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Balázs Szabó challenges organists to rethink the instrument's position in the 20th century



 

Hungarian organist Balázs Szabó is one of the international teachers at the second ever Sibelius Summer Academy course, starting on the 1st of August 2019. He considers teaching as the central point of his career. We asked a little bit about his career and his thoughts on teaching

 

"All the experience I gain as a musician is useful in teaching, but I also profit a lot from my lessons. Teaching keeps me fresh, because I have to be up to date for the students. A successful musician has much more freedom than a student. I can play freely and realize my own profile or play in the way I like. Students often haven't got the freedom, they maybe try to fulfill some dogmas or rules, or just try to play objectively correctly. I try to move them a little bit outside that to find themselves. I try to convince them that music making is not an abstract work, it only has sense if we can express ourselves through the music.   

In my opinion, for an organist to be successful it is very important to be not just musically or technically grown, but we also need a lot of knowledge about organ building, organ history, composition, analysis and improvisation. Surely the most important skill is to learn how to play the sound of the organ and not just the keys.  

This will be my first visit to Finland and I'm very excited about how it will be. I'm very interested in the students, how they play, how they think and also the colleagues. I had the opportunity to meet Veli Kujala in Slovenia, we worked together in a jury, he is the only musician from Finland I know personally. I'm very happy to meet him again in Helsinki, he is an absolutely great musician.  

In a summer programme like this, it is always a big challenge to teach students you haven't met before. So you don't know exactly what will happen. Of course I have my main subjects, but I will try to work on all subjects presented by the students. We will also have a workshop about Max Reger’s organ music. Most of all, after the course I wish the students will remember to play free and expressively. This is most important for me.

For Mozart, the organ was the king of the instruments. Liszt said that it is the pope of the instruments. But what is for us organ today? I wish that the organists can find a way to increase interest in our magnificent instrument. We all have the duty to work on the thinking about the organ.

I'm sure the academic way through the semester, week to week is not the best way to grow as a musician. You have to divide your attention to many subjects, you just lose focus and inspiration. At a summer academy, where you don't have any other duties it is possible to have a full focus on the subject the whole day. I think this concentrated art of learning is the big value of summer academies."