Péter Eötvös Fermata, Respond, Cziffra Psodia

BMCCD332 2024

The new album of Péter Eötvös, released posthumously, contains three works that take an unusual approach to the long-standing genre of the concerto: the pandemic-inspired Fermata, a reimagining of the earlier viola concerto entitled Respond, and the Cziffra Psodia, written to mark the centenary of György Cziffra's birth. The three works on the album are conducted by the composer himself, and performed by three different ensembles: Fermata by Ensemble Contrechamps, Respond by Máté Szűcs and Concerto Budapest, and Cziffra-Psodia by János Balázs and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.
Péter Eötvös, who passed away in March 2024, was one of the most important composers, conductors, and teachers of our time, whose activities were closely linked to the Budapest Music Center. Many of his archive recordings, early experimental works, new compositions, and performances of classical pieces conducted by him were released on BMC Records, with Eötvös always participating in the process and authorizing the albums by his approval.


Ensemble Contrechamps
Conductor: Péter Eötvös

Concerto Budapest
Conductor: Péter Eötvös
Soloist: Máté Szűcs (viola)

Orchestre De La Suisse Romande
Conductor: Péter Eötvös
Soloists: János Balázs (piano), Miklós Lukács (cimbalom)

About the album

Recorded by RTS Radio Télévision Suisse for the program called Plein Jeu at Victoria Hall, Geneva on 6 April, 2022 (1, 3-6)
Producer: Mitsou Carré
Sound engineer: Hervé Mermillod, Musical producer: Gaëtan Juge

Recorded by Tom-Tom Sudio at BMC Studio, Budapest on 24-25 March, 2023 (2)
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Péter Dorozsmai
Assistant engineers: Tamás Kurina, Gergő Dorozsmai

Music publishers: Schott Music GmbH & Co KG, Mainz (1, 3-6), G. Ricordi & Co. Bühnen- und Musikverlag GmbH, Berlin (2)

Artwork: Anna Natter / Cinniature

Produced by László Gőz
Label manager: Tamás Bognár

Supported by the National Cultural Fund of Hungary

3500 HUF 11 EUR

Péter Eötvös: Fermata, Respond, Cziffra Psodia

01 Fermata 18:05
02 Respond 16:06
03 Cziffra Psodia – I. 6:35
04 Cziffra Psodia – II. 8:28
05 Cziffra Psodia – III. 7:48
06 Cziffra Psodia – IV. 5:41
Total time 62:45

The album is available in digital form at our retail partners

This new album of Péter Eötvös features three works that all, in different, unusual ways, relate to the concerto genre. This is apparent mainly in the composer’s attitude, which in all three pieces results in individual, unique solutions.
Fermata was directly inspired by the pandemic. Lasting approximately 18 minutes, the piece is written for an ensemble consisting of five woodwind and three brass instruments, a piano, percussion and a string quintet. It was premiered on 6 March 2022 in Budapest Music Center, with the UMZE ensemble conducted by Gergely Vajda. From Geneva, Eötvös followed the upsetting daily news about the pandemic, which rapidly and dramatically changed our world. The structural sections in the piece are “musical situation reports”, where each new piece of musical material tragically and suddenly puts a stop to the previous one. Thus although successive sections burst out of one another, none is the consequent of the previous one, and they do not form a process in the traditional sense. This symbolizes the halting of our  customary way of life, the uncertainty it gives rise to, the way we do not know where what we experience comes from, nor where it is going. The work refers to the pandemic not only in its title (“Stop”, as in busstop), but also through the positioning of the performers on the stage. The fifteen performers sit or stand in three concerting groups one and a half metres apart, as stipulated by precautionary measures during the pandemic, and the unusual positioning results in a unique sound profile, and musical feel.
Respond is a re-think of Eötvös’s earlier viola concerto, entitled Replica. The work is about 16 minutes, and the original 49-strong orchestra was reduced to 32. The premiere was on 9 January 2022 in the Boulez Saal in Berlin, performed by Yulia Deyneka and the Berlin Staatskapelle conducted by James Gaffigan. The Hungarian premiere was held in Müpa Budapest in 2023, performed by Concerto Budapest symphony orchestra, conducted by the composer himself. While in Fermata we observe events in the world as if from without, Respond is mostly about the inner observation of the human soul. The composition is based on the three farewell scenes from Eötvös’s first opera, Three Sisters. The infinite sadness of bidding farewell to a beloved person, the unpredictability of a new phase in life, together with
the helpless resignation to the situation give the composition its tragic tone throughout.
While in Fermata the composer’s attitude is of a “correspondent–commentator”, in Respond it is that of an interior observer of emotional processes, in Cziffra Psodia he becomes a “storyteller”. The commission on the occasion of György Cziffra’s 100th birthday awoke many personal memories in Eötvös. Through his mother, who also studied with Kéri-Szántó, just like Cziffra, he knew the great pianist since his childhood. Cziffra’s life was full of successes and tragedies. His brilliant career as an artist was rent in two by a period spent in a forced labour camp, where he was taken after his first unsuccessful attempt to defect in the 1950s, and where his hand was damaged. After being freed, Eötvös’s mother helped him make a new start, then after he defected successfully in 1956, he settled in Senlis, next to Paris, and was able to flourish. Here he created the Cziffra Foundation, which provided significant help to many young artists. This dramatic life, rich in episodes, inspired Eötvös to write a dramatic, rhapsodic piano concerto. (As he put it: “Cziffra’s life itself is a Liszt rhapsody.” This explains the Lisztian allusions embedded in the work.) This four-movement, half-hour composition shows both the work carried out in the prison quarry and the meditative state of one who retreats from the public. While in the tutti passages the orchestra depicts the outer world, the piano cadenzas that interrupt the process symbolize the solitary events of the soul, where there is no place for brilliance. 
The musical material transposes the letters of Cziffra’s name in French into chords and scales, and the 100th birthday is referenced in the metronome marking of 100. In the orchestration an important role is given to the cimbalom, the instrument of Cziffra’s father, and the solo violin heard at the end of the movements bears a personal message of respect. The premiere of the work was in Budapest on 5 November 2021, with János Balázs as soloist, and the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Mikko Franck. The composer dedicated the piece to János Balázs and to the György Cziffra Festival, under the artistic direction of the pianist.
The music of Péter Eötvös heard on this CD is characterized by a sage relinquishing of complexity, and by clarification. In parallel with this, increasingly important to him is instrumentation, its significance now on par with that of motivic work. These are the works of a composer for whom a message not sufficiently crafted does not give a clear meaning. In these works, particular significance is given to typical elements such as the pauses or stops in Fermata, the sadness of the horn fifths in Respond, reminiscent of the motif in the “Les Adieux” sonata, and the personal, solitary inner monologues of the cadences in Cziffra Psodia.

László Tihanyi
Translated by Richard Robinson

Péter Eötvös

Composer, conductor, music educator, Eötvös is known worldwide for excelling at the highest level in all three fields. He is one of the best known interpreters of the music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
From the 1970s, he maintained a close working relationship with Stockhausen and Boulez.
As the leading conductor of the Ensemble Intercontemporain, he has premiered hundreds of works by contemporary composers.
He attaches great importance to continuing education of young composers and conductors, in Hungary he has created the Péter Eötvös Contemporary Music Foundation, which over the decades has set many young artists on their careers.
He is a known and respected composer all over the world. The best orchestras in Europe, world-renowned soloists, and opera houses commission new works from him. He has written thirteen operas, twenty concertos, and many pieces for symphony orchestra and chamber ensemble. He often conducts the performances of his own works.
Many of his works are available on CD, mainly on the BMC Records label.

Related albums