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With Fiery Red Soul

Pannon Philharmonic has given performances in Budapest several times lately: twice at the Budapest Spring Festival, then under the title “Fiery Red” within their subscription series, this time conducted by András Vass.


Fiery red is not necessarily the colour which this exciting program calls to one’s mind – after several seasons these thematic titles sometimes feel rather constrained –, however this is the most remarkable excuse one can mention in connection with this concert. I must admit, I am biased to András Vass. For many years, I am paying attention to his work at Crescendo Summer Institute in Sárospatak, his devotion to prepare one of the festival closing concerts with a youth orchestra gathered at perfect haphazard. But I did not see him leading the Pannon Philharmonic before which turned out to be a culpable omission.

Forasmuch András Vass prepared for this guest concert in Budapest with immense diligence (most supposedly as well as for the one in their home on the previous day). It was already sensible in the opening piece Night on Bald Mountain. Orchestra seating seemed to be uncommon, but proved to be fortunate: double bass sat behind 1st violin, while violoncello in the middle, in front of the conductor. Brass being on the two sides and percussions without elevation resulted in abounding sound. Of course, it also required a superb ensemble and splendid individual performances – woodwinds shall be highlighted not for the first time. This bald mountain was not that bald at all: tempo changes were definite and logical, while the whole piece was vibrating by details which brought us the music of fairies by the dawn’s early light following Midsummer’s Night.

In Triple Concerto by Beethoven, three prominent soloists came to stage, each of them much more than a promise. One could rather more ask how these unique personalities can play chamber music together. In Beethoven’s concert, violoncello part is truly a benefit performance, the movements are usually introduced by its melodies – and István Várdai just starred in them: he was accurate in the dense passages of diminutive bows, though I felt that maybe he shall develop right hand technique a bit in these parts. But probably I only had this feeling because of Kristóf Baráti’s unparalleled professionalism: he was unperceivably perfect, that is to say everything sounded so naturally from his instrument that one could think of difficulties nowhere near. Piano performance by Dénes Várjon was not that unambiguously immaculate – for example the instrument was rather clattering sometimes in the discant parts –, nevertheless he added a lot of musicality to the whole production. I had the feeling that he is the “interface”: the link between the orchestra and the soloists, namely he was chambering with the orchestra, while string soloists were chambering with him, and the arising continuous improvisativity made this performance so unforgettable. We heard a really “deep-into-it” production – so typical that the audience, including experienced concert-goers (even musicians!) started to applause after the first movement.

After the intermission, Dvořák’s piece gave a good opportunity to István Várdai to gleam the best of his knowledge, then the concert was closed by Firebird, exceedingly rich in detail. Tempos were not unusual, the performance was far from conventional – a lot and lot of individual colours, tiny details, and the overarching consciousness made us feel all along that we are witnessing a great concert. In addition, there is the special reason why I am fond of listening to the guest concerts of Pannon Philharmonic since the opening of the Palace of Arts, almost a decade ago: the enthusiasm, the indulgence in music and the devotion, all completed with professional details like the dress of the orchestra, their composed entrance and bowing on stage. When I hear this orchestra, I always have a feeling that it is all young people playing. Furthermore it is a special pleasure to see the soloists of the evening feeling safely guarded, and even if there are things to develop here and there, the path towards perfection is clear. It includes the smart management as well for which every Hungarian musician – orchestra or soloist – could be grateful. Finally, I must count András Vass in the line of paramount conductors of Hungary.

April 18, 2014 - Gábor Mesterházi -


„Deadly” good music

 “On May 6, the Pannon Philharmonic not only presented the new face of piano: they pleased us with a programme that the audience will definitely not forget any time soon.

Personally, I want to hear these pieces again and again, I want to experience the elemental power surging from them again and again. It is certainly due to the composers in first place but not exclusively: it needed the philharmonic orchestra of Pecs conducted by András Vass as well as the performance of pianist Péter Frankl.

