On November 27, the first international edition of the TV talent show VIRTUOSOS V4+, popular in Hungary, debuted on TVP Kultura. It was attended by young - often very young - artists, musicians, representing four countries of the Visegrad Group and Serbia. The jury was composed of representatives of each of the participating countries - Poland was represented by Alicja Węgorzewska, an outstanding mezzo-soprano and director of the Warsaw Chamber Opera. Each of the four episodes of the show also had an additional jury member, a special guest, in the final episode it was Maestro Placido Domingo. The hosts of the program were: German showman Thomas Gottschalk and Polish TV presenter, dancer Ida Nowakowska-Herndon.
But Presto decided to go deeper, to ask where the VIRTUOSOS came from, how they came into being, how it happened ... And in such a case the interlocutor can only be: Mariann Peller!
Władysław Rokiciński: When I was preparing myself for the interview, when I was reading about the TV talent show VIRTUOSOS V4+ and about you, as well as about your activities, my memory brought back to me a lecture which I had attended many years ago. It was about the American businessman - I think you will know who I am talking about - and his concept of sport marketing. And also about the company he founded and which still exists. This concept has changed the world of sport diametrically. Is this association of my memory a completely wrong path, or are there similarities with what you are doing?
Mariann Peller: We have been and are looking for young people in the VIRTUOSOS movement who are capable of doing something that can set an example for others and their fellow partners.
Those who go on-air are unique and talented. All competitors in VIRTUOSOS were either born “prodigies” or who, through their musical education and hard work, have been introduced to, and are familiar with, the intricacies of the world of classical music.
The only difference between football players, pop musicians, actors and classical musicians is that the aforementioned group get the platform to be well known worldwide and managed worldwide, classical musicians do not. This is what I would like to change dramatically. I would like to help these talents to have a broader platform to present themselves and share their gift with the world.
The talent show VIRTUOSOS was born in Hungary. It is understandable because you come from there. But is that the only reason? Isn’t it so that the classical music has the status of a national good in Hungary?
Classical music in Hungary is a portal into many other aspects of Hungarian culture and history. Few countries can boast of a music history as varied and as interesting as Hungary. Many Hungarian composers and musicians have gone on to change the way we listen to, write and understand music. Just think of Kodály, Bartók or Liszt, and the indelible mark they have left on music and composition. But the list does not stop there, as Hungarian music, and the composers who produce it, are still a very important part of contemporary music today. Many orchestras and symphonic ensembles can be found in Budapest, as there are at least eight that are internationally known and loved.
Classical music holds a significant place in Hungarian life and culture. Many high-profile music schools are based in Hungary, including the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, founded by the composer. Hungarian educational programs include music education from kindergarten. Additionally, the Virtuosos Foundation has launched a project that encourages young composers to gain inspiration from Hungarian traditional music and create new works for the ensembles. As András Batta, former President of our Foundation said: “Though Hungarian isn’t the easiest language to learn and disseminate, our desire is to reveal our nation’s loveliest aspects through music – a universal language.”
This year, for the first time in its history, VIRTUOSOS became an international show: VIRTUOSOS V4+. The program is broadcast by TV stations of four countries of the Visegrad Group, and the "+" is Serbia. How do you evaluate the new format of the program? Will it be continued? Will the number of participating countries grow?
The aim of the talent show, which also serves an educational purpose, is to showcase the classical musical diversity of the participating countries, as well as their common cross-border culture in Central and Eastern Europe.
The mission of the program is to support a young generation that is proud of itself, its values and culture, and is working to improve the world; we seek to provide them with spiritual food and cultural richness. This is the generation that can help this region move to the forefront of cultural and economic fields on a global scale. The idea of VIRTUOSOS V4+ came about at the very beginning, with concrete negotiations starting during Hungary's last V4 presidency. As Hungary will take the presidency again next year, the time has now come for the dream to become a reality, and for this, an unprecedented cultural collaboration realized. Of course the series will continue next year with a new guest country and we are planning to extend the circle of participating countries in the coming years. We have many different ideas for this, I would be the happiest if all of these could be realized just as we plan it.
The young musicians performing in the show are fantastic. They are all children, but some of them are children in the most literal sense: they are about 10 years old. And how they play! How they behave in front of the camera! Showing children who are already such great musicians is probably the greatest happiness and the main task of the show?
Exactly. The goal is to find these little talents and show them to millions of viewers, provide them the platform to present themselves to share their gift with the world. Their gift this way becomes ours as well, this is how with their talents they are making the world a better place. And all of these little talents deserve to be discovered, all of them deserve the chance to show what they have.
