Three times around the globe
During my university years I was attending both the Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest and the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. That meant that I had to commute between the two cities for five long years, sometimes up to twice a week. I usually took the bus as the cheaper option, and sometimes the train. Although the ride is relatively short – about 3 hours – I used the time well to study or recharge. I also had plenty of time on my hands to come up with silly things – for example, I calculated that during these 5 years, just between the two cities I had travelled approximately 120.000 kilometres – which equals three times the circumference of the Earth!
In my childhood I refused to wear anything that had buttons on it. I drove my mom crazy with this habit, as you can imagine, when I expressed my fear and disgust towards all shirts and cardigans. Even in my teenage years it was a struggle for me to convince myself that in order to pursue the profession of my dreams I needed to wear elegant clothes, that inevitably came with buttons. Nowadays I have made peace with the whole thing and I do wear shirts. I now also know that this is in fact an existing condition, called Koumpounophobia, and I even know of two other people affected by this. One is my brother-in-law, who in spite of his koumpounophobia is a postdoc at Harvard Medical School. The other one was Steve Jobs. Now can you imagine the iPhone with buttons on it?
Hungarian folk music
The music I first learned and played. At the age of five, my parents took me to a traditional dance house in Budapest. I was mesmerized by the sight, sound and size of the double bass, and decided to start studying it. As I was very little and the instrument was enormous, they gave me a modified cello to play on. Three years later I switched to the violin, and despite my young age, I travelled regularly to study with the most renowned folk musicians in Transylvania. There was one master I felt particularly connected to: the famous gipsy violinist, Fodor “Neti” Sándor. I was eight, and he was in his eighties. I stayed with him and his family from time to time, and besides learning the folk violin from the most original source, he also taught me how to cut wood in the forest, how to build a fireplace, and how to immerse myself completely in music.
Wherever I travel, I always find some time to visit the local market. I believe you can only get to know a culture, when you learn about their cuisine and eating habits. Exotic fruits and prime cuts in Brazil, weird sea creatures in Korea, truffles and foie gras in France, chili peppers in Texas, manuka honey in New Zealand, smoked whale in Norway, spices, olives and nuts in Turkey, and the list goes on. I have started to capture my experiences on “tasting videos”, where I choose some typically local, but for me unusual food, then try them in front of my camera – so you don’t have to…The first of these videos are here – and I promise, more are coming soon. Just follow the hashtag #conductoratthemarket!
Conductor or bus driver – my first big dilemma
I have always dreamed of driving something bigger than myself, and of bringing people together, leading them towards a common goal. So my first instinct as a child was to become a bus driver. But when I was 11 years old (by then I was playing the classical flute and the folk violin), my father took me to a rehearsal of the Budapest Festival Orchestra. In front of the musicians there was this old and bold giant – mesmerizing, inspiring, scary and fascinating at the same time. With his gestures he drew out sounds from the orchestra I had never heard before, and the impression he made on all the people around him – myself included – was nothing short of sorcery. That was the moment when I dedcided: this is what I want to do when I grow up: become a conductor. Little did I know back then, what his name, Sir Georg Solti meant in this business…
My first orchestra and more…
Following up on my childhood dream of becoming a conductor, in my teens I studied the flute, (classical) violin and composition at the famous Béla Bartók Music Secondary School. This music conservatory in Budapest was a hub for the most gifted young musicians all across Hungary, and the preparatory school for the Liszt Academy. In my flute class there was a talented and beautiful girl, Noemi Gyori, with whom we became best friends, and later on a couple. We decided that we wanted to form a symphony orchestra of like-minded young musicians, for her to be able to play principal flute, and for me to be able to conduct. We founded the Budapest Youth Symphony Orchestra, that consisted of 60 members, and gave regular concerts in Hungary and abroad. The two of us did all the work needed for such organization: marketing, PR, library works, orchestra management and even stage management. We programmed the repertoire we loved, so before I turned 18, I had conducted Bruckner 7 and Dvorák 9, just to pick a few. Three years later we decided to move on, and I started to learn conducting professionally. Although the orchestra doesn’t exist any longer, love does: Noemi is my wife now.
Documenting all my beds
It is hard to remember all of my travels and all the hotels I stay at. As one can’t document everything, I decided to at least keep track of one thing: the beds I sleep in. I find a strange comfort in the weirdness of this habit: I snap a picture of each bed or sofa I sleep on. My collection now includes over 100 different beds from only the past two years. There is one rule though: one bed can only have one picture, even my own one at home. At least I can’t say I am picky, and I certainly wouldn’t qualify to be the pea princess…Once my collection is large enough, I might put it together into a slide-show…who knows when this will come handy!
Number of countries where I have conducted so far: 21
Number of different orchestras I have conducted around the globe: 65
Languages I speak: Hungarian, English, German and French
My signature dishes: Ragù Bolognese and tomato soup
My favourite books: One Hundred Years of Solitude (Márquez), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Kundera) and 1984 (Orwell)
My favourite TV series: Breaking Bad, The Affair, Narcos, Homeland and South Park
The place where I live: Hampstead neighbourhood in North London, with my wife and daughter