Katalin Farkas

I could listen to violin playing already in my mum's womb, who, although she chose the medical profession, still plays in the Szekszárd Chamber Orchestra. My great-grandfather was a church musician and teacher, and my grandfather, a clergyman, learned to play the instrument as a hobby. He would often recount that he had mastered four years of the music school material in one year, meaning that he must have been exceptionally gifted himself.

Regarding roots, I should also mention my father, a chemical engineer, who can spend days in the company of his plants, watching their growth, colours and shapes. I think that's exactly what we do with music, and at some point, we reveal to the audience what we have understood and discovered.

I was five years old when I asked to learn to play the violin, but since we lived in a small village – Szalka – I had to wait for two years before I could finally become personally acquainted with the instrument in Szekszárd. In fact, I had a straight path to the Bartók Conservatory and then to the Liszt Academy. After graduating there, I wanted to pursue further studies, so I went to the University of Graz. In the meantime, I accepted an offer to teach at a music school, and shortly afterwards, I was admitted to the PhD programme of the Liszt Academy, which allowed me to teach the violin at a higher level: at the Béla Bartók Faculty of Music at the University of Miskolc.

Besides, from the beginning, I have always played a lot of chamber music while also working in symphonic orchestras because, in addition to teaching, I considered it essential to train myself further, to have the instrument in my hands on a daily basis and to practise for concerts.

Learning is never over, there is no such thing as "I have done it, and I know everything", since each new performance can bring a different perspective, and new aspects come to the foreground, or we simply improve the interpretation of a given piece further. That's why I love this profession so much! If your inner benchmarks are high, it's never monotonous or boring. And although – I think – we cannot achieve perfection on earth, we can still experience moments when we get a taste of it. For example, sometimes, while I'm playing, I feel that it's not me who is playing but that something else is taking control over me and that every note sounds the way I imagine it should. Maybe these are the moments that are worth living for...

The Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra initially invited me to help out, which I immediately accepted, despite my son being still very small – he was just one and a half years old – and around that time, I also started teaching again. I couldn't have coped with these challenges without the support of my family. However, Covid forced us to take a break, and then on several occasions, I myself was forced to cancel invitations. So, I slowly accepted that performance would not be my path. In August 2022, however, I received another invitation, and as of 1 November, I will be a permanent member of the ensemble. I have hard times behind me, as I was also teaching and leading a university department in Miskolc. Now, it seems that I cannot continue with my teaching activity because being an orchestra member is a completely different way of life, and I feel that I have something to learn and do here, so teaching will indeed be relegated to the background for a while.

I love that everyone has a decisive personality here! We are very diverse, which is why, at times, it is not easy to reconcile ideas, but when we manage to unite, it is compelling, and in the end, everyone devotes themselves with humility to the performance. I have never experienced such energy anywhere else! You can't describe well it in words – I'm simply flabbergasted when I play, "Oh, my God, that wasn't how we played it during the rehearsal!” Then, after a couple of sessions, this energy becomes an internal necessity.

I think music is a remedy. And it is where my mum's example returns to me because the musical and the medical professions converge at this point. There is great power in music because, through it, both the performer and the listener can be purified, retreat from the material world, process emotions and, last but not least, convey love. In this ensemble, we love what we do – we love the pieces, the audience, and being together, and it's all a kind of energy that we transmit through our performances.

Lately, I've been thinking about how many signs predicted I'd be here today. The first records I listened to were released by the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra and the Budapest String Ensemble. My first concert experiences can be related to the Chamber Orchestra of Szekszárd, and then I gained my first orchestral experience in the same chamber orchestra at the age of 13. The first concert I heard at the conservatory also featured my current stand partner, who was already a senior, and I would look up to him.

About 15 years ago, I was asked to put into words the 10 most important goals I wanted to achieve in life, and one of them went like this: I want to play in a really high-standard chamber orchestra. This is the story of how I am here now. For me, this is not a job but a context where I can do what I love most: together with my fellow musicians, I can bring music to life.

I have a lot to thank Győrgyi Répássy, Eszter Perényi, Márta Gulyás, Sylvia-Elisabeth Viertel, Vesselin Parashkevov, my chamber partners – especially József Gábor, who lent me the courage to start my career as a chamber musician – as well as my students.

(Notes by Sarolta Gálfi /