Ilona Prunyi gives special concert with three younger colleagues

It is always an uplifting and touching moment when a senior artist steps on stage with more junior ones. This time pianist Gábor Farkas, cellist László Fenyő and violinist Barnabás Kelemen are honoured to play two-piano pieces and piano trios with legendary pianist Ilona Prunyi. What is in common in these artists who come together literally from all around the globe to play together? Let’s see some interesting examples!

Childhood experiences

Ilona Prunyi explained in an interview some years ago how her joint story with the piano started:

“I don’t know how but we received some toy furniture which included a little ten-key piano. I was four, sat down and played a folk song on it, with the world vanishing around me. The neighbour had a real piano and let me go there to play. […] At the age of six, in the entrance exam for the music school, I played everything they showed me. Can you sight read, they asked in astonishment, and I asked back what that meant. It was as natural as breathing, I thought everyone else worked this way.”

Barnabás Kelemen told a similar story to the press. He claims to have heard violin music already in his mother’s womb, as pianist-cembalist Zsuzsa Pertis worked a lot with violinists. He received his first violin from renowned musician János Rolla, and he longed to play it since he was four. Although he was always considered a bright child musician, he vividly remembers the moment when something changed in the air while practicing with his mum:

“The piano accompaniment of the Viotti violin concerto was on the piano. In the ten minutes we ran through a movement, my mother remembers feeling something completely new: she realised I have fantasy. Later at my concerts I only needed to remember this mood and I opened up. […] I experienced that you just need to play, in the noblest sense, which my mother and I called ‘concentrated silliness’.”

The joint orchestra

Barnabás Kelemen started his eponymous quartet in 2009. Among the  founding members  was his wife Katalin Kokas and sister-in-law Dóra Kokas. After half a decade together, the younger sister quit to concentrate on her solo career, and László Fenyő, with whom the future couple went to university together, jumped in, initially only for some concerts. However, the joint work went so well that he stayed in the Kelemen Quartet for another few years. After a short break, the couple relaunched the quartet recently with two non-Hungarian colleagues. According to Fenyő:

“I’ve been friends with Katalin Kokas and Barnabás Kelemen for decades. Although we don’t have a joint orchestra together at the moment, we play at concerts and festivals together so often that it feels like we still have one. […] It is always an honour and a great joy to play together.”

Living abroad

Musicians travel so much, give concerts and masterclasses at so many different places, work for so many institutions as permanent or guest lecturers, that it is difficult to tell where they live. László Fenyő, it seems, has his headquarters in Germany. There was even a period when Barnabás Kelemen also lived in Cologne with his family, and they were only 1,5 hours away from Fenyő, so the fourth member, Gábor Homoki, needed to make the longest journey from Hungary when they rehearsed together.

However, from the artists whom we can hear in November, it is Gábor Farkas he got to the furthest – at least in miles. He lives in Japan and started his family there. In the last couple of years he worked at the Tokyo College of Music as the first ever European (and youngest) professor, and he’s still doing guest lecturing there. This spring he was the organiser of the Far Eastern Classical Music Festival in the House of Music Budapest, a building designed by a Japanese architect. We wrote about him four years ago when he prepared to play a 3,5-hour-long Liszt piece, which made him talk about a question tackling every expat:

“I’ve experienced homesickness a lot, and changes in my art just like Liszt in his Years of Pilgrimage. Ten years ago I thought about music very differently. […] Well, it is a good  question how I change until I get old… We’ll see!”

Yes, if fate allows, one day Gábor Farkas, László Fenyő and Barnabás Kelemen will be old musicians whom the young colleagues can see as role models and feel honoured to work with. And even then, they might still remember that November day when they played Rachmaninoff, Schumann, Debussy and Mendelssohn with Ilona Prunyi on the stage of Müpa.