Pianist: I will never set foot in Hungary again

Pianist: I will never set foot in Hungary again


norman lebrecht

January 16, 2012

The pianist Andras Schiff has announced that he will never return to his Hungarian motherland.

Interviewed in Tagespiegel, he accuses the Victor Orban government of right-wing thuggery, racism, antisemitism and dangerous neo-fascism.

Schiff came under personal attack in Hungary after he published an open letter a year back in the Washington Post, denouncing state discrimination against the minority Roma. He now calls the country ‘not particularly European’ and is particularly incensed at the appointment of two openly fascist directors at one of Budapest’s most important theatres. Read on here (in German). See also here.

The renewed attack from an artist as renowned as Schiff makes it all the more perplexing that the classical music business – under its IAMA umbrella – has chosen to stage its 2012 conference in Budapest. IAMA should be having second thoughts.

Zorn und Leidenschaft. András Schiff, 58, ist in Ungarn wüsten Anfeindungen ausgesetzt. Foto: ECM Records


  • Richard Hungary says:

    It’s a good news if he is talking about his country on this way. A real liberal can accept the result of the parliamentary votes. If he is a real liberal, but he seem’s to be not. Look at the crowd on Saturday, 21st January at 16:00. So many people can not be wrong.

    • Frank says:

      Hitler was elected by a popular vote too and the German people are spending the next century dealing with the disaster. Neo-fascism is a dangerous road my friend.

      • Richard Hungary says:

        I don’t think so that there would be any kind of neo-fascism in Hungary. Ask anyone who is realistic. They will agree it. Please be very specific when you talk about neo-fascism. Otherwise it hes no basics what you say.

        • Please read the linked article. It deals with the fascist aspect in detail.

          • Richard Hungary says:

            I did. No comment on that. Only a question. What was the last time when you personally felt what is going on in the country? If long time ago it is better if you come over for some days. Talk with people from the different sides, and the there will be a much more clear picture. I wish if you will come over as soon as possible and specially before you write an other article.

          • Richard Hungary says:

            Just one more sentence. The theater is talked about – as one of the most important theaters – represents less than 1 % of the so called “theater market” of Budapest.:)

          • Sandor Hungary says:

            I like when people diminsh (“less than 1%”) bad news. It is bad news that neo-fascist can run a theater on the tax-payer’s money and can distribute their unacceptable message with support from the governement. Even if it is “only 1%” it is still a shame.

            Also, think of the people working in that theater – they now have to work under neo-fascist management. I bet you would like to do that – wouldn’t you?

        • stefanedberg says:

          Jobbik is neofascist. Richard Hungary, you didn’t know this?

          • Richard Hungary says:

            I really hate Jobbik, and I also hate if anyone creates a general view on a country based on a minority. If someone doe’s it than we must state that he or she has lost the reality. We can easily put this mark to any country in Europe just because of they have some far right politiciants but we dont’t do it because we didn’t loose the reality.

            I also wish if you come over and feel the safety, the calm, the wonderful hospitality, the very good culture of my country. I am sure after that you will never afraid of again…

          • Sandor Hungary says:

            The problem is that this minority polls around 17% (second most popular party – see for example http://nezopontintezet.hu/aktualis/merlegen-a-megujulas-eve/) which is a very scary thing. And unfortunately it is very much now a reality.

      • Pianist says:

        Hitler was NOT elected by popular vote. The Nazis won a fairly small percentage of seats in the German parliment and then strong armed their way into power by intimidating opposition leaders.

        • SW says:

          Dear Pianist, thank you for your historical correction. I am often within a few hundred meters of the Reichstag. The history of this place tells much, and the Putsch was not democratic, as the modern Left would have us believe. It was a takeover by a minority, an elected minority which obscured its real goals. And it was socialist. One only need see the photohraph of the wondrous Branuschweig Dom, its religious symbols stripped and the Hackenkreuz flag taking center stage. The modern Left needs to forget the real, documentable history of the Nazis because it is history easily proved in documents and photographs, speeches and theories. They all wer socialist on the national scale, separated only from the Stalinists and Maoists by the location. As to Hungary, I have perfromed there and find the people lovely and intelligent. That the modern Left wishes to paint Hungary as a new Third Reich is an offence to history, to truth and to facts. The modern Left has either forgotten history, ignored it or even attempted to rewrite it in order to forget that their new Leftist theories are the same old Leftist theories. Our beloved classical music needs no dictatorship of its proletariat, whether from pianists or from poltiicians. Music should be individual enough, free enough and vibrant enough to not require a Reich or Supreme Soviet to dictate its direction.

