Hungarian flutist Szabolcs Szilagyi (Szabi for short) is a wonderful flutist who was a Guest Artist at the Galway Flute Festival. We caught up with him for an interview at the festival!
Tell us about yourself, how you got involved with the flute, your education etc.
My father is an actor and I was a child actor myself! I had some main and leading roles but I found myself following the flutists around during rehearsals and began to study flute as well as acting. We have a serious educational system in Hungary with specialized schools and I applied for a place and was accepted to study in the woodwind department and started an acting career. At 14 I quit acting as I realized it wasn’t for me; I felt it wasn’t real for me and music felt more passionate and direct, so it was time to start practicing more seriously! I graduated from the Liszt Academy then I moved to London, studying at the Royal College of Music with Susan Milan. I met Sir James Galway in 1994 and I was honored to be invited to the festival in Weggis, Switzerland.
What are you doing currently?
While I was still in London I heard about an opening in the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra (now Concerto Budapest) and was conflicted about taking the audition, but I did and won the job! I have now been in the orchestra for 25 years.
Tell us about the orchestra; how has your orchestra changed in the last 25 years?
Well, I think we are different from other orchestras in several ways; for one we really collaborate with soloists when they come in – for example we’ll rehearse with a soloist for 2-3 days before the concert. We take a different approach. In 2007 Andras Keller, 1st violinist of the world renowned Keller String Quartet became our music director. This was a big change, as he expanded our repertoire to include new music and exciting collaborations with wonderful musicians, for example, this season we had Gidon Kremer and Heinz Holliger. The orchestra was privatized around 1992 by the Hungarian Telecommunication Company, MATÁV, and when the Deutsche Telekom bought MATÁV after 2000 they decided not to sponsoring my orchestra anymore. So we changed our name to Concerto Budapest from Hungarian Symphony Orchestra and moved back to the government again.
You have some special projects these days; can you tell us about them?
I’ve been concentrating on the flute lately so I have 2 special projects. In 2016 I created the Budapest Flute Academy, an educational development program for flutists. In bringing wonderful flutists to Hungary I’m introducing various flute schools to Hungarian flutists (German, French, English, American) and promoting flute education in Hungary. This year flutist Denis Bouriakov will be joining us, and other guests have included Marina Piccinini, Emily Beynon and Quintessence.
I’m very interested in Hungarian music and have become fascinated by 2 composers in particular, Bela Bartok and Ernst Von Dohnanyi. Both 20th Century composers who lived through difficult times in Hungary, both having to flee their homeland eventually coming to the US, Bartok to NYC and Dohnanyi to Florida. The CD is called Parallel Lives – Our Great Inheritance, Volume 1. This is a great opportunity to listen to these 2 composers side by side and interesting because they knew each other as children and throughout their lives. The CD is dedicated to Dohnanyi and Bartok.
What are your upcoming projects and future plans?
Actually I am working on the background of my "Our Great Inheritance - Vol II. and I will continue playing in the orchestra as long as I can.
Thank you so much for this interview, and we look forward to reviewing the Parallel Lives CD and project in depth for our Flute View readers.