Finding and channeling talent and helping those in need is a constant mission of VIRTUOSOS, just as is the promotion of classical music worldwide, for a wider audience.
I would like to ask you about your foundation now. Was it born from the TV show, or was it the other way around: it was the foundation that gave rise to VIRTUOSOS? How was it, what came first?
Young Virtuosos Foundation was created in parallel with the television program. Its main task is to support the training of young artists (aged 6-24) who will pass on the values of classical music to the audience of the future. The Foundation aims to support the talents of the VIRTUOSOS music talent show, as well as to find and embrace new talents. It provides a complex development opportunity for young artists that is unique and invaluable for their training and career development.
Young talents are not only scouted, but also nurtured, being provided opportunities to perform on national and international stages.
After the show is finished, the musical director of Young Virtuosos Foundation starts working with the talents, along with their music teachers, and in most cases also with the parents to encourage them to widen and maintain their repertoires. Our talents receive masterclasses from time to time, from renowned international musicians. The Foundation has also established the Virtuosos Ensemble consisting of the young musicians from the previous seasons of the TV show.
On what terms does the foundation look after young musicians? Up to what age? How old is the eldest ward of the foundation now? And how old is - the youngest?
There is no age limit. Once we discover a talent, we do not let them from our hands, Apor Szüts is the best example, who is now 26 years old, a pianist and a composer and the musical editor of the show.
Our youngest talent is 8 year-old Kristina Vasic, discovered this year, and we provided her with a special prize of 5000 Euros, so she can buy a saxophone, as she did not have her own instrument before.
It’s not enough to find a talent, they need continuous education, help and encouragement by providing them:
instrument purchase support
supporting their education and professional development
We provide our managed talent with professional courses and support by education experts, styling, performance and stage speech studies, lifestyle advice and management trainings.
Some of the participants come from socially disadvantaged families, where they not only are not able to buy good quality instruments, but sometimes even their everyday expenses (such as clothes, meals or accomodation) are also needed to be covered. Some of our talents suffer from a life-threatening illness or live in foster care. The Young Virtuosos Foundation helps with expenses to maintain the ward’s well-being, from providing a daily, healthy meal to paying for schoolbooks, clothes, healthcare or instruments.
The Young Virtuosos Foundation shares the values of world-organisations that help children, such as the UNICEF. We believe all children are equal regardless of race, religion or social background.
“All children have a right to survive, thrive and fulfill their potential – to the benefit of a better world.”
fot. mat. pras.
I still would like to come back to you personally. How did it all start? What was the role of classical music in your life, when you were a child yourself?
My grandmother sang me a lot, mostly folk songs, I remember she had a beautiful voice. I studied some music at primary school, with the Kodály-method, as all children learn in Hungary at that age. Then later, when I studied to become a nursery teacher, I studied some music, too. Then my career turned towards marketing and advertisement. My experiences in international and national concert-promotion activities have shown that the interest in classical music and the size of audience actively attending concerts are gradually decreasing. Furthermore, I had realized that more and more of the national young musicians tend to contract abroad and the Hungarian classical music scene is also forced to face the lack of human resources for the future. Something had to be done! So in 2013, I founded my company called “Classic Talents” and with the help of experts we developed the format of VIRTUOSOS talent show. The rest is history…
Often, classical music and popular music are being opposed to each other. Is it right? Does it have to be like this?
Since the foundation of VIRTUOSOS, one of our most important mission is to prove: classical music is not an oblivious, old genre, but art that, although having the oldest musical roots, has remained popular for centuries. It will never go out of fashion, if we nurture and support talented young people!
The show’s success clearly indicates that viewers need quality content. And I would not make an opposition between pop and classical music. There is music. Quality or less quality music in both genres. Pop music gets a wider platform, but if you feed people with classics you will realize that there is no such thing that opposes different genres. What’s more, you can combine them, what we also do, although in a small percent, but crossover is the best way to make people get the taste of classics. Look at 2Cellos, or The Piano Guys. And our talents, too, play crossover.
With VIRTUOSOS, we managed to create "Classical Music". We “dusted it off” and made it trendy. We also dispelled a lot of false stereotypes, such as only those learn classical music who know nothing else.
Our magazine, Presto, is now eight years old and it started just with classical music. Then came: film music, and with it the film itself, fine arts, theater ... And we think that we came to writing about - life. How would you judge it: is it a natural path?
Depending on focus, I think, you can put it on one specific thing or many and at the end of the day you realize that yes, this is life. Through different lenses. Music, arts, theater – all is about us, our feelings, our adventures, pleasures and tragedies. Writing is also art, just as playing the piano, you give back something from yourself to others and vice versa. They inspire you to create something. And the circle becomes full.
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