After taking his final exams in 1984 he continued his studies at Franz Liszt College in Budapest.
In 1992 he founded the “Podium Duo” with guitarist Gabor Ursu. They are playing French musettes, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish pieces and tangos. In their program, fiery South-American tunes, ragtime and classical adaptations follow each other in harmonious neighborhood.
In 1996 with singer Attila Bardoczy they entred a chanson competition in Paris and won the award for “Best Foreign Performers”. In 1993 Zoltan joined the “Budapest Accordion Trio”(two accordions and a bass accordion). The Trio, being a unique formation all over Europe, is very popular both in Hungary and abroad.
When and why have you started playing the accordion?
I was about 3 years old, when my father played for me on the accordion. Since my father was a real master of this instrument, I was so amused by the sound of this instrument, that I have asked for an accordion for my 4th birthday, and I got one. This is when my love with the accordion have started. Even though I took piano and organ specialities, too, I feel that accordion is the instrument which will accompany me for the rest of my life. When at 4years of age, I found how beautifully this instrument sounded in the hand of my father, I asked him what the secret was so this instrument would sound in my hands, too? He explained that good and bad sounds are staying in the inside of the accordion and we only need to try for releasing only the good sounds from it. The released sounds travel around the Globe and someday they will come a tus, therefore we have to be careful so we wouldn’t need to be ashamed of such an aquaintance. So when I asked what I needed to do to only release the good sounds from the accordion, he only said: „One has to live like that…” I got the hardest homework of my life that day, and I have been looking for the answer ever since.
How is the instrument welcome in your country, how known and popular is it?
Accordion was very popular in the ’50s in Hungary. Then later on, due to the appearance of electronic instruments, it got pushed into the foreground. From the ’90s onwards, something has started again, composers started to realize how universal an instrument the accordion was and they have started using it in soundtracks, studio recordings. My first CD was released in 1991, and since my intent was to show how multi-faceted instrument accordion is, therefore a lot of musical styles got a place on this CD. The CD was a huge success, a lot of concerts followed it. People at the concerts realized, that accordion stands its ground not only at the marriage parties but also at the concert dais. Besides me, nobody gave accordion concerts and the beginning of the ’90s in Hungary. This, at that time was a risky and trailblazer work, which ended in huge success, therefore maybe its not immodest from me to say, maybe this had a part in accordion’s renessaince in Hungary.
You have worked in several different musical styles. Was this a choice so that your music could reach a wider range of audience or trying to find the borders of the instrument?
“Variety rejoices”. Since accordion is a very expressive instrument, therefore its faith is to give the audience a lot of different shadows of life converted into music when it is in the hands of a feeling musician. Since a musician can only give what he has experienced in life, it became obvious to me that this is not possible to express in only one musical style, since life itself does not play on us in only one style. Therefore at my concerts its always the most differing musical styles, starting from French chanson to music from the Balkan and to Piazzola’s Argentinian tango. A lot of people are afraid whether the audience may be faced with such a wide range of musical styles. It has always been my firm belief, that if something sounds right and genuine, people feel that and from there on, nothing else matters. Fortunately life has proved me right, from Singapore to Siberia, from India to Amerika, where all audiences are reacting sweeping strength cheer, for which I am very thankful.
What is the situation with other formations?
From the solo performances to the big band formations all shadows are of interest to me. My favourite is to play chamber music with small formations, but I have just arrived from a symphonic orchestra rehearsal. This has filled me up, it is a fantastic experience that accordions dynamic and the dynamic of a big orchestra is capable of such great things. Not to mention all the overtones you live and hear amongst so many acoustic instruments. When I first played with a symphonic orchestra many years ago, I was a little afraid how it would turn out, since I have been playing my accordion with my eyes closed since I was 4 years old and this fact does not make things easier for the conductor. Fortunately I have been blessed with so great musician partners, conductors with whom we have felt each others stirs even with closed eyes. This was not a problem with a big orchestra either, so the audience can soon meet with the newest music material.
You play a Serenellini instrument. Would you talk about this choice? How is this instrument different from the others?