The evening was about climaxes for me. I was having the feeling “this cannot be enhanced higher”. But it could. Mozart’s Overture from Don Giovanni provided an incredible stroke of energy to the concert. It is the changing of dark tones and the lightness of Mozartean melodies that makes this piece exciting – the piece that though being a part of a larger composition probably no one would doubt to be able to stand on its own, just like it did on this evening as well. The orchestra managed to interpret the variations of tones exceedingly well. If Kierkegaard called Don Giovanni as the opera of the operas, then its overture could be called as the overture of the overtures. This approximately 7-minute long piece provided the keynote of the evening as overtures are supposed to.

Beside the soloist, the Pannon Philharmonic Orchestra’s concentrated participation was remarkable in the performance of this composition which favours the pianist primarily.

The piece filling the second part of the concert offered such a delicacy to the audience that everyone could tell to be the ear-witness of a composition never heard by any public before. At least not in this form as András Vass, permanent conductor of the Pannon Philharmonic Orchestra, re-orchestrated Schubert’s string quartet The Death and the Maiden, and tonight was the premiere occasion for the audience to hear the grand orchestra version. Listening to the piece, I must lay down that András Vass is not only a prominent conductor, but a splendid composer as well (even if he would presumably deny this title in case of a re-orchestration). I found exciting that wind instruments gained large role in a piece originally composed for strings only – I would emphasise the thrillingly wonderful play of the flute at the melody of the second movement and the answers by the violin.” - May 6, 2013 


Verdi’s  Falstaff, Pannon Philharmonic:

 “It is Pécs where one should travel to see and hear a great production of Falstaff.  The final masterpiece of Verdi generally poses a demanding lesson to conductors. This performance, conducted by András Vass, proved his excellent sense of scale and musical intelligence in a rarely-experienced solid-measured performance of the demanding ensembles of Falstaff.” - April 23, 2012


The Magic Flute – Magic classic by Mozart in Baja at last

"The conductor of the evening, András Vass lead the performance dynamically, intelligibly and with positive adaptation. I have rarely experienced such a magic how he conjured the orchestra back under the soloist after a tousling in the aria of the Queen of the Night."

Színház Kolónia - October 17, 2012



“Marked distinction goes to András Vass, who conducted the Pannon Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert on November 24. The performance was much anticipated because this excellent young conductor has repeatedly dazzled Pécs audiences. In addition to being an extremely bright-tempered conductor, Vass has a rich dynamic range, which we observe as not an end to itself, but inventive, or one could say fresh, giving an almost romantic reading to the classic Haydn's scores as a possible role model Leonard Bernstein did. Again, this time with Vass did not disappoint! András Vass and its quite spectacular and freely energetic Pécs band has the merit of his light, but exceptional virtuosity, capturing playfulness and the seriousness Bach's polyphony, while  also evoking the drama through great rhythmic and dynamic freshness heard that the best old musical tradition would also praise. It has been a long time since we have heard the full contingent of strings, particularly the violins play at such a high level throughout an entire evening; with technical and intellectual freshness, with excellent woodwind solos (oboe, flute, bassoon). The Mozart had a more than usually well-put-together, strong performances in the gripping hand holding seal "early music" can be classified into one of the best performances.”

Eozin Magazine – November 30, 2011


Music of Kurtág, Pannon Philharmonic:

