Balance all'Ungarese (Hungarian-Style)

by Szabolcs Zempléni

zempleniAt the friendly request of Ab Koster, I'm happy to gather together a few of my thoughts about my pedagogical work.

For me, nothing is more crucial than finding BALANCE - in life as well as in horn playing. Whether in teaching or performing, it's important to find a good blend of all the different aspects we need for these activities.

As my students call it, "Szabolcs' magic triangle":

zempleni triangle

It's interesting to look at the fundamental elements taught in various countries: in Italy, home of the opera, you can almost always find a singing horn sound and strong musicality. However, rhythm and intonation are not always cultivated to the same degree. (This should not be taken the wrong way as any kind of accusation!) ⯑ In Germany, articulation is very important, just as it is in the German language. In South America, where people are always dancing, rhythm is #1. And in Hungary? Music is king ⯑

If we wish to be successful in our career, we must be on top of all these elements or at least be working on them. A beautiful sound and good rhythmic feel are useless without good intonation, just as good intonation and sound are useless without rhythm. Furthermore, there are other very important things, such as articulation and, finally, the deciding element: MUSIC.

However, we cannot work on one element to the negligence of the others, since we then quickly lose the BALANCE. If we know our own tendencies, then we also know where we need to work. As Arnold Jacobs said, brass players must think like singers. If we are successful in this, then we can simultaneously improve our intonation and develop a good sound.

But... what is the definition of a beautiful sound?

In Germany, the current dominant concept is the Alexander sound, something I would describe as being rich in overtones. When I was a student, there existed in Germany many different ideas of sound. Hermann Baumann had a singing sound that amazed the entire world. Yet you also found a softer, smaller sound out of Dresden that was the trademark of Peter Damm. When I first came to Germany, my own sound was also much thinner and smaller. It was Johannes Ritzkowsky (former solo horn in the Bavarian Radio orchestra) Who first suggested I listen to more opera.

In my homeland, Hungary, top priority goes to having a beautiful tone. We had two professors at the Academy, Prof. Adam Friedrich and Prof. Ferenc Tarjani), Who each had very different but without a doubt equally wonderful horn sounds. For me personally, the sound of Dennis Brain was a perfect example. His tone was so endlessly flexible. Twenty years ago, I absolutely wanted to achieve this myself.

Finally, we cannot neglect the most essential element: music. A beautiful tone can also sound empty and dumb without music. Therefore, I'd like to quote my "mentor," Frøydis Ree Wekre: "Always remind yourself why you started to play the horn in the first place." And: "Have fun!"

With these quotes, I try to cook all'Ungarese, so that it tastes good to everyone. ⯑

Here is a little taste for you – I hope you like it

Fond greetings,

Szabolcs Zempléni has won many competition prizes in his career, including prizes in the Concerto Praga, Markneukirchen, Brno, and the ARD Competition in Munich. Since then, he has appeared on the great stages around the world and has been a dedicated chamber musician. He is currently professor of horn at the Hochschule für Musik in Trossingen, Germany.

(translation: KMT)