Budapest’s Refurbished Music Academy Wins Cultural Heritage Award

  • 19 May 2015 9:00 AM
Budapest’s Refurbished Music Academy Wins Cultural Heritage Award
The Franz Liszt Music Academy of Budapest has received the Europa Nostra Award in the conservation of cultural heritage category. The two-year renovation of the building was completed in fall 2013. We carry an interview with András Batta, rector of the Academy between 2004 and 2013, who was the unflagging powerhouse of that ambitious project.

Q: Perhaps you were the only one who never stopped hoping to see the Music Academy refurbished.

A: I hoped against hope. The building fell into abject disrepair, which was unworthy of the institution’s glorious past. Technically speaking, the building was a century behind corresponding institutions abroad.

Q: What do you mean?

A: The building was run-down and its machinery was extremely obsolete. We were fortunate not to have a fire! The building was without air-conditioning – between May and September you could hardly breathe in the concert hall!

Q: Was it difficult to canvas money and support for renovation?

A: It took ten years of strenuous work. I lobbied three successive prime ministers, five ministers of culture and a legion of state secretaries. Draft designs were invited in 2003 and eventually Béla Pazár and Éva Magyari were commissioned as designers. I coordinated preparations for the renovation as from 2004, when I was appointed rector. Gergely Lakatos, head engineer of the Academy, was of tremendous help. As from 2007, successive governments backed the project, which was completed in 2003.

Q: In what ways does the renovated building excel the old one?

A: Renovation went way beyond restoring an old building to its historical beauty. It was true rebirth. The building was thoroughly reconstructed and technologically rejuvenated. It is now suitable for state-of-the-art education and high-quality concerts. The concert halls are really modern.

Q: Why do you think the Music Academy has received the Europa Nosta Award?

A: Thanks to the renovation, the institution can now function both as a school and a concert center. Before the renovation, the institution didn’t have concerts of its own organization – it just served as the scene of concerts organized by other institutions, and there were examination concerts. As a result of renovation, the Academy, which is considered as the finest Art Nouveau building in Central Europe, has assumed a place among pre-eminent musical centers of the world. In 2014 this Academy hosted the general meeting of the European Association of Conservatories (AEC), and the delegates appreciated our efforts to reconstruct this treasure for Europe.

Q: Isn’t it common to have such dual-function institutions internationally?

A: It isn’t in Europe. It’s like merging the Royal Academy of Music of London with the Royal Albert Hall. I only know of one more such institution: the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, Russia – but its building is not as nice as ours.

Q: Now that the Academy has been renovated, and has received that award, can it lead musical life in Hungary to another peak?

A: This institution vibrates with history. Among its students were Kodály, Bartók, Weiner and Dohnányi – all of whom later worked as instructors here. Our graduates included [composer and pianist] György Cziffra, [pianist] Annie Fischer, Georg Solti, [conductor] Tamás Vásáry, [pianist] Péter Frankl, Zoltán Kocsis, Dezső Ránki and András Schiff. Among our graduates were conductors who became famous abroad, including Antal Doráti, Jenő Ormándy and Ferenc Fricsay. We continue the tradition of high-level music education, which Franz Liszt began in 1875. The standards of Hungarian music education are highly valued in many parts of the world.

Source: Heti Válasz

Translated by Budapest Telegraph

  • How does this content make you feel?