Bernstein100: The Jazz Side Story
In 2018, people the world over will celebrate 100 years since the birth of American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. At Müpa Budapest, Nikoletta Szőke and Bálint Gájer, two popular figures of Hungarian jazz and easy listening, will play a selection of his most popular songs in a jazz style, accompanied by some of Hungary's finest musicians. While Bernstein is well known as a classical musician, conductor, composer and world-renowned leader of the New York Philharmonic, few people are aware that he also played piano in a jazz club in his youth. He had a close relationship with jazz music, and there are greater and lesser traces of this affinity throughout his musical career. This joint production brings the jazz-infused aspects of Bernstein's music to the fore. The concert will feature some of his best-known tunes, including Maria and Somewhere from West Side Story, Some Other Time Story from On the Town and I Am Easily Assimilated from Candide, the operetta based on Voltaire's famous novel. The presence of the two Hungarian singers ensures exceptional quality, authentic renditions and unforgettable entertainment. Nikoletta Szőke, whose new album Moonglow will be released in the autumn, has been one of Hungary's most highly-acclaimed jazz singers ever since she won the Shure Montreux Jazz Voice Competition in 2005, while the dulcet-toned Bálint Gájer, whose style faithfully recalls New Orleans of the 1920s and 1930s, is the only true crooner in Hungary - ‘the Hungarian Michael Bublé'. As well as duets and solo performances, the audience will also be treated to a selection of short films featuring Bernstein himself.
The group, whose name references the classic architectural design structure, was formed in 2005 by university students who had arrived in London from Southampton and Cambridge. They achieved their first successes as street musicians, while their debut album, released in 2007 and entitled Knee-Deep in the North Sea, was nominated for the Mercury Prize as one of the best British albums of the year. It was also selected by Time Out magazine as album of the year in the jazz-folk-world music category. In 2009, the album Isla, made with the help of legendary rock producer and sound engineer John Leckie (Pink Floyd, Radiohead, the Stone Roses, and many others), further expended their fan base, before they made their first appearance at Müpa Budapest touring with their third, self-titled album. With the help of guest singers - including British electro-soul star Jamie Woon and members of Alt-J - they recorded and released Living Fields in 2015 under the band name Portico, before returning to their usual name and sound with Art in the Age of Automation, the fourth Portico Quartet studio album. The tour for this album sees the group return for a reunion with their Hungarian audience.
Reitze Smits and the Budapest Saxophone Quartet
From his native Netherlands, Reitze Smits is bringing to Müpa Budapest the message of the modern heirs to the venerable Dutch organ tradition. He himself, however, is a modern-minded and receptive artist. A multi-faceted musician, he has learned to play harpsichord in addition to the organ and even pursued studies in musicology. After achieving outstanding results at prestigious international organ competitions (in Toulouse and Bruges), he spent decades working as a church cantor and organist, first in Zaltbommel, and later in Vianen. Just like previous organists to visit Müpa Budapest such as Cameron Carpenter and Frédéric Champion, Smits enjoys creating organ transcriptions from piano works and symphonic compositions. His Budapest concert programme also gives some indication of his experimental spirit. Stylistically speaking, he will be playing a diverse set of works ranging from Vivaldi and Handel to Poulenc and Milhaud, with lots in between, including works Rachmaninoff originally composed for piano. The other clue is that the organist gladly agreed to share the playbill with the musicians of the Budapest Saxophone Quartet. This means that, in terms of arrangement, the audience is going to get to hear a quite varied selection: there will be some works played on the organ alone, others just for the saxophone quartet, as well as some examples of collaboration between the two, including a saxophone solo with organ accompaniment. The concert will be preceded from 6.30 pm by a conversation entitled Prelude, where ticket holders will be invited to get to know the performing musician and the works to be performed more closely.