Oklahoma Baptist University

Professor Performs at Liszt Academy in Budapest

Dr. Michael Dean, a music educator who has proven himself as a dedicated academician, recently embraced the opportunity to perform on a stage once used by legendary pianist and composer Franz Listz in Budapest, Hungary.

Dean, associate professor of music at OBU, performed alongside Dr. Terrie Manno during an Oct. 6 concert at The Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest. Dean and Manno, a professor of music at Minnesota State University, Moorhead, performed on invitation of the academy for one of the institution’s weekly concerts which feature musicians from around the world.

Dr. Michael Dean warms up before his Oct. 6 concert at The Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, Hungary.

Typically when performing as the Manno-Dean Piano Duo, the professors play two-piano works. However, the Listz Academy stage holds one piano, so the Duo played four-hand piano duets as well as solo pieces. Their program included works by Mozart, Schubert, Mendelssohn and Dvořák. When the packed house insisted on an encore, the Duo presented a piece of American culture, finishing their concert with a ragtime composition by Scott Joplin.

Dean was impressed by the musical audiences in Hungary, both for his own concert as well as a performance of the local opera. He said he was struck by the appreciation Budapest’s residents have not only for fine arts, but also for the care and beautification of their city and the awareness they maintain of their history.

“The arts are really big in Hungary,” Dean said. “The opera is affordable to the common man, and even children were engaged in the performances. The Hungarian people are very cultured and interested in the arts.”

During his piano concert, Dean said the audience was standing-room only. The academy sold so many tickets to the performance that people sat in the “green room” area off stage to listen to the music. Dean expressed how the experience seemed almost surreal, to be performing on the same stage where Liszt – who was adored by the public – once played, also to full audiences.

“This is my life work,” Dean noted. “We know these musicians were real, but they seem separated by a different time and different place. This made them seem more real and approachable.”

In addition to performing the concert, Dean and Manno were given a tour of Franz Liszt’s private apartment, where the curator removed the safeguards on Liszt’s pianos and allowed the professors to play a few notes – a moment of euphoria for the American musicians. Dean also enjoyed interacting with the academy’s instructors, some who are the students of Listz’s own students.

The Franz Liszt Academy of Music is a concert hall and a music university founded in Budapest by Liszt on Nov. 14, 1875. Teaching at the academy began in 1875 in Liszt’s apartment. In 1879, the Hungarian state obtained a neo-Renaissance building for the institution, where promising Hungarian musicians Dohnányi, Bartók, Kodály and Weiner had their first lessons in composition. In 1907, the academy moved into its present building, a masterpiece of art nouveau architecture. Since its foundation, the academy has been the most prestigious music university in Hungary.

To prepare for their concert in Hungary, Dean and Manno used technology to overcome the logistical challenge presented by the distance between Oklahoma and Minnesota. Dean and Manno video-taped themselves playing their portion of the duet and then sent the files to one another. The videos allowed each of them to practice their part of the pieces accompanied by the other, although Dean said part of performing in a duo is to react to real-life situations which arise in individual performances. Once the Duo arrived in Budapest, a local psychologist who is a Liszt scholar opened his home to allow the Duo to practice together before the performance.

“This concert demanded a high level of artistry,” Dean said. “Anytime I have a chance to really stretch my creativity and artistry, it makes me a better professor, musician, performer and teacher.”

The concert brought attention to OBU’s Division of Music, Dean said, by creating curiosity among the audience about the location of Oklahoma and providing insight for academy students about the music studies available in OBU’s Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts. The Duo was so well-received that the academy invited them to return as soon as possible, although the institution’s concert schedule is booked through 2014.

Meanwhile, Dean is slated to present a workshop at the World Piano Conference in Novi Sad, Serbia, in June 2013. He will lead a session about using Braille music to teach visually impaired students, a skill he learned to accommodate the needs of a current music student at OBU who is visually impaired.

For Dean, just as Listz determined 150 years ago, teaching music requires great dedication, but the effort results in great reward as future generations of musicians thrive.

Click here to learn more about the OBU Division of Music.

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