Jul 1, 2015

LISZT ACADEMY: A MASTERPIECE OF ART NOUVEAU STYLE

Liszt Academy of Music

The concert palace of Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest designed by Kálmán Giergl and Flóris Korb

One of the most impressive examples of Central European Art Nouveau architecture, this has been a bastion of music teaching and at the same time Hungarian concert life.


Liszt Academy, the only music academy in the world that was founded by Liszt himself in 1875, is an emblematic Budapest institution as both university and concert centre. The highest forum of music education in Hungary had a strong impact on the development of Hungarian and international music history.

The Music Academy was constructed between 1904 and 1907 in a unique mixture of styles, with a greater respect for tradition and, for instance, primarily stonework on the façade instead of ceramics.

The stone Atlases above the entrance would be equally at home on any of the Neo-Renaissance mansions lining nearby Andrássy Avenue, whereas the genius sculptures by Géza Maróti positioned above the main cornice were appreciatively received by international visitors to the Milan International in 1906.

At the same time, elements borrowed from Assyrian or Egyptian architecture associate the thinking of Flóris Korb and Kálmán Giergl with the philosophy of Ödön Lechner, who travelled to the Middle East in search of inspiration. It was also an indication of their age that they chose to use reinforced concrete, a relatively little-known technique in Hungary at the time. The engineer Szilárd Zielinski imported the system from France and with it created a cutting-edge structure for its day: he used reinforced concrete to make not only the

Liszt Academy’s reopening in 2013 was a major milestone in the institution’s 140 year old history.

In the course of reconstruction the numerous classrooms and smaller performance venues in the building have been fitted with modern furniture, lighting and heating systems, acoustic panels and perfect insulation from external noise.

The Liszt Academy is located in the very centre of the historic city, only blocks away from the Opera House and the best theatres, amidst stylish cafés and restaurants. International visitors and students are all amazed by the dynamic concert life they find in Budapest. There is a huge variety of top-level classical music, jazz and world music performances, although Hungary is also renowned for its characteristic and passionate Hungarian folk music and dance as well as the special dance house programmes organized to keep these traditions alive.

The foundations were actually laid by Ferenc Liszt, although he never lived to see the inauguration of this imposing structure. Many great names started from here: Ernő Dohnányi, Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály, and in their wake György Cziffra, Annie Fischer, György (Sir Georg) Solti and György Ligeti began their careers here.

The concert halls of the 19th century and the turn-of-the-century Art Nouveau period were erected as shrines to the Greek god Apollo, while the theatres were offered as sanctuaries dedicated to Dionysos.

However, the Liszt Academy of Budapest, reveals a much more complex architecture. Here, the rich and manifold decorations of the façades and the main halls, dominated by the motifs and symbols of Greek mythology, form a unified whole and – reaching beyond the Nietzschian opposition – are integrated into an elaborate iconographic programme. The highlight of this iconographic programme is undoubtedly the Grand Hall.

Given the organic unity of its iconographic system, the entire edifice is interwoven by a sub- and superordinating hierarchical structure based on architectural and decorative oppositions. As the horizontal side elements of the main façade are contrasted with a vertically divided avant-corps towering in the middle, so the three-storey-high Grand Hall emerges from the lower built lobby space.

In the Grand Hall, however, the effect of the constructed elements is only secondary. Here, the successive arches have the role of holding the symbolic vegetation which dominates the room: the laurel tree fills in and pervades the entire space from floor to ceiling, forming groves to shade the interior and casting dots of shadows onto the side walls. The laurel strikes its black roots on the ground floor, only to run its green trunks up the sidewalls, and finally cover the vault with its golden foliage.

The Doric façade, featuring swans and lyres, represents the Temple of Apollo, and the deity is also endowed with the attributes of the Egyptian sun god (sun discs, obelisks, pyramidia, egyptianizing heads, pylons). The laurel grove is Apollo's holy sanctuary on the island – also reminiscent of his shrine on the island of Delos –, with swans, lyres, serpent-decorated altars and the double portrait of the deity himself. In Apollo's symbolic grove the most eminent place is occupied by the organ and the other musical allusions, among them the depictions of the swan song.

Higher, sitting on the clouds there are angels who play the characteristic instruments of Apollo, and their music already sounds in another world hidden behind the purple drapes – a reference to the purple robe attributed to Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo.

