Concert Master

Péter Tfirst

As my mother is a violin teacher and my father is a violinist (since 1969, Zoltán Tfirst has been a member of the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra for 50 years), János Rolla once said that I had already met this culture as a baby.

But even though I had a violin at the age of four and a half, it was not always clear to me that I was going to choose this track. When I was a little boy, I rather wanted to be a football player, and since my mom taught in the afternoons and my dad spent half a year on tour as a member of the orchestra, I skipped practicing the violin and went to play football with the other boys instead. 

Only a year or two before conservatory started taking the violin seriously. I had a teacher then whose suggestive personality captivated me. I felt forced to practice, and if I took his advice, I even had success.

I am grateful to my parents for letting me decide which job to choose. Though their presence in the neighboring room during my violin practice put a reasonable pressure on me. 
At the Liszt Academy, my teachers were László Kóté and Dénes Kovács; I am lucky to have been able to learn from them. During my time with these great teachers, I realized how important it was for me to have someone teaching meg how to play the instrument–I had not had this experience before.

That is when I was finally able to experience music itself: I could hear and see how it was born.

All of this felt extremely inspiring.

At that point, I knew this was going to be my way, but I still did not see the exact details. I couldn’t really commit myself as I had a good time in all sorts of formations. I didn’t have any specific ambitions either, and I loved being a freelancer, which allowed that kind of multi-experience. Anyway, I’ve never been the calculating and planning type, always preferred going with the flow.

János Rolla asked me in 2001 to join the orchestra. I was really surprised, because I had never thought about members of the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra getting old. It didn’t take a minute to think about the answer: yes.

At first, I sat next to János Rolla, then I started conducting the part of the second violin. After that, I sat back to János again.

Although I never had any ambition to become a concertmaster, I was always curious about how a band leader should operate. The responsibility is as great as of the conductor–if not greater, as he or she must control the orchestra while playing an instrument. This means that he or she cannot lose the „instrumental well-being” in the meantime.

I think the best moments of being a concertmaster are when everything clicks the same way at the concert as it did at the rehearsal. During these moments, orchestra members are connected in a line, as the bulbs on a Christmas tree: when switched on, all give light. These are magic moments – when I am right there leading the orchestra, it is an extraordinary experience. 

(Notes by Sarolta Gálfi /