Concert of the Budapest Klezmer Band

Rendezvous of arts, and supporters of arts in autumn - The Budapest Klezmer Band in Balassagyarmat



Article of Szabó Andrea in the county newspaper "Nógrád Megyei Hírlap", about the Klezmer concert on 11th November, 2008. - (click for the original)

Happiness, pain: The music of survival

(Published in the "Nógrád megyei Hírlap" on November 22th,  2008.)

The other day, on a grey weekday it became clear again, that people still could be dislodged from their apathy, if you have a heart-warming, charming performance, experience to offer. The charity event of Béla Majdán, town historian, drew a huge crowd  to the assembly hall of the former County House as usual.  The goal was the same, raise money and also popularize the István Kertész Foundation. After Iván Markó's ballet-, József Sas's cabaret, the concerts of János Bródy and Gábor Presser, the next guest performer was the  Budapest Klezmer Band on the stage of the tarnished old building.

Before the show the descendants of the once famous jewish community of Balassagyarmat gathered at the Jewish Museum (which once served as a tabernacle, the "House of Gathering"). Most of them came from Budapest, and among others we were able to welcome:  János Nádel, György Kárpáti, Mrs. Endre Kovács Éva Salamon, Ernő Szirmai, Mrs. Ottó Ács Ella Szegedin. It was a historical moment, because it was 1980, when this sacred place was able to gather at least 10 men. However it still guards an original holy torah in its ark of the covenant. Almost no one was left to tell the tale of the once prosperous jewish community, but József Bauer, the current leader of the community. He held a speech about the activities and work of the Kertész István Foundation, which was established in 1992, and is aided by the local government and the Mazsihisz (The Alliance of hungarian jewish faith communes).  "The art relic jewish cemetery of Balassagyarmat contains almost 3500 stones. After we finished with digitalizing and documenting all of them we'd like to photograph all the stones of the other graveyards of the area too. But the main goal of the next year will be the expansion of our continuous exhibition and our Museum. We will have a new part of the building, which served a different purpose until now,   which we want to renovate, and use it to show a more detailed history of the local diaspora.  The Museum is able to welcome visitors since 2000, and now we feel it is time for a few add-ins, such as:

- Photographs about the lives and everydays of the Jewry of the Ipoly area in the 20th century, especially during World War II

- An art exhibition, which shows the audience the work of the various famous jewish artists, who were born here, in our city (for example: Márk Rózsavölgyi, Ernő Kondor, Michel Gyarmathy, Iván Márkó)

For the former one the leader of the community asked for help in the name of the István Kertész Foundation, and requested photos, documents, or at least their blueprint versions from the descendants, who gathered in this event. The audience was more than willing to help, and to express their support, they established the so called Circle of Friend of the István Kertész Foundation.

In the hallway of the former County Hall there was a little program before the main event. First Gábor Baranyi fiddler and his gypsy band played klezmer music in all its sad glory, then Béla Fogarasi guitar teacher and his student, Bence Pap entertained the audience. Gábor Csach art historian (also the deputy major of the town), opened the art exhibition of Ferenc Jánossy, the legendary Firinc, who died 25 years ago. His appreciation began with mentioning the intellectual family of the artist, who was able to mix together the eastern people's wild love for life with the westerly rationality. Ha wasn't the only artist in his family, the architect, György; the translator and poet, István and Ferenc, who was raised at the Cultural Artictic Centre of Baia Mare (Nagybánya).  Csach talked about the artist's first reform-movement after he finished the University of Fine Arts, the European School Jánossy joined,  and about the years he spent in Basel between 1957 and 1963.  He spoke about the 25 years he spent in Balassagyarmat, and about Dr. István Samu psychiatrist, who stood by the painter, who was often considered to be a freak by the other citizens. But Firinc (Note: this was actually Ferenc Jánossy's nickname, its NOT a typo), brought us the spirit of freedom and Europe, and eventually others discovered the genious in him too. His neoavant-garde, contemporary intellectuality took on the heritage of  Chagall and Csontváry.  His work emits vitality, love for life, the wildness of Dionysus and the exaggareted, almost cosmic symbolism of a carnival - explained the art historian. The main event of the program was the klezmer music, which is basically the traditional jewish folk-music. The crowd was able to look into a magical mirror through the tunes and find a bind between cultures, the entirety of life, the happiness, the pain, the delight, the bitterness, the ancient instinct of survival, the cry and the laughter, all of which radiated from the performance. Its not a coincidence, that the audience greeted the performers with a never ending applause. - There is only one thing missing from this uplifting night. The almost 2000 citizens of Balassagyarmat, who were dragged away. We shall remember to them, and imagine, they are sitting next to us for a brief moment.  - reminded us to the everlasting tragic pain, the organizer of this magnificent evening, Béla Majdán.

Written by: Andrea Szabó

Translated by: Majdán Béla Jr.





