In this series we kindly invite our readers to get our artists, soloists, organ players and singers know better. You can read here not only their curriculum vitae but beyond: their personal musical experiences, habits and freetime hobbies let you peep behind the scenes, and convince the doubters of even if they create something divine on the stage, musicians are human beings after all.
Our first artist to introduce is András Virágh, organ player of the Basilica, conductor of many choirs, currently the professional ETUNAM Chamber Choir sounds familiar from our Saturday Organ & Choir concerts.
András was born in Hungary, and started his musician career in the Bela Bartok Conservatory in Budapest and got his diploma on organ player and teacher at Ferenc Liszt Music Academy. Music was inherited in his genes, given that his father – and teacher at the same time, Endre Virágh was a famous conductor and organist in Budapest. His mother supporting Endre’s musician activities, sang in his choir too. Actually time came, when son conducted to his mother in the same choir. It may not surprising that András’s brother, Gábor is a musician as well, plays jazz overseas.
Given this heritage, and stamina for fighting with all the rivals and bureaucracy, András has won several awards since his career started, just to mention the most outstanding ones: he got the Ferenc Liszt Prize, and the Major Hungarian National Prize for Outstanding Artistic Work, made award by the government of Hungary.
His vocation can be measured not only in his prizes but in his great discography as well: he recorded complete organ works for the greatest Hungarian composers, such as Ferenc Liszt and Zoltán Kodály. Moreover, he continued with recording complete organ works for Cesar Franck and even for J. S. Bach as well! Latter is big favourite of his, he plays Toccata and Fugue in D minor by heart, which you can listen on our Monday concerts by the sound of the great pipe organ.
And now let’s get behind the scenes and learn some fun facts from András!
Is there any moving, touching musical memory from your childhood?
Actually, yes, my first significant musical experience. I was listening to my father, Endre Virágh’s organ concert sitting next to the pipe organ. When he was playing Fugue E minor from Bach, I felt suddenly as the bench i was sitting on started to lift, and I found myself in total astonishment. I think, this was the most important motivation for me to start musician career, this moment I still can feel. Later, on my own concerts I had similar experiences, and I think, this is that we can perceive from eternity through music.
Any funny memory you’d like to share?
Of course! I was 5 when at the 10AM Mass in the Parish Church of Budapest my mother was the organist. Since she missed buying icecream for me before the service, i needed to bribe her: if I don’t get my icecream after the service, I won’t hesitate and will step on the organs pedalier. Obviously, she had no choice but promise me that icecream.
A musical career is full of surprises, do you remember any embarrassing event on your concerts?
Sure, I played for a youth concert in the Hall of the Music Academy for primary school students. The coordinator of the program naturally was trying to handle the event, and could until the organ started to sound loud. From then on, the children got encouraged and tweeting had been going on till the last loud harmony of the organplay. When I finished, they were so loud like in a sport hall, and got so terrified of themselves that all of a sudden shouting became silence.
May we ask what are your practice habits? Being such a great artist, one can think you don’t need that much time…
This is not true, professionalism doesn’t depend on how many awards one have. Usually I practice 2-3 hours a day, but when I prepare for a concert, it can be more, depends on the complexity of the music. Ideally, with 4-6 hours practice a day I can prepare for any kind of concert.
What do you do, when you don’t play organ?
I love to spend my time in my vacation house in Badacsonytomaj, I can switch myself off best in the nature. In our family lake Balaton is a forever lasting love, and everything belongs to it, therefore now I learn sailing.