To celebrate Hungary’s National Day on November 2, the Embassy of Hungary invited representatives of the Indonesian public life and members of the international community in Jakarta to a special reception that also included a performance by Hungarian virtuoso pianist and composer Balázs Havasi.
In addition to the music performance, the reception also included a display of the Hungarian fashion brand Sugarbird and a pottery exhibition by Ildikó Chlumetzky.
We spoke to Balázs Havasi about his first performance in Indonesia, his fascination with Asia and what exactly drives him to continuously explore new genres.
You have been praised for your efforts in musical innovation and easily shift between different genres. What was your inspiration behind taking the leap from purely classical music to exploring other genres as well?
I graduated from the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, but I always knew I wouldn’t be the typical artist most people picture when they imagine a “classical pianist”. I wanted to carefully study the great masters first, and then create my own original music, something new. Most people today might think about the piano, symphonic music and classical instruments as something old-fashioned or even boring. I try my best to prove them wrong. I remember writing a very dynamic composition and felt that it’s not enough to express it all with the piano only. It just felt natural to me that I need to bring in rock drums. At other times it’s electric guitars, traditional Indian singing or a beatbox guy. To me it all works together in perfect harmony, just as much as a traditional symphony orchestra.
You are known for your “fondness” of Asia, especially China. What is it that fascinates you about this country and continent, and does it have an impact on your work as a musician?
My grandfather used to work in China and I remember the fascinating stories he told me about that very different, yet very inspiring culture. Decades later I had the privilege to perform there with some truly amazing artists. I get many inspirations as I travel the world and as a composer it is just natural that I incorporate these influences into my works. For example, I wrote a symphony based on the theme of Hungary’s probably most loved folk song titled “Spring Wind”. I added a lot of Asian flavour to it, using the Chinese Erhu for example. It is performed on the piano, with a symphony orchestra and world music soloists alongside the folk singers. This interpretation became hugely successful, and not only among Hungarians. I was amazed by how people everywhere appreciate its beauty in this context, even without understanding a word of the lyrics of the original song. We might have been born on different continents but deep in our hearts we all speak and understand the same language. And that common language is music.
You came to Jakarta to perform for the celebration of Hungary’s National Day. What were your expectations of Indonesia?
I’ve never been to Indonesia before and it made my first concert even more exciting to me. I think it’s a blessing that in this globalized era music can be available worldwide on the Internet. I already feel a strong connection with Indonesia, as I have received a lot of overwhelmingly positive feedback to my music on YouTube and Facebook. I think it’s an exceptionally receptive audience, and I couldn’t wait to perform in Jakarta.
Lastly, tell us more about your performance?
It was an exclusive premiere, and I think it was the perfect opportunity to personally meet the audience in Jakarta for the first time. I performed my best known and the latest pieces: a musical journey, composed by me, based on my life experiences. However, unlike the huge shows staged in huge stadiums, the debut in Jakarta was a lot more intimate. I had the privilege to perform my works on the piano with three exceptionally talented, virtuoso musicians who are my key artistic partners.