The musical roots of one of today’s most significant and influential composers and performing artists, Swiss musician Heinz Holliger, branch out to Hungary: one of his most important masters was Sándor Veress. In addition, he has long-standing connections with the Festival Orchestra, having conducted it many times before; what is more, he also made a recording with the BFO of works by Veress. In April, he will again play in a concert in Budapest, where besides his own compositions he will also conduct pieces by Schoenberg and Sándor Veress.
I have known Holliger well for many years, and have a high opinion of him. I first learned about him as a conductor, when I was playing in the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Then in 1999 I was fortunately able to perform one of his beautiful pieces. This brought us close to each other, and we have since been in close contact. I have already played several pieces from his oeuvre, his violin concerto was an especially great experience. Likewise when I played a Schoenberg piece he conducted. I really like his oboe trio too, I played it together with his wife, Ursula. Unfortunately, she recently passed away. I miss her very much. Again, this new piece is fantastically expressive, making proper use of the special role of the instruments. Rehearsing is a very enjoyable task, because – although the piece is not easy to learn, it requires a lot of work and time – each of its subtle details is extremely exciting.
It is great, because if anybody knows the piece inside out, it’s him. He will be able to tell a lot about what he wishes to express in this composition. It is not the first time a composer conducts his own work. I think it is great. A situation like this is not new to him, since he has already performed a piece by Péter Eötvös, while the composer conducted. And of course, he performed along with many famous conductors, there must be a lot he can tell about Harnoncourt, Abbado or Georg Solti. Yes, I met most of them when I was a member of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe; each of them was an enormous experience. Péter Eötvös’ piece was fantastic, I enjoyed it very much. You can learn a lot from him too, both as a composer and as a conductor.
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Holliger may be the most versatile musician I have ever met. He is not only a remarkable oboist, but he also changed musicians’ relationships to instruments, renewing a couple of compositions composed back in the old times. We owe many brilliant pieces to him – which were dedicated to him in particular as an oboist by acclaimed composers. Besides playing the oboe, he is a wonderful pianist, and he himself is, of course, incredibly good at composing. Perhaps he would agree if he heard me say that in my opinion, composing suits him best. It must also be noted that he is a distinguished scholar in music history and music theory, in terms of both pieces from the past and contemporary music alike. He personally knows almost every major contemporary composer, performing and conducting their works. All in all, he is a real polymath, who loves music with extreme passion and enthusiasm. It is always a unique occasion if Heinz Holliger turns up somewhere...