Albert Simon

August 18, 1926. Makó – February 17, 2000. Budapest
Simon Albert (Fotó: Zeneakadémia képgyűjteménye)
Simon Albert
(Fotó: Zeneakadémia
He was a conductor, musicologist and music pedagogue, a performer and analyzer of music, a musician of uniquely great impact of the second half of the twentieth century , who taught the essence of music and joint music-making to his students.
He was admitted to the composition division of the Academy of Music in 1947 to János Viski, at the same time he was a conductor and played the percussions at the Orchestra of the Vegyipari Szakszervezet (Chemical Trade Union) of which he became leading conductor soon. He played several other instruments besides percussions, like cello, flute, horn and piano. From 1948 he studied conducting at the Academy of Music as a student of János Ferencsik and László Somogyi. He attended regularly the chamber music lessons of Leó Weiner from 1946 already. As a third year student of conductor major he conducted the Hungarian State Concert Orchestra and the Symphonic Orchestra of the Hungarian Radio at subscription concerts. He pursued advanced studies as a conductor in Bucharest with Constantin Silvestri and George Georgescu.
Upon graduating he became the conductor of the Hungarian State Orchestra from the autumn of 1952 as well as conducting in the Opera of Szeged between 1953 and 1955. Following that he was a conductor at the Opera in Budapest and from 1958 he was the soloist conductor of the National Philharmonic Society. By the invitation of Otto Klemperer he spent some months in London in 1962 with the great German conductor. He made concerts with introductory lectures regularly since his years at the Academy of Music with public educational purposes. From 1955 he conducted concerts with lectures in the Hungarian Radio with the title A zene mindenkié (Music for Everyone), and made several recordings there, as well. In 1959/1960 Albert Simon began his profound pedagogic work heading the symphonic orchestra consisting of young musicians, mainly students of the Conservatory and the Academy of Music founded by the Musicians Trade Union, that set a new kind of training of orchestral musicians with a high demand as its purpose. From 1965 he was regularly invited to participate in the Darmstadt International Summer Course for New Music.
He became professor at the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest in 1969. He directed the orchestra of the Academy as the leading professor of the subject Orchestra. He gave several unforgettable concerts and concert series with his ensemble. Between 1970 and 1981 they were celebrated at many great tours by foreign audiences, as well. He made a number of recordings at this time. He won Silver Medal with his ensemble at the Karajan International Orchestral Competition in West-Berlin in 1978. He was invited guest professor to the Conservatoire Paris in 1980 where he was teaching for three years.
Besides the traditional repertoire of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Albert Simon spent great energy on the familiarization and performance of twentieth century music. He dealt with the art of Béla Bartók in his entire life: he made detailed analyses on the compositions of Bartók, wrote books on him, and gave a series of lectures on Bartók in the Radio of Stuttgart in 1983. His interpretation of the Divertimento with the orchestra of the Academy gained great resonances at home and abroad, as well. At his concerts, besides the great classics Bach, Haydn and Mozart, Berlioz and Bruckner he conducted and familiarized in depth with his musicians and the audience the works of Webern, Stravinsky, Berg, Schoenberg, Varése, Stockhausen and Bartók as well as other contemporary Hungarian composers. Several premieres and Hungarian premieres are connected to his name. He offered a workshop and an opportunity for experiment for young composers; he initiated the establishment of the Új Zenei Stúdió (New Music Studio) in 1969.
He was awarded Artist of Merit Award in 1986 and Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary Commander's Cross in 1996 by the President of Hungary. From the second half of the 1980s he retreated more and more, besides teaching he worked on his books on Bartók and on the education of an audience appreciating music.
Albert Simon made a decisive impact on the approach and educating of several generations of Hungarian musicians. Being a heir of the conductorship of Leó Weiner representing a pure musical approach in pedagogy and of Otto Klemperer representing the classical German tradition, he taught the essence of music and the responsibility of music-making for his musicians – not only to the members of his orchestra, but to anyone who participated at his intensive rehearsals with a glowing atmosphere, heard his concerts or had an opportunity to talk to him. In comments at the end of the 1970s he professes on his approach to education and music performance in the following two citations: ‘I feel that with ceaseless work anything can be achieved and accomplished.' – ‘I am convinced that musical emotions can be induced only by music. Only from experiencing musical happenings can originate the so called empathy…' Emphasizing the responsibility of the performer Albert Simon referred to a mozartian saying: ‘The musician must play that is in the score but in a way if he himself would have written that.' He talked about the same in a statement of him in 1979: ‘...technique that could be taken seriously does not exist without invention. But the real thing is that when the invention creates its own technique. The playing of every new works or the repeated performance of a work that has been played before already, requires and promises rejuvenation to the performer, if he wants to change the truth of the greatest, written into note heads to pulsating life.'
P. M.


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