A child of holocaust survivors, Hungarian born violinist Orsolya Korcsolán had always felt a deep connection to her roots, linking her Jewish heritage closely with her personal and musical identity. Crossing paths with some of classical music’s past and present iconic figures inspired a prolific career in music that now spans from performing and recording artist to cultural ambassador and pedagogue.
While still a violin student at Budapest’s Franz Liszt Academy, Orsolya attended – as one of the festival’s youngest participants, sixteen at the time – the Schleswig Holstein Music Festival, in Germany. Meeting and working with Sir George Solti during that time, remains one of her most powerful experiences and awakened her initial interest in what was to become her passion project:”Solti told me the moving story of a long lost friend of his Budapest past, the gifted composer Sándor Kuti . In the 1930ies they had been classmates at the composition class of Ernő Dohnány and their joint graduation recital in 1934 was held to critical acclaim, at the Grand Hall of the Franz Liszt Academy.
Only later Orsolya learned that Kuti’s last work had been his Sonata for Solo Violin, which he had written down on a crumpled piece of paper, during his detention at the Ukrainian labor camp in Kárpátalia. Dedicated to his pregnant wife Ami, who was in hiding in Budapest, Kuti passed it on to his guards. But by the time the letter had reached Amy, Kuti had been murdered, never to hear his last work performed,” explains Orsolya.”It is a heartbreaking Sonata for solo violin, in three movements, his last work and it is full of longing and despair,” and it was going to take some time, before faith led her to its full discovery.
After finishing her studies at that history clad Budapest conservatory, Orsolya, further headed Solti’s advice to continue her violin studies at New York’s Juilliard School. Here, Orsolya became one of the last students of the late Dorothy Delay, and worked with Itzhak Perlman and Rohan de Silva, his steady pianist accompanist, carrying on the legacy of violin virtuoso Ivan Galamian.
After winning the Dorothy DeLay Award and the Cornelius Vander Starr Award, two prestigious prizes granted to further the development of outstanding talent, she settled in Vienna, while keeping her strong ties to her native Budapest. Besides performing the regular violin repertoire both as a soloist and chamber musician, she continued to follow her special interest in Jewish themes and composers.
“It just always felt so natural and personal to me,” she describes her activities in pursuit of restoring these rare Jewish treasures to renewed reception, connecting the dots further and creating a broader cultural perspective.
She served as the ambassador for the Jewish Summer Festival in Budapest and artistic director of the “Missing Links” concert series at the Holocaust Memorial Centre and the Budapest Goldmark Festival.
As the artistic advisor and artist-in-residence for the Vienna Jewish Cultural Festival, she performed with artists such as Grammy nominee clarinet player David Krakauer, and with mandolin player Avi Avital – a Grammy nominee, Echo Award winner, and Deutsche Grammophon artist.
Her albums “MOSAIC – Classical Jewish Compositions for Violin and Piano” and “KornGOLDmark – Works by Erich Korngold, Carl and Rubin Goldmark” released by Solo Musica München, featuring the world premiere recording of Rubin Goldmark’s Plaintive Air for violin and piano, were well received and praised as “heartbreakingly beautiful” (Scene Magazine), “a sweeping experience” (Pizzicato), “full of emotions” (Crescendo Magazine).
Besides showcasing Orsolya’s versatile command and compelling sound, both recordings are markers on her penetrating journey of discovery, which has made Orsolya one of its devotees and protagonists: Jewish identity in music performance.
What is the common thread among all these different angled composers, where do they fit into the genre of their time and is there a mutual connection, identifying a particular Jewish spirit? No easy questions, given the multitude of characteristics of each of these very different artists. In her latest 2017 recording then, fully devoted to one single composer’s path, Orsolya transports the listener to an affecting place, within the tragic background of its time.
Silenced, released on the Deutsche Grammophon label explores the individual musical identity of Sándor Kuti, in the light of tragic history. The recording, in collaboration with soloists of the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra, presents the first original collection of all of the Hungarian-Jewish composer’s surviving chamber works for string, including the Sonata’s World Premiere Recording; it also brings Orsolya’s personal path full circle.
During her continuous research at the Music Academy Library in Budapest, Ágnes Gádor, then the head of the library, made Orsolya aware of Kuti’s daughter, Éva. Upon their meeting, Éva supplied Orsolya with some of the original materials, Kuti’s handwritten scores and letters, family photos and newspaper clippings, lying untouched for decades in a box at the bottom of an old cabinet.
In Orsolya’s capable hands, academic research – she is currently also completing her PH.D at the University of Jewish Studies and working on her first book titled Sándor Kuti – Music is silenced – translates into a captivating witness of a time in turmoil and a soulful listening experience.
Photo: © Posztós János / BTF Uránia National Film Theatre, Budapest
This April she returns from performing her program Silenced, celebrating her CD release at the star-clad Budapest Spring Festival, to Vienna, directing and teaching the next generation of exceptionally talented, young musicians at Musikschule in Wien. Acknowledging the importance of music education, she founded her private music school at the historic Palais Palffy, which she founded in 2013, allows her as she says: “to continue the great tradition and pass on appreciation for music and culture,” to future exceptional performers as well as audiences.
Highlights of her upcoming season include the new release on the Naxos label in September, of the Concerto for Violin, Horn and Shofar by Brazilian-American composer Miguel Kertsman with conductor Denis Russel Davis and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the World Premiere of Ádam Kondor’s Violin Concerto for ORF – the Austrian Broadcasting Comrporation, as well as recording further compositions of composers, silenced by the Holocaust for Universal Austria/Deutsche Grammophon. Silenced – Watch the trailer
By Ilona Oltuski