Hot Poppin' Culture News From New York City

Exclusive: Havasi, Hungary’s New Bartok, About to Take U.S. by Storm

Havasi, the greatest virtuoso from Hungary since Bartok talks in an exclusive interview about his long-planned debut in the United States. (Photo: Havasi)

Havasi, the greatest virtuoso from Hungary since Bartok talks in an exclusive interview about his long-planned debut in the United States. (Photo: Havasi)

Havasi, Hungary’s biggest musical export since Bartok, has never played in the United States. All that changes when the artist makes his U. S. debut, Monday, Oct. 26, at the world-renowned Carnegie Hall in New York City.

He’ll be accompanied by more than 70 of his fellow artists from Hungary, including the Dohnányi Orchestra Budafok.

Balázs Havasi, better known simply as Havasi, is so popular in his home country he played to more than 46,000 people over a single weekend at the Papp Laszlo Sports Arena in Budapest. The turnout out attested to his status as a true music phenomena.

The performance propelled him to No. 2 on Pollstar’s rankings for the number of concert tickets sold worldwide.

Statistics aside, the story of Havasi is one that encapsulates the power of self-motivation in his effort to bring his music to the world.

IM met with the artist in an exclusive interview to talk about his debut in New York City.

The Improper: From Hungary to Carnegie Hall. How did this all happen?

Havasi: We’ve been working on this show for six years, collaborating with hundreds of musicians and artists, and constantly improving it. Last year in Budapest we filled Hungary’s largest arena four times over in a single weekend, attracting 46,000 visitors in a country of 10 million people. Over the years, we have built up an incredible fan base and we thought that now is the time to make our debut in America.

IM: You only perform your original music, why?

Havasi: As a performer, I know I could achieve rapid success by playing music that is already popular. But, for me, music is the most important form of communication and I want to share my own innermost thoughts and feelings with people. When we really want to communicate with people, we don’t recite poems to each other but express our own individual thoughts. That is why I took the decision a number of years ago to redirect my career towards giving performances only of my own original compositions.

Havasi first played the piano by ear all by himself, at the age of four. (Photo: Havasi)

Havasi first played the piano by ear all by himself at the age of four. (Photo: Havasi)

IM: You’re a fan of movie soundtracks; what inspiration do you draw from them?

Havasi: I have been hugely inspired by movie soundtracks in my own composing life. For me, this music is just as much ‘classical music’ as any other music with a serious intent. Composers like Hans Zimmer, (the late) James Horner, and John Williams are among the greatest composers writing today. Great Hollywood movies have inspired me not only to write music that knows no borders but also to reach out and create a whole new audience for truly communicative music.”

IM: What are your thoughts on coming to Carnegie Hall?

Havasi: I’m thrilled to be giving my US debut at this highly prestigious and world-renowned venue. I also feel highly honored to have this opportunity; the last Hungarian composer to present a program here dedicated entirely to his own music was Bartok in the 1940s.

IM: Tell us about your music.

Havasi: In order to become a composer, a very strong internal motivation and skill must take hold. Someone either has this or doesn’t. Then you must have a message that you are eager to put across to the audience. I spent 20 years studying and performing Chopin, Mozart, Liszt, the works of the great composers. I believe you don’t have the ‘right’ to create something genuinely new until you have studied your predecessors thoroughly. I was playing their music for decades and after a while I thought that it was time to present ‘my own musical voice.’

IM: I understand that you’re going to kick off the concert with a press-conference at The Cutting Room in New York City

Havasi: We wanted to do something special for the media prior to the show and this venue was suggested by many as the right place to do it at. This is an iconic venue in the musical life of New York City, attracting a wide variety of artists, so we’re indeed honored to be there.

IM: We understand you’re working on a special Blu-Ray project; tell us about that.

Havasi is known for his classical artistry, but his music compositions have a New Age edge are are often experimental.

Havasi is known for his classical artistry, but his music compositions have a New Age edge and are often genre bending.

Havasi: The last Symphonic DVD we produced was six years ago. This was a recording of the original premiere of Symphonic given at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music. In the meantime the production has developed into a monumental Arena Show and fans have been demanding a new concert movie for many years. This fall we will finally release it. It was recorded in four days, and post production took six months using footage from more than 100 high-end cameras. I’m excited to see the final result.

IM: What do you want to accomplish that you haven’t already?

Havasi: I would now like to give something back to society in my own way, and I believe this production can have a powerful and beneficial influence on music education. This is something I really believe in, which is why I have composed a series of etudes – short works which help piano students to practice and overcome technical difficulties, while being attractive and communicative compositions in their own right. I would love to look back on my life and see a positive contribution to the musical education of young people as my biggest lifetime achievement.

For more on Havasi’s whirlwind U.S. debut, follow IM on Twitter and check out his Web site.


Subscribe To TheImproper's Email Newsletters, Free!