INTERVIEW - Published in June 2015 by Andante - special Bartók issue

Judit Rajk, a Hungarian contralto, a well-known name as well in the international music life. In particular, Liszt, Bartók and Kodály commentator. She sang folk songs at the Bartók Music Festival's closing concert.

Your name is getting more known in Turkey as in the last two-three years you were a distinguish guest artist of different festivals and soloist of our most important orchestras. What does it mean to you, visiting Turkey and performing different programs for the Turkish audience?

I simple have to say, that I admire Turkey... I have told in several interviews how I love this country, where cultures and religions are living together. I have always been touched by this diversity. And I am almost sure, that after 150 years Turks spent in Hungary in the ancient time, every Hungarian has a Turkish ancestor.... But talking about music and concerts in Turkey, it is always a pleasure to come and visit this country enjoying the great hospitality of my colleagues and friends and also the unique programs I have been invited for. As a singer I came first to Turkey in 2011 for celebrating Liszt, invited by the Liszt Festival in Istanbul organized by Mehmet Mestci. I had a recital at the Ciragan Palace with Emre Elivar (by the way, the introduction lecture was made by Emre Araci). I also was participating in the very successful Liszt Symposium in Ankara made by the Hacettepe University, organized by my friend the pianist Yesim Alkaya.

Since 2011 I have worked with the most famous Turkish orchestras: the CSO (I sang the conralto solo of Mahler's 3rd Symphony three years ago), the Bilkent Symphonic Orchestra (this April we had a successful cooperation as part of the Ankara International Music Festival) and we made an unforgettable, unique baroque concert in Izmir with the IZDSO, where my partner was the London based talented Turkish counter tenor Cenk Caraferya, and the concert was conducted by the conductor of the Ankara Opera, Maestro Alessandro Cedrone. But I also came with my chamber music groups for festivals like the Opus Amadeus in Istanbul or the Karsiyaka Baroque Days in Izmir.


How did you get in contact with Turkey and especially with the Bartok Festival? Why this Festival was important to you?

As I mentioned, in October of 2011, I was the guest of the Liszt Symposium, where I met the director of the Festival, the pianist Prof. Yesim Alkaya. In the very first moment we realized that our musical language, taste and requirement are similar, so we became friends. Prof. Yesim Alkaya came to Hungary in 2014, and visited the Franz Liszt Academy and the International Kodaly Institute where I am teaching. We also had concerts together. After her visit, the two institutions, the Liszt Academy and the State Conservatory of the Hacettepe University signed an Erasmus co-operation that is a very important fact for future academic level co-operations between these two musical institutions. And I would never forget, that in the very early days of 2014 Ms. Yesim told me her plan about organizing a Bartók Festival, and finally, in April of 2015 everything she imagined were realized in Ankara. This Festival was so rich in programs and genress: concerts, lectures, dance events, student performances, symposium, radio broadcast, and last but not least, this special Bartok edition of Andante... Everyone has to be very proud that this program were realised in Turkey. During this one week of the festival the public of Ankara, and even more, via the life broadcasts of the TRT, all Turkey could learnt a lot about Bartók's music. It is a great thing that a university organized a festival like this, and from the Rector through the studenst and the professors the whole community was supporting the huge program. Thanks for everyone, who participated in this program, as artist, as organizer or as sponsor as well.


I know you have a special interest of Bartók. Why?

Bartók - as well as Liszt - is very important to me. Not only his musical language, which is incredible, but also as a human being. He is a person who knew what solidarity, human behavior means, and in the same time, he, as a composer, did a lot for preservation of cultural heritage, not only for Hungarian but also for Turkish folk heritage as well.


At the closing concert of the Bartók Festival you sang 5 orchestrated folk songs, two of them were made by Bartók himself, but the rest were made by Zoltán Kocsis, the famous pianist, the chief conductor of the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Hungary. Can you tell us a short information about this piece, why you included this simple unknown cycle into the program of the Festival?

This cycle consists of 20 Hungarian folk songs, originally composed in 1929 for voice and piano. But in 1933 Bartók himself made an orchestrated version of 5 of these songs, and this new piece were performed by the very famous contralto of his time, Maria Basilides. Seventy years later Zoltan Kocsis finished the orchestration of the whole songs cycle. For this very special event of the Bartók Festival in Ankara, I have asked his personal help and we chose together the songs I performed. Unfortunately due to his busy engagement he was unable to join us in Ankara, therefore a young talented Hungarian conductor, Gergely Madaras who already has incredible international fame, conducted the piece with enthusiaism and conviction, with the fantastic support of the Presidential Symphonic Orchestra (CSO). This was the Turkish premiére of the music, but even more, this was the world premiére of this special collection-order of the songs we made.


What is your plan for the near future and the next season? When will the Turkish audience meet you again?

Hopefully I will come back again, as I have had invitation for concerts with my chamber ensemble called ContrasTon for the season of 2015/16, but we also plan an art song recital with my colleague, Prof Yesim Alkaya in the near future.



  © Rajk 2021