Music and gastronomy – interview with Orsolya Erdődy

Orsolya Erdődy is the manager-director of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, who is not only at home in music, but is no stranger to gastronomy and wine either. We asked her about this and the exciting upcoming projects of the orchestra.

Over the last two decades, the food scene in Hungary has gone through a spectacular development, with the emergence of high-end restaurants and top class wineries, among others. To enjoy these dishes and wines one needs a certain mindset based on attention, previous experience and knowledge, i.e. the building blocks of a certain culture. What parallels do you see between the “consumption” of classical music and gastronomy by enthusiasts?

Some are happy to have whatever is served, others are connoisseurs, some have gargantuan appetites, others are picky eaters; some have gluten allergies and some have contemporary music allergies. Competition is fierce in the classical music scene, and I hope that the gastronomy scene will also become more sophisticated and higher quality…

Because of your family background, diplomacy and cultural organisation have played an important role in your life. What role has food and drink played in this? Do you still have vivid gastronomic memories?

As a child growing up in Germany my first formative experience was the asparagus season – I had not experienced the culture of asparagus consumption until then. Beautiful, big asparagus with hollandaise sauce, ham or risotto – to this day I consider it a sophisticated delight. With my diplomat father, I learned at a young age that it is easier to make a serious point or a successful business deal over a good dinner or a fine wine. At the Hungarian Embassy in Bonn, Hungarian dishes were served to German guests, and the large number of Hungarian guests living there also enjoyed the Hungarian cuisine. They were fond of gulasch, fish soup and stuffed cabbage, Unicum, but the choice of Hungarian wines was not as wide as it is today. There were a lot of dinners and events at the embassy, and food was part of the country’s image. Italian cuisine doesn’t need my introduction, let me just say, I love seafood, in all its forms, sadly, this is practically unavailable in Hungary. Gastronomy and wine are vital parts of culture. To compose a good menu is akin to art, and like the proper ‘serving’ of music, striking the right balance among different ‘courses’ means a lot to music lovers.

Are you a wine lover? Do you have any preferences?

My first independent apartment was in the famous “Pál Street” in Budapest, where I had marvellous neighbours, including a horn player, a musician, but mostly I got in touch with the family of András Nagymarosy, a former geologist and wine expert. András and his family often hosted big dinners with famous Hungarian winemakers. Through them I got to know Hungarian wine better and began to appreciate the grape varieties found in our country. András often gave lectures about Hungarian wines at home and abroad, and he often accompanied his presentations with music, as he was a folk musician himself. I became a little more familiar with wine varieties, and my partner and I enjoyed going to wine tastings and wine dinners.

Having lived in Germany and Italy, I like Riesling from the Rhineland, Nero d’Avola or Primitivo, but in recent years I have a clear preference for Hungarian wines. I consider myself a “red wine drinker”, so it was a great experience when I found a dusty bottle of Fekete Járdovány in Attila Gere’s cellar and had the chance to taste this special wine made from an old Hungarian grape variety at dinner. In everyday life I like to sip a glass of Gere Phoenix cuvée or Pinot Noir, but in summer I prefer lighter white or rosé wines.

Have you ever been to Villány?

I visited the region only briefly as a child or as a university student, attending a concert at the Ördögkatlan Festival. Then I returned to Villány about 10 years ago, when friends recommended the Crocus Gere Wine Hotel for relaxation and recreation. I was immediately taken by the beauty of the landscape, the quality of the wines and the kindness of the Villány winery owners, and from then on I became a regular guest. A bike ride or a walk in the Villány hills really relaxes and recharges my batteries, but to my mind the most delightful experience is the hospitality at the Crocus Gere Hotel, Aunt Hajni’s plum pancakes, the wellness spa and the culinary tsunami.

What are the most memorable concerts of this season for you and what are you looking forward to next season?

In June, we will once again be hosting a free open-air concert in Heroes’ Square, where we will present, among other things, Philipp Glass’s Passion of Ramakrishna. Until now this piece has only been performed on American stages, so this is the first time that it will be heard in Europe.

Next season, a special event will be our new opera production: under the artistic direction of Iván Fischer, we will stage Benjamin Britten’s opera The Turn of the Screw at MÜPA. It’s hard to choose from the many exciting concerts, but I’m looking forward to the Monteverdi-Bartók-Schubert concert in November for its innovative programming, the Romantic concert in December with Andrés Orozco-Estrada making his Festival Orchestra debut, and in January Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 under Iván Fischer, which is an essential part of our upcoming tour abroad.

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