      • Fred J Harris says:

        Yep. We must beware of facsism. This after 50 years of utter destruction brought to us by the
        liberal/socialists and their mother the Soviets.

        • SW says:

          Thank you for the cogent observation. National Socialism is what the Nazi Party practiced, not some form of conservative, small-government politics. The modern Left, lusting after the “correct” big government of imagined functioning and fiscally responsible socialism, is wetting its collective and collectivist pants over Europeans voting against even greater state debt and imprudent, impractical economic pie-in-the-sky madness. That Hungary is trying to find its own way against the behemouth of the European Commission and its apparatchiks angers the Left, because they want to believe is a really nice “Hitler” or compassionate “Stalin” who wouldn’t do they things they did. The USSR imploded from foolish economics coupled to a mentality nostalgic for pogroms. While Schiff might tinkle the ivories beautifully, I don’t want him ruling me any more than I want Barrosso and Van Roumpy-Dumpty ruling over me. Europe is not a one state entity with an elite to rule it. Napolean tried it. The Kaiser tried it. Hitler tried it. Mussolini tried it. Stalin tried it and got half of Europe after the war. So many attempts to unify. This latest is merely another prettier version, in which the fancypants elite rake in tax monies and live the high life. Fascism? It is not Organ practicing it. It is the EC practicing it. Schiff is blind to the little people who scrape together the cost of a ticket. Better he should play for the European Commission fascist folks who would pay him less.

          • stefanedberg says:

            Jobbik and Csurka are neofascists. Schiff didn’t talk about Barroso, Napoleon, and unification.

  • Come on, Norman!

    IAMA no more represents the classical music business than the ABO (whose conference is this week being held in Liverpool) represents the whole of the performing arts. And you must realise how difficult it would be – if not impossible – for a conference to be cancelled and moved at such short notice.

    • SW says:

      Let us also note that Andrea Schiff is a British citizen these days. His opinions about Hungary are the Labour Party or Liberal Party taiking. If the UKIP party hains more seats, he may have to move to yet another country to express his political outrage at whatever, whoever and whenever it comes.

      • stefanedberg says:

        No, his opinion has nothing to do with parties. All he said is that that there are a lot of anti-semites in Orban’s party, which is exactly the case.

  • Julian Rowlands says:

    Relocation of the IAMA conference might not have a huge impact on the Hungarian government. Action by other EU member states is overdue but I’m not holding my breath.

    • SW says:

      It would be wise to see the classical music world in the larger context of modern society and culture. It is a small portion at best, and the IAMA conference is a drop in the cultural bucket. The classical music world needs to awaken to the salient fact that post-Adorno modernism is simply the last stage in an old game, and the audience is wandering off in ever larger numbers. Gray hair becomes white hair in the audiences, and the kids? Well, they are off and consuming music of all sorts, with perhaps 99 percent of them not knowing what an IAMA conference is, who Orban, Schiff or Lebrecht are. Political tempests in tea pots will not further the future of classical music, classical audiences and the next steps in the larger Western canon of music.

  • maclane says:

    The world is now global, ultra-nationalism cannot work, every country is dependent on many other countries, therefore, a successful government need to have a global integral view of things.

    • jamesnimmo says:

      Yes to maclane in theory, the world is global in the sense of communications and trade. However, a handful of major countries, such as the USA and Great Britain can pull the colonial puppet strings and get there on way.

      One example comes to mind: the invasion of Iraq by the Bu$h Junta, Tony Blair and a “coalition” of coerced tiny countries that can barley defend themselves on a good day., let alone stand up to the USA.

      • SW says:

        And another example comes to mind: The USSR and its satellite states, almost all of which declared freedom when the USSR imploded. And another example comes to mind: Mainland China which now effectively holds Tibet as its puppet. More invasions? Hmm. National Socialism invaded Poland and France and Belgium and so many more. As to Iraq, it seems to me that the US is now officially handed the nation back to Iraqis. So the “colonial puppet” argument becomes old-fashioned, like early organum is to a Bach five-voiced ricercare. Beat on a drum long enough, and the skin needs to be replaced. But long before the audience will have wandered off. As to the subject of this article, Schiff is British and his disgust at Orban does not seem to match his disgust at Blair and that “coalition.” Just maybe our discussion should be more focused? Schiff doesn’t like the change in politics in Hungary; this means Bush and Iraq are the topic?

  • Keep going, Norman. I am picking up foreign press from everywhere with the aid of friends in Hungary and posting wherever I can. I think one in six voters going for Fascists is a serious problem, as is the host of legal changes enacted by the current government, all covered by the press as the matters of fact they actually are. The press has been slow to this but the world is waking up.