zoltán Fejérvári will be playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major at the Budapest Festival Orchestra’s Beethoven-Dvořák concert in Hungary on 20, 21 and 22 November. We asked the young pianist, who is on tour in the USA, about Beethoven, Iván Fischer and what it feels like to be the star of a spectacular success story.

You are currently touring the USA. Where do you perform and what pieces do you play?

Zoltán Fejérvári: I’ll be playing first in Michigan, during the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, with a pretty extensive programme including works from Schumann, Janáček, Bartók and Schubert. I will play the same programme again at Union College in New York State, then go on to perform Dvořák’s trio in F minor in Boston, Washington, Philadelphia and New York.

You travel around the world a lot, but at the same time, you’d like to spend more time with your family at your home in the Pilis region. It seems that you’re caught up in your contest victory in Montréal and the successes you’ve had since then. Is it hard to refuse new invitations?

Z. F.: I may have said something like that, though perhaps in a different context. Naturally I enjoy being home, which is one of the reasons I stopped teaching. But I also love travelling and playing. I am still at the stage where you seize every opportunity you get. You need to build up a repertoire, and for that you need concerts. And I’m not on the road that much...

Can you list a few of your recent performances abroad?

Z. F.: I have been invited to return to Montréal several times, and I most recently played at the Viree Classique festival in August. But it wasn’t only the competition that brought concerts. Last season I was among the lucky pianists to be selected by András Schiff for his “Building Bridges” project. As part of this project I gave solo concerts in a number of European cities, including Berlin and Brussels.

That means that you truly are a great “bridge builder”! You will be playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 at three of the Festival Orchestra’s concerts in November under the baton of Iván Fischer, a piece known to have been played by Beethoven himself at age 28.  It is also said to be among your favourite pieces, if not your all-time favourite. Why is that?

Z. F.: It is presently my favourite, because I’m working with it. But this piece and I go back a long way, with many childhood memories surrounding it. It brings back that time in my life when I was becoming familiar with Beethoven’s piano concertos. I was listening to the recordings, and every note was a revelation. It was a fantastic experience to listen to these works for the first time. For me, the piano concerto in C major stands for that freshness and novelty.

You have recently said that between Beethoven’s “crazy” early and later periods, there was a period of relative normalcy which does not particularly interest you. Are you more attracted to the “crazy”, or to the cheerfulness and humor? Or possibly the stark contrasts that characterise piano concert No. 1?

Z. F.: Yes, definitely humor and cheerfulness, but to some extent also the crazy, which is understandable because it is always easier for a performer to relate to craziness than to normalcy. Of course you must ask yourself what it means to be normal. I know it was me who said it, but it is a pretty lame expression...

How would you describe Iván Fischer’s style of instruction? There was a beautiful and memorable concert where you performed as a soloist alongside the orchestra. Do you normally see eye to eye with him? Or do you have disagreements?

Z. F.: So far, I have only worked with him as a soloist once, years ago, on Bartók’s piano concerto No. 1. I was 25 at the time, and especially with that piece, I wasn’t interested in getting into arguments with him. Under his guidance, I have played the piano and the celesta as an orchestra member a lot throughout the years. I enjoyed that a lot.

You regarded winning the Montréal International Piano Competition at age 30 as “official feedback that came at the right time”. How often does one need such well-timed feedback?

Z. F.: I’d say every 30 years. Actually, I don’t know. That started something that will take its own course. We’ll see about the rest.

Zoltán Fejérvári will perform alongside the Budapest Festival Orchestra on 20, 21 and 22 November at Müpa Budapest, and on 1 December in Warsaw. For further information and ticket sales, click on the link.