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A prodigy comes to town

Thirteen-year old Hungarian pianist Misi Boros held three concerts in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi and impressed audiences

A prodigy comes to town
Misi Boros.

Billed as Christmas Piano Concerts, three concerts were held in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi by the young, actually very young Hungarian pianist Misi Boros recently. He is considered something of a prodigy and his playing has captivated audiences in Europe. It is being predicted that he will become a great pianist as he hits his prime.

Misi Boros belongs to a music-loving family and on the concert tour of Pakistan, his father, mother and elder brother also accompanied him. Actually the entire family travelled with him because he is too young — almost stepping into adulthood.

Classical music in Europe too is facing a crisis as many more are opting for contemporary musical expression. A music programme Virtuozak was held on television for a nationwide hunt for the discovery of young talent and Misi Boros was identified, picked up and declared a truly outstanding talent.

He had started to learn the piano, as it should be, from the age of four at the Franz Liszt Music School in Pecs taught by the famous teacher Ildiko Megyimoreczne Schmidt. It took him not very long to win The National Bela Bartok Piano Competition for Youth, his first national prize at the age of eight.

Thirteen-year-old Boros began his performance with a Johann Sebastian Bach composition and went on to play short pieces by Scarlatti and other notables like Beethoven; Tchaikovsky, Brahms; Liszt; Chopin and Bartok. He was accompanied by Asad Anees who played the third movement ‘Presto Agitato’ of Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven with dexterity. He also joined Misi Boros in ‘four hands’ rendering of compositions by Tchaikovsky, while Boros’s brother Daniel also did the same, playing Brahms. The concert concluded with Misi Boros playing ‘Silent Night’.

The Anees family too is a flash in the pan. Brothers Usman Anees and Asad Anees have been playing piano in Pakistan after having learnt it in Russia and Germany where their father, a metallurgical engineer had gone for training in connection with the setting up of the Pakistan Steel Mill.

A music programme Virtuozak was held on television for a nationwide hunt for the discovery of young talent and Misi Boros was identified, picked up and declared a truly outstanding talent.

The musical résumé of Misi Boros even at this age is impressive. In 2013 he was “Absolute winner” of all age categories at the 8th Mozart Piano Competition in Rome (Italy), in 2014 he won the Virtuosos classical music talent show in the Hungarian Television (Youngest category). In 2015, he won the first prize at Rising Stars Piano Competition (second age category), and in 2016, first prize with ‘excellence’ at the Concours Musical de France piano competition in Paris. He has performed with 16 classical orchestras and conductors doing concerts with others in Munich, Paris, Milan, Rome, Zurich, Stockholm, Goteborg, Zagreb, New York, Beijing and Tokyo.

Piano is not a very old instrument — for in the eighteenth century music was created by the action of hammers on strings. The most important features of the instrument were the way in which gradations of force in the fingering could produce contrast between soft and loud production of notes. The development of the more powerful models whose metal frames could stand up to the repeated hammerings against the strings facilitated further development. Keyboard instruments had traditionally been made with horizontal strings as with square piano or the grand piano and the upright piano fortes were introduced by John Hawkins of Philadelphia around 1800. Cristofori’s major pioneering devise had been an escapement action for releasing the hammers swiftly after they had struck the strings.

Early in the nineteenth century, French manufacturer Erard invented a double escapement, which by checking the hammer before it fell all the way back, made faster playing possible. To produce an agreeable tone hammers were provided with padding. Over the years, there was first leather covering, then cloth over leather, leather over felt and then the all felt hammers.

In music more than in the other performing arts, the first staging post is the expertise of either singing or playing the instrument. Many start to acquire the skill or the craft at an amazing speed and by the time they are through with their childhood, they have covered a fair amount of ground. Later as they widen the net of their experience in the bigger world, it all impinges upon their music — at times influencing it substantially. It is in this phase that the individuality of expression takes a proper shape and the characteristics of an artiste start becoming obvious. Misi Boros has almost completed the first phase of technical accomplishment and is now on the verge of stepping into the second phase. It will be pretty clear soon whether the technical accomplishments are on the way of being transformed into virtuosity or not.

The prospects of exchanges between the musicians of Hungary and Pakistan were also discussed during the visit and ways and means were explored for Pakistani musicians to visit the part of Europe which is not their beat. Pakistanis usually visit Britain because it was the land of the erstwhile colonial master and then the United States where they have found opportunities to be part of the American dream. Of late, some go to Dubai where an international platform is being offered to artistes from all over the world as the city state is being promoted as a leading tourist destination in the world. Some are invited by the diasporas in Europe and the Middle East. Hungary has been a powerhouse of music in Europe. It has produced many outstanding musicians and they have gone on to make a significant contribution to the development of music in the West. But countries like Austria, Russia, Poland and even Germany have rarely been visited or artistes from there invited to Pakistan. During the Soviet era, only a few artistes propagating socialist realism visited and that too under strict police surveillance. As it is, top of the line performers do not visit because of the prohibitive expenditures involved.

Misi Boros is now very young and affordable. It is hoped that this visit starts a new era of more music exchanges between Pakistan and parts of Europe and Misi Boros visits again when he is an international celebrity.

Sarwat Ali

The author is a culture critic based in Lahore

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