Szokolay, Balazs (1961 )

Balazs Szokolay comes from a musical family: his mother is a pianist and his father, Sándor Szokolay, a composer who was a professor at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest from 1966 to 1994. Balázs entered the preparatory classes of the Budapest Music Academy at the age of nine and completed his studies at the age of twenty-two. His teachers included Pál Kadosa and Zoltán Kocsis.

After completing his studies in Hungary, Szokolay won a scholarship, provided by the German government, to study at the Academy of Music in Munich. Before graduating from the Budapest Academy, Szokolay had already appeared in public. In 1979 he appeared with fellow pianist Péter Nagy at the Salzburg Interforum, and in 1983 was asked to deputise for an indisposed Nikita Magaloff when he played Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor Op. 15 in Belgrade.

Szokolay performs with the Hungarian State Orchestra and has appeared in Austria, Switzerland, France, Poland, the former Soviet Union, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia. He made his London recital début in 1987 after gaining twelfth place at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium. Three years later Szokolay won fourth place at the Leeds International Competition. He has worked with conductor Simon Rattle, clarinettist Gervase de Peyer and cellists Clemens Hagen and Miklós Perényi, performing with the latter for the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation in January 2005. He has been on the faculty of the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest for nearly twenty years and in 2001 was given the Liszt Award by the Hungarian government.

Szokolay has recorded for Naxos. Many of his discs are recitals or compilations of short works—Romantic Piano Favourites, Leaves from Grandmother’s Piano Album, Classics for Relaxing and Dreaming—but these titles should not put off the serious listener who will find much to admire and enjoy in Szokolay’s playing. Included are some virtuoso transcriptions such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumble Bee and Adolf Schulz-Evler’s Arabesques on themes from An der schönen blauen Donau by Johann Strauss. An excellent performance of the latter is marred slightly by an anachronistic interpolation near the end. Szokolay is a sensitive pianist who gives poetic readings of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces and rhythmically pointed yet unmechanical readings of Scarlatti and Clementi. He seems well-suited to shorter works and his recordings of the Grieg Lyric Pieces show an understanding of tonal shading, mood and style that is not so common in younger pianists. There are also fine recordings of Chopin’s Barcarolle Op. 60 and Moszkowski’s Caprice Espagnol Op. 37.

Box Set Release Catalogue Number
A to Z Gift Pack Naxos 8.554775
Adagio Boxed Set Naxos 8.504011
Classic Romance Naxos 8.506004
Elegie - Relaxing with the Composers Naxos 8.505092
Enjoy the Classics (Best of Naxos 1-4) Naxos 8.504003
Los Grandes Románticos Naxos 8.505193
Night Music Naxos 8.503049
Night Music Vol 1 Naxos 8.505008
Night Music Vol 3 Naxos 8.505025
Romantic Piano Favourites Vol 1 Naxos 8.505028
Romantic Piano Favourites Vol 2 Naxos 8.505029
The Very Best Of Naxos 8.502020


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