I found my first Serenellini accordion at Musikmesse in Frankfurt about 10 years ago. The inwards soundings have immediately touched me and I have been in love with it ever since. Because I had 9 outstanding quality accordions at home at that time, I did not buy the instrument at that time, but had been looking for the same sounding and the feeling I had when this instrument was on me, ever since. Thanks to a series of coincidences, a year later, the same instrument seen in Frankfurt was in my hands again, and at that time, I put it back into its case to take it home. Even though I have always had outstanding quality instruments, the casott sounding of this Serenellini Imperator, its magical clarinet sound, its dynamic, the ratio of its inner sounding made me spellbound, I cannot get enough of it until this day. Later, with several minor modificatons it was possible to shape this instrument for even better according to my expectations, trying a lot of kinds of whistles and ventils and build an inner microphone system to it. I have attended a bot of concerts, rehearsals, studio recordings during the last 10 years, and I took this very instrument everywhere with me, I was very careful with it, because this kind of a massive recourse can only be handled with extreme care and attention.
To my delight, this year a partner cooperation came alive between me and Serenellini Accordions, and as a result of that, a brand new Serenellini Impreator arrived to me as a new family member and on top of it all, with all those modifications built in, which I have experimented before. I am very happy, and also, in the meantime, I am a little bit “angry” at Mr. Luciano Serenellini, because I have two such instruments, it is very very hard to stop playing on them!
Therefore, when I compare them, sometimes it happens that 5-6 hours fly by unnoticed. The instrument is by all means the most important thing for a musician, and with an accordion, physical contact is very close, because the instrument is close to the musicians body, vacillates on him, therefore it is extremely important for these inner and outer vacillations to meet each other. There is not another more important inspirational power, then this. A good instrument is a continuation of a musicians body, basically a body part.
In outstanding cases, for example, in my case with the Serenellini Imperator, it is not only a bodypart, it is a soulpart also.
Tell us a few words about your new album…
“Csak játék.. Its only a game…” Was the title of my latest album, which was released this year in April. On this album, music from Balkan music, to Piazzolla, and Hungarian folk music, a wide range of styles are represented. I have made very special sound scores, for example the Hungarian folk song is played with a bass clarinet, udu, bass guitar with glass sounds and accordion.
It was my pleasure to create this album with such musician professionals as Bela Lattman bass guitarist, who have played with Tooth Thielemans and Tony Campbell at several international concert series.
On tooter instruments we can enjoy Mihaly Borbely’s play who have played together with such great artists as Boban Markovic, Georges Moustaki and Ferus Mustafov In Europe, USA, Mexico and Australia.
On percussions, world’s most original percussionist, Kornel Horvath is playing. We can also hear an amusing mouth-organ solo in one of the swings by my friend, Gyorgy Ferenczy.
The albums musical director and patricipator is Artisjus and Fonogram award-winner Zoltan Sipeki.
Antal Kovacs, world-famous authentic gypsy music Hungarian ambassador is playing the guitar, and Zoltan Balogh, who is master of Balkan music, internationally famous guitar virtuose.
Album launch concerts are still going on, audience expresses its feelings with regular standing ovations which is the greatest appreciation a musician can get from the audience. Thank you!
We have received several invitations for the album launch concert, we trust that sometime in the near future, we can get to Italy, too. A lot of Italian accordion friends and fans mentioned that the would be very happy to meet with us. We would also be very happy!
Are you working on a new album now? What are your plans for the future?
I feel very lucky the I have been able to step on the stage woth most outstanding fellow musicians.
I am attracked by special soundings, my favourite duo is the “Flying hands…” formation we have created with my percussionist friend, Kornel Horvath. With this formation, we are planning on releasing a new CD soon.
Since one of my favourite is Latin sounding, and Kornel was recently asked for contributing at Al Di Meola’s album, I trust that a special album will be released and we are awaiting to record sounds together.
One of next years most exciting event, is that the concert with the symphonic orchestra is going to released on a DVD. Fantastic soundings were created, and there is already a huge interest is coming from the audience, we also await working together. I am positive that a very special musical material will be born.
Another special event is new New Years concert, which will be held January 3rd in Budapest. All contributors are world famous and appreciated virtuoses. The guest star will be Roby Lakatos violin artist, with whom we are planning a special surprise. We are awaiting everyone!
This article is available also in: Italian