Kodály Phili Aiming to be Debrecen’s Most Important Cultural Pillar

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The Budapest Business Journal speaks with Budapest-born but Debrecen-based music director Dániel Somogyi-Tóth about the cultural plans of the city, competition with Budapest and, of course, about the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Dániel Somogyi-Tóth

BBJ: How long have you been involved with the Kodály Filharmonikusok (Kodály Philharmonic) Debrecen and the Kodály Kórus?

Dániel Somogyi-Tóth: I have been the managing and music director of the Kodály Philharmonic Debrecen as well as the music director of the Csokonai Theater Debrecen since 2011. I have diverse tasks both in the fields of music and management in my capacity as General Music Director of the city of Debrecen.

BBJ: What is your background? Are you originally from Debrecen? Where did you train?

DS-T: No, I was born in Budapest, but my mother’s family comes from a village near Debrecen. I graduated as organist and conductor from the Budapest Franz Liszt Academy of Music in 2006. Before that, I studied composition and piano at the Budapest Bartók Conservatoire.

BBJ: What are your ambitions for the Kodály Philharmonic?

DS-T: Debrecen aspires to become a regional economic center on a European scale, alongside Budapest. The city is predestined for this geographically, since the Slovakian, Ukrainian and Romanian borders are within 100 km. These efforts are in line with the intention of the government, which wishes to counterbalance the Budapest-dominance of Hungary. It has been a question for a long time which city is going to have the leading role in the region’s economy: Kosice (Slovakia), Debrecen or Oradea (Romania). The new BMW factory in Debrecen seems to have settled this issue. The orchestra now needs to become the most important cultural pillar of this large-scale development. Due to the international language of music and the cultural demands of expats, the orchestra is becoming a bit of an economic factor and we shall make every effort to make the best of this situation. We also wish to offer the leading musicians of Hungary an attractive alternative for a quieter life in the country, but with great musical potential. And, of course, hopefully, a new concert hall.

BBJ: What are the advantages/disadvantages of being based in a provincial city rather than the capital?

DS-T: In Budapest with 2 million inhabitants, there are 10 professional symphony orchestras, while there is one orchestra each in six further cities. This means that there is an orchestra for every 200,000 inhabitants in Budapest, while in the country, there is only one per 1.3 million inhabitants. Looking around, we can see that there are few cities of two million inhabitants in the world that have 10 professional orchestras. The rich musical tapestry of Budapest is certainly a rare global phenomenon, but, at the same time, the average salary of the provincial musician is the 30% of their Budapest peers. This unbalanced situation makes our competition quite difficult.

BBJ: Finally, how is the coronavirus affecting the running of the Philharmonic?

DS-T: All concerts and rehearsals have been suspended. We hope that from the summer period we can start replacing them...

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