Bridging Divides: Connecting Hungary and UVA Through Music
The power of music, to bridge miles, centuries, and cultural differences was on display last spring on two continents, including here on Grounds. The Hungarian-American Partnership Concerts celebrated a new partnership between a pair of historic institutions – The University of Virginia and University of Pécs in Hungary. The oldest university in Hungary, University of Pécs celebrated its 650th-anniversary last year. Despite the 4,673 miles that separate the two institutions, they share plenty of common ground. Both reside in historical college towns featuring charming and popular pedestrian malls, both serve as focal points for the arts, and both are home to UNESCO world heritage sites. These connections are what inspired an institutional partnership that kicked off with a series of "home and home" cultural exchange concerts in 2019 and will continue in the spring of 2020. In March of 2019 UVA faculty violinist Daniel Sender, a former Fulbright Scholar in Budapest and Hungarian music specialist, and pianist John Mayhood traveled to Hungary for a rich cultural exchange journey that culminated in a concert with renowned faculty members of the University of Pécs. The UVA faculty members joined László Pólus (cello) and Emil Ludmány (viola) for a concert in the Franz Liszt Concert Hall at the university's historic Institute for Music. On Friday, April 12, 2019, UVA returned the favor when they hosted the Hungarian faculty members for a concert in Brooks Hall. The concert featured works by Frank Bridge, Robert Schumann, and the Hungarian composer Ernő Dohnányi, capping off the first of many planned collaborations between the universities.
In March of 2020 Sender will return to Hungary along with fellow faculty members Ayn Balija, associate professor of Viola, Adam Carter, associate professor of Cello, and UVA students Amelia Bailey (violin), Sophie Park (violin), Lauren Schmidt (viola), and Brent Davis, (cello). The students will work alongside Hungarian student performers to prepare Mendelssohn’s iconic string quartet, which they will perform at the end of their visit. The Hungarian-American Partnership Concerts project, which is supported by the McIntire Department of Music, the Office of Provost and Vice Provost for the Arts and the Institute for Musical Arts at the University of Pécs, has been in the works for the past two years, Sender said. "The whole thing about Hungarian music and culture is that it never exported very well. When the country was under Soviet rule, we just didn't have much access to it. Since the music is highly idiomatic and specific to Central Europe, it really takes someone who has lived there to understand how to play it correctly." Eager for his students to have that learning experience, Sender is currently deep in the planning stages for the student exchange this coming March. "The students will actually get to work with a Hungarian string quartet at the university, and we are going to coach them." The event will feature combined student and faculty concerts, in addition to what he called a "healthy dose" of lectures on Hungarian culture and history.