Photographies by Nelly Kiss and Gábor Dékány

This article was originally written by László Nagy. We took it over from the webpage of the Circle of Friends of Balassagyarmat:

Once again, Béla Majdán, the secretary of the Kertész István Foundation organized a prestigious event, which was able to unite multiple art forms. It took place at the former County Hall on 11th November, 2008. Since our friend, Béla received Pro Urbe (For the City) Award, he became even more active than before, he invites famous artists to our town on a regular basis, and manages to organize succesfull events with a massive crowd. In the last couple of years our city welcomed János Bródy, Gábor Presser, Iván Markó's ballet, twice, and József Sas.

But he remains very humble, when we talk about things like this, and he always points out, that the Foundation's resources are limited and the financial support it receives is lessening, so it needs charity events like these. Its obvious, that this is the truth, and it is always nice to see, that sometimes the financial difficulties have a positive effect on the cultural life of a city.

The evening of 11th November was a special one, and it had 4 different parts, so no matter which form of art were you into, you could possible find something you could enjoy.

The guests were welcomed by the Gypsy Klezmer Band of Gábor Baranyi, at the second floor of the building. Then Béla Fogarasi guitar teacher and his student, Bence Pap played soft guitar tunes.

These charity events always have an exhibition too, and this tradition didn't change this time around either, the deputy major of the town, Gábor Csach opened the exhibition from the paintings of Ferenc Jánossy, who lived in our town for more than two decades.

He recalled to the biography of Jánossy. He was the member of a generation, which was born after the World Wars. And like many, he was scarred for life because of this too.


Portrait of Ferenc Jánossy by Géza Pénzes (It is originally an illustration in the book of Sándor Bacsúr, entitled: Fine Arts in Balassagyarmat)

His teachers (Szőnyi, Kmetty, Barcsay, Fónyi) had great expectations toward him. He composed surreal, non-figurative paintings, aluminium sketches, symbolist oil paintings until 1948. It was tolerated by the political system, but when he began to make  post-impressionist paintings, he quicly found himself on the razor's edge, the socialist government had no respect for that kind of art.  He participated in the freedom fights of 1956, and he also wanted to breake free from the spiritual and artistic chains of the era, so he had no choice, but to leave the country. He went to Switzerland, and he was able to renew his art there, and he had a few own exhibitions too. But he became homesick, so he  returned to Hungary in the 60's. He lived in Balassagyarmat until he died in 1983.  In the 60's and 70's he was a very popular person among the young avant-garde generation because of his humor, intelligence, vigilante and free spirit. He played in the movies of both Gábor Bódy and Béla Tarr, and his figure also appears as a main character in the novels of writer, istván Császár. The underground scene of Budapest also respected him, he and his fellow artist friends often visited the capital, and he received his nickname -(Firinc)- there too.

Gábor Csach recalled his life, an artist's life in Balassagyarmat, his struggle against misinterpretation, his vigilante ways, and the fact that some local newspapers often wrote tasteless articles about him. He was accused with alcoholism, and they said he needs medication because of it, but the truth was, that he was too straight-forward and outspoken, and often criticized the political system, and this was the reason they wanted to get rid of him.

25 pictures of Ferenc Jánossy are exhibited in the local Gallery, his art is neglected recently, and it is a very unworthy situation, but hopefully he will soon receive the tribute of respect he deserves.

As a closure of the events at the hallway Béla Majdán had a sarcastic comment , that there are really harsh facts behind this cheerful evening, the artists of  our small town will return to their normal, everyday jobs, Gábor Baranyi will remain the same lumberjack,  Béla Fogarasi haven't even had the time to wait for the Klezmer concert, because tomorrow morning he will go to the art school, just like on every other day, to teach about his favourite instrument, the guitar.

The multi-cultural connection was strengthened by the last performer, the Budapest Klezmer Band. The band, which started in 1990 played a significant role in  guarding  and  reviving the jewish musical culture and they even managed to combine it with classical elements. Their tunes are filled with strength, dynamism, variegation and with  the promise of renowal, which attributes were always characteristic to the jewish culture anyway.  the founder and leader of the band is Ferenc Jávori (nicknamed: Fegya) from Munkács, and all the members are masters of their instruments. Sometimes they were  low-key and melancholic, but usually the tunes they played were fiery and the audience soon found itself very attracted to this kind of music. The thounderous applause spoke clearly to the musicians, that their performance found a way to the crowd's heart.

 This evening proved, that Balassagyarmat and its citizens are able and willing to support  artists, at least for a night or two. And it was also a chance for the Kertész István Foundation , which protects and guards our city's jewish heritage, to receive a small amount of financial support. We respect the work and the goals of Béla Majdán and the Foundation, so we publish its bank account number below: (Budapest Bank 10103719-07959933-00000003), so if our readers feel they are worthy too, they can support them.

Written by: László Nagy

Translated by: Majdán Béla Jr.

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