“The Pannon Philharmonic’s musicians, precisely led by (and obviously thank to the accurate preparation with) András Vass, played very-very concentrated. “Self-portrait with fellow musicians from Budapest” – described Ligeti the piece, notably its first movement, dedicated to Zoltán Kocsis and Péter Eötvös. This time, in Csalog’s meaningful piano playing, the gestures of remembering, parting, and farewell seemed the most dominant. Although my seat’s position was certainly ideal for the Kurtág-work, it cannot be said this for the other two pieces of the concert. Listening to Haydn- and Mahler-symphonies from such a close distance is at least as a unique experience as closely exploring the archaeological layers of a make-up on faces that seem to be smooth from far away. In these terms, the Pannon Philharmonic beseemed the trial really well. Listening to the concert opening “Miracle” Symphony No.96, I gladly explored the orchestra’s string sections’ unified and healthy sound and nice tone and the wind players’ reliable presence. András Vass’s conducting made the ensemble not only play precisely and keep rhythm exactly; it also kept the balance of the harmony and the transparency of the inner voices until the end. Nevertheless, for the 32-year-old conductor, born in Targu Mures and graduated in Budapest, the main point of the concert must have been the Symphony No.1 by Mahler, performed after the break. (Note, referring again to the program flyer, that it should not be “titanic”: the final four-movement-version of the symphony, played at the concert, has never worn the title “Titan”, especially not “The Titan”). We could hear a conscientiously prepared, accurately thank-through, and with steady hand conducted production; some shadows of minor difficulties disturbed only a few moments of the first movement. The finale was striking and effective; and I might have not misunderstand the situation when I saw so that the orchestra followed the young conductor, making music together, not just with responsibility but wit enthusiasm as well. (20 May – Béla Bartók National Concert Hall. Organiser: Pannon Philharmonic)

Muzsika Magazine – July 2011



 “Works by Haydn, György Kurtág and Mahler were performed by the the Pannon Philharmonic at the Béla Bartók National Concert Hall on 20 May. The conductor on this occasion was András Vass, who first conducted the ensemble in Budapest; as a soloist, Gabor Csalog, the most accomplished interpreter of Kurtág's oeuvre, has produced several recordings of the composer's pieces, and is an intrinsic performer of Hungarian contemporary music. I liked the slow introduction’s beautiful mixtures and elaborate string sound in the interpretation of the Haydn symphony. The fast part could be lighter, but the clear display of Sturm und Drang, so characteristic in earlier works of Haydn and found even in the later ones, was nice. The slow movement was impressive with its solos; in the Minuet, the ensemble let one feel the once rustic, once gentle dance character with the right accents. I liked the oboe solo’s ascending scale in the Trio. György Kurtág wrote his “...quasi una fantasia…” at the end of the 1980. The piece’s very interesting title indicates a fantasy-like work; the instrumentation is exciting using mouth harps and the use of three-dimensional space effect also shows by the artist's sensitivity.  This evening we got a great performance; the audience listened to the wonderful moments with bated breath.  To his Symphony No.1, Mahler wrote a program, but later he withdrew it. He also removed one of the movements, thus the symphony, built up of four major parts, became more unified. The musicians of Pécs – under the leadership of András Vass – interpreted the symphony well; some parts stood out beautifully, like the filtered sound of the 3rd movement before the return or the closing part after the bassoon solo. The klezmer and the beginning of the second movement sounded affectionately, we heard nice solos throughout the course of the piece. I liked the larger units together. As the symphony progressed, the orchestra’s playing became increasingly more and more expressive, so the work unfolded completely.” – May 27, 2011



 “The Music Days’ final concert’s program contained one of Mozart's youth’s Violin Concerto (in D major, KV 218) and his last, unfinished masterpiece, the Requiem, performed by the Tirgu Mures Philharmonic, featuring Bálint Székely and András Vass. The idea of this double choice deserves a praise because these famous young artists emigrated from Tirgu Mures; both are perfectionists, and both are really proud of the school where they started. They are not just performer-craftsmen but artist in the true sense. András Vass is an intelligent and reliable musician. He has a solid command over the musical material, and avoiding any unnecessary movement, conducts simply and clearly. He cares about shaping the character of each motive; a concert builds in dynamic in a unified, formal framework. This performance of the Requiem, Mozart’s masterpiece, perfect even in its smallest detail, was clearly great. The extremely effective choral parts, the almost instrument-like development of the choral fugues, the prophetic vision of the Dies irae, and the beautiful vocal solos, with many shocking, mysterious and immersive moments, could cause a real catharsis. However, it is essential to note that what we heard was not accidental, it was meant to sound so. András Vass was able to give attention to everything at the same time - to the sound, the arches of forms, and the authenticity. The audience welcomed these guest artists returning hom ewith a well-deserved ovation.” – May 30, 2011

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