Hailed as a “young titan” by the Montreal Gazette after conducting the Montreal Symphony in Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle and Schoenberg’s Erwartung, Gregory Vajda has fast become one of the most sought-after conductors on the international scene. Reflecting his growing presence and demand in North America, he has been appointed in 2011 the sixth music director of the Huntsville Symphony. After concluding his 3 year tenure as Principal Conductor he was named Principal Guest Conductor of the Hungarian Radio Symphony in 2014. Mr. Vajda is Music Director of the Portland Festival Symphony and Artistic Director of the International Armel Opera Festival. Mr. Vajda is a frequent guest lecturer and professor of the conducting and composition master classes of the Peter Eötvös Contemporary Music Foundation.
In addition to his duties with these organizations, upcoming guest-conducting engagements include the Palermo Opera, the Gyor Philharmonic Orchestra, the Savaria Symphony, the Miskolc Symphony, and the Kodaly Philharmony. He returns as a guest conductor to the Pannon Philharmonic and to the Hungarian State Opera.
2018-19: named Artistic Director of UMZE New Music Ensemble, Italian debut in the Schönberg-Bartók double bill of Teatro Massimo, Palermo, World Premiere of ‘Gloomy Sunday Variations’ for orchestra by the Hungarian Radio Symphony at Liszt Academy, Budapest, Mahler: Symphony #3 with the Hungarian Radio Symphony and Chorus at Palace of the Arts, Budapest, revival of ‘The Giant Baby’ by Kolibri Theater in Budapest.
2017-18: return engagement at the Hamburg State Opera, Chinese tour with the musicians of the Hungarian Radio Symphony, debut with the Kaohsiung Symphony (Taiwan), debut with the Rutgers Symphony Orchestra, multiple concerts with the Pannon Philharmonic and the Danubia Symphony. Two of his operas ‘Georgia Bottoms’ and ‘The Giant Baby’ were staged in Vienna and Budapest, and ‘Barbie Blue’ was performed concertante as part of the Bluebeard’s Castle 100 Festival at the Erkel Theater.
2016-17: debut at the Hamburg State Opera, and with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony, conductor of a successful modern rendering of ‘The Magic Flute’ at the Hackney Empire Theater in London, several different productions at the Budapest Opera among others.
2015-16: Danubia Symphony, Hungarian State Opera, Pannon Philharmonic, Szeged Symphony. He was invited back to perform at the Launaudiére Festival in Canada and the summer series of the Portland Festival Symphony.
2014-15: Hamilton Philharmonic, Omaha Symphony and Symphony Silicon Valley, Rochester Philharmonic.
2013-14: Phoenix Symphony, Symphony Silicon Valley, Calgary Philharmonic and the Columbus Symphony.
2012-13: Edmonton Symphony, Kalamazoo Symphony and Santa Barbara Symphony. In Hungary he conducted the Pannon Philharmonic in a semi-staged version of Ligeti’s opera Le Grand Macabre, and lead two performances of Lohengrin as part of the Budapest Wagner Days with the Hungarian National Opera Orchestra. In July he concluded his Artistic Director and Conductor position with Music in the Mountains, CA – a position held since 2009.
2011-12: return engagement with the Seattle, and Edmonton Symphony, debut with the Toledo Symphony.
2010-11: subscription series with the Oregon Symphony featuring the US premiere of his work “Duevoe,” return to the Atlanta Opera conducting La bohème, re-engagements with the Baltimore Symphony, Edmonton Symphony, Symphony Silicon Valley and Round Top Festival. Debuts with the Louisiana Philharmonic and Huntsville Symphony.
2009-10: Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, first return to the Hungarian State Opera since emigrating to the US, subscription concerts with the Oregon Symphony, debuts with the Seattle, Grand Rapids and Memphis symphonies, and returned to the San Antonