Balázs Havasi and Leslie Mándoki performing at Várkert Bazár, Budapest
Balázs Havasi (born 18 September 1975) is a Hungarian pianist and composer. As a contemporary composer he has launched four completely different musical projects, including compositions for a symphony orchestra, rock drums and piano. Havasi wrote a song for singer Tracey Thorn and gave a speech at the TED Global conference about his efforts in musical innovation. He is known for his fondness of Asian culture and martial arts, which he practiced for years. Havasi’s works became known to millions within a short time.
- 1 The beginnings
- 2 Early albums (2000-2005)
- 3 Author’s albums for solo piano (2005-2008)
- 4 First international successes – The Unbending Trees
- 5 Symphonic
- 6 Cultural Bridge Project – Havasi and China
- 7 Drum&Piano – A new musical production at TED Global
- 8 Around the world
- 9 Discography
- 10 References
Havasi first played the piano at the age of 4. In 1996, at the age of 21, he was already a teacher at Weiner Leó Conservatory. He then went on to study at Franz Liszt Academy of Music, one of the most prestigious musical universities in the world. His professors included then rector Sándor Falvai and Jenő Jandó, a pianist who contributed to more than 200 recordings of classical music. During his years at the Academy of Music, Havasi won first prize at a piano competition of Yamaha Foundation of Europe.
Early albums (2000-2005)
It was during his years at the Academy of Music that Havasi’s ability to impress the non-musical audience first became apparent. This realisation led EMI to offer the young artist a five-year exclusive record contract right after graduation. Havasi, who had only been familiar with classical music before, made his first contact with the concepts of marketing, communication and mass media. While the artistic views of the record company mismatched the artist’s long-term ambitions as a composer, Havasi later drew on his communication experiences acquired in that period to popularise his own music. During the term of his EMI contract, he produced two soundtrack albums. On the day of expiry, Havasi did not extend the contract but established his own record company to create the musical world he had always longed for.
Author’s albums for solo piano (2005-2008)
Between 2005 and 2008 Havasi published four solo piano albums in a row (Piano, Seven, Infinity and RED), each produced as a composer. The musical themes of the four records prepared the grounds for an independent, novel musical world. His own works clearly reflect his nearly 25 years of studies in classical music, while showing signs of present-day soundtrack, repetitive and new age effects. This new musical style brought him an unexpected overnight success and started his international career.
First international successes – The Unbending Trees
Havasi founded the band The Unbending Trees with singer-lyricist Kristóf Hajós in 2006. With English lyrics written and sung by Hajós, the sophisticated solo piano pieces of Havasi have resulted in a special musical world where Central European sounds merge with a little melancholy, perhaps akin to the style of Leonard Cohen, Scott Walker or Antony and the Johnsons. The band was offered its first record contract by British record publisher and producer Ben Watt, and soon released its first album called Chemically Happy (Is The New Sad).
The Unbending Trees made its debut in London in 2007. Their four-song EP called “The First Day” gained recognition by Jim Gellatly (XFM Scotland), Rob Da Bank (BBC Radio 1), Molloy Woodcraft (The Observer). The LP which appeared soon afterwards received positive reviews from almost all national dailies in the UK. At the invitation of BBC6, the band recorded a radio session as the second Hungarian performer after Márta Sebestyén. Later, their song “You Are A Lover” was reworked by British singer Tracey Thorn and even came to be a track on the world famous performer’s album called Love and Its Opposite. This immediately made Havasi a composer of a success album released all over the world, which has so far sold hundreds of thousands of copies.
Their second album titled ‘Meteor’ is released 15 October 2013.
At his concert held in Dubai in May 2008, Havasi met communication expert and musical producer Csaba Marjai. The ambitious couple decided to try to create the first widely known global success of Hungarian music, drawing on previous successes but also applying new ideas and solutions. After more than one year of concentrated work, the Havasi Symphonic Production made its debut in the Grand Hall of the Hungarian Academy of Music on 26 November 2009. The production featured nearly 100 artists, Dohnányi Symphony Orchestra and Budapest Academic Choir Society, together with almost 20 soloists of world music for a really impressive performance. At the premiere Havasi hit the same piano key 498 times, which was immediately authenticated on stage by a representative of the Guinness World Records Board, and was awarded the title The Fastest Pianist Of The World. The Havasi Symphonic Production soon became one of the most successful musical productions in Central Eastern Europe, selling 7 platinum records within a year and catapulting Balázs Havasi, the composer of the production, into the group of successful contemporary symphonic composers of these days. The Association of Hungarian Record Companies nominated the Havasi Symphonic album to the award ‘Domestic Contemporary Classical Music Album of the Year’.
Cultural Bridge Project – Havasi and China
Havasi has a special relation to China. His grandfather lived in China for years as the representative of a Hungarian company from 1957. He travelled the country as an engineer and gave talks in Chinese. Later, Havasi’s mother also moved to China and the family lived at the Hungarian Embassy in Beijing. At a young age, Havasi came to have an intimate relationship with the exotic country, and heard a number of stories about it from his parents and grandparents. Upon the loss of his grandfather in 2010, he decided to launch a large-scale cultural project, not only to pay tribute to his grandparents, but also to help build a cultural bridge between China and Europe. He embarked on the great project with the support of Talentis Group, an important partner.
The Cultural Bridge Project made its official debut in Budapest on 26 February 2011. The evening was attended by His Excellency Gao Jian, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, as patron, His Excellency Pál Schmitt, President of the Republic of Hungary, as guest of honour, and by Sándor Kenyeres, the founder of Talentis Group, as host. The peculiar event attracted prestigious guests from the entire region of Central Eastern Europe, including managers of leading Chinese companies, diplomats and members of the business elite from Hungary and the rest of Europe.
Led by Havasi, European and Hungarian musicians gave a joint artistic performance with Yunnan Art Group from China. Nearly 150 entertainers appeared on stage at the same time. This was the greatest-ever large-scale artistic cooperation between Chinese and European performers. A world-famous company featuring authentic folk instruments and dancers from China, Yunnan Art Group is led by Tao Chun, director and choreographer of the closing ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
A special feature of the event was a real premiere on stage. This artistic production had Chinese and Hungarian performers jointly stage the Cultural Bridge Symphony, specially composed by Havasi for the occasion, using various motifs of authentic Chinese and Hungarian folk songs. The symphony is a musical symbol of the objectives set by the Bridge of Culture Gala Evening.
Drum&Piano – A new musical production at TED Global
Havasi launched the Drum&Piano Project, one of his most youthful musical productions, with his friend, percussionist Endi Kiss, in 2011. The project is based on a special match of the classical piano and the rock drum, and debuted to a global audience at TED Global, one of the most prestigious scientific conferences, in Scotland. This year the TED Global conference, which hosted speeches by various Nobel Prize winners, Bill Clinton, Gordon Brown and Bill Gates, had its first Hungarian participants, the two musicians, since its inception in 1984. TED Global aims to present innovators from the world of science, entertainment and technology, whose creativity and novel ways of looking at things are able to change and reshape the world. Havasi arrived in Scotland at the invitation of Bruno Giussani, European Director of TED Global, to prove with his latest musical project that musical genres and categories are permeable, and that the piano, an instrument designed more than 200 years ago, is definitely able to remain modern and widely popular in the 21st century.
The two musicians shared the stage in Edinburgh with performers such as Robert Gupta, a violinist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Yang Lan, China’s most influential media personality, founding owner of Sun Media Investment Holdings, and Thandie Newton, a star of the Hollywood movies Mission Impossible and 2012.
Around the world
Only few young contemporary composers have a chance to bring their music to masses. Havasi’s impulsive personality, special communication skills and extraordinary effect on the audience put him in a privileged situation where his works became known to millions within a short time. He is proud that much of his success derives from world-famous Hungarian music education and believes that even an artist born in a small country can fulfil his dreams.
On 21 July 2010 he was invited to the Shanghai World Expo Center to perform one of his works with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra during the World Expo. Aired by Chinese Central Television, the concert was seen by an estimated 200 million viewers.
In July 2010 Havasi travelled to Shaoxing, a Chinese city whose culture arose more than 2500 years ago, at the invitation of the World Choir Games, a musical event designed to unify hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.
On 15 December 2010, China Radio International signed a partnership agreement with Hungary’s Klasszik Rádió. At the event Havasi gave a short speech and personally met Wang Gengnian, Director General of China Radio International.
Havasi’s Cultural Bridge concert of 26 February 2011 was covered by nearly the entire Chinese media. CCTV’s news bulletin was viewed by almost 600 million people, and a summary of the event was aired by Phoenix TV and China Daily.
On 13 March 2011, the documentary which presented the inception of the Havasi Symphonic Production was ranked among the top 24 of 136 works by 42 countries at the documentary film contest Delphic Art Movie Award in Berlin.
On 31 May 2011 Havasi inaugurated the jubilee event of the Hong Kong Chinese Commerce and Industry Association (HKCICA).
On 16 June 2011 he gave a show at the 3rd World Confucius Institute Conference, where he personally met Xu Jialu, Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, and Xu Lin, Head of the Confucius Institute Headquarters, Chief Counsellor to the Chinese Government.
On 25 June 2011, he was invited to Trieste’s Verdi Theatre, which hosted the prestigious Marco Luchetta International Journalism Award gala ceremony. The event was broadcast by Rai Uno, Italy’s national public service television.
On 12 July 2011 he addressed the TED Global Conference in Scotland.
- Confessions on Piano (2001)
- Seasons (2001)
- Sounds Of The Heart (2003)
- Best of Havasi (2004)
- Days and Nights (2004)
- Piano (2005)
- 7 (Seven) (CD+DVD) (2006)
- Infinity (2007)
- Red (2010)
- Symphonic (CD) (2010)
- Symphonic (DVD) (2010)
- Drum and Piano (CD + DVD) (2011)
- Brush and Piano (CD) (2012)
- The official website of Balázs Havasi
- Official website of the Drum&Piano project
- Official YouTube channel
- The Guinness record
- Havasi Balázs a 2011-es Havasi nominated for Hungarian Fonogram Award
- Official website of the Cultural Bridge Project
- The Unbending Trees