In the Grand Hall there are Apollonian herma pillar priestesses, standing on the side as caryatids and in the middle as light bearers. Also on this level we have the only mediator that can actually be sounded: the organ.

The Grand Hall, restored to its original splendour and bearing the stylistic flourishes of Hungarian Art Nouveau, is famed as a concert venue, and not only because of its decorative elements reminiscent of the Dionysian and Apollonian symbolic system; it has been world-renowned for more than a century due to its unparalleled acoustics.

In the Grand Hall, music itself is made visible – and music, as Nietzsche said, is the direct idea of the eternal life.


Moments of the very first gala concert after the reconstruction works: Barnabás Kelemen & Katalin Kokas playing Bartók duos in the Grand Hall. Introductory video and excert of the Grand Opening Gala Concert

Introductory Clip
Creative Producer: Imre SZABÓ STEIN, Director of Communications and Media Concent Development, Liszt Academy
Director: Dávid GÉCZY
Operatőr // Cameraman: TOKODI Gábor

A gálakoncert felvételének közreműködői // Footage of the Gala Concert
Creative Producer: Imre SZABÓ STEIN
Director: Csaba KÁEL
Sound engineer: Gergely LAKATOS
Production manager: Sára SZENTMIKLÓSI

The passage between the different worlds is made possible by the mediators, who take their stand at the boundaries of the two realms. Such mediating figures are the muses guarding the ground floor entrances of the Grand Hall, and the founder Ferenc Liszt himself, who is sitting enthroned like a high priest between the lower and upper part of the central avant-corps of the façade, as if to affirm the Christian layer of meaning which is also embodied in the building's iconographic system. It is again mediators who play the main role in the fresco by Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch on the back wall of the upstairs foyer: female figures dancing on top of the fountain of art as personifications of the various arts.

The name of Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch is worthy of particular mention among the many participating fellow artists. The two frescos in the vestibule on the ground floor and the composition that can be seen in the first floor foyer (The Fountain of Art, a slightly late Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece that is rare in Hungary) are the work of the leader of the Gödöllő artists' colony.

The two different worlds intermingle in the fresco as well, which makes the painting a crucial part of the iconographic programme: it allows for a certain transparency between the foyer and the Grand Hall so that the work of art becomes an integral part of both spaces.

Famous composers - maybe Mozart and Beethoven - as well as an angel are discernible amongst the characters clad in a variety of period costume. The idyllic environment evokes the symbolical compositions by Puvis de Chavannes and Maurice Denis set in a landscape of groves.

The foyer has 22 eosin glazed balls from the famous Zsolnay factory of Pécs, in which, according to tradition, the ‘spirit of music’ resides. No surprise, then, to find that just prior to exams students race to touch these orbs for luck and inspiration.

The Zsolnay company of Pécs received the commission for the floor and wall cladding and the windows in the building were created by Miksa Róth, whose name is still recognized to this day.

The Sir Georg Solti Chamber Hall has also been reborn: with its orchestral pit created to the original plans and modern stage machinery, this is a unique venue for chamber opera performances and ensemble concerts. It is to these enchanting performance venues that the world’s leading artists have returned time and time again over the past century.

The ticket office of the Liszt Academy Concert Centre operates adjacent to the main entrance of Liszt Academy at Liszt Ferenc tér 8.

Ticket office general opening times:
10 am – 6 pm Monday-Sunday.

Besides general opening times the ticket office will also be open during concerts, from the hour preceding the start of the performance until the end of the first interval.
Staff of the ticket office will be pleased to help if you have any questions concerning Liszt Academy Concert Centre tickets.

Ticket office contact details:
Phone.: +36 1 321 0690
E-mail: jegy@lisztacademy.hu

POSTAL ADDRESS:
Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music
H-1061 Budapest Liszt Ferenc tér 8.
Phone (central nr.): +36 1 462 4600
Email: info@lisztacademy.hu

zeneakademia.hu/en/home

Credits: Story

Editor in chief: Imre Szabó Stein

Managing Editors: Linda Buczkó, Zsuzsanna Könyves-Tóth

Also Collaborated: Dorina Gyurkócza, Péter Lorenz, Dániel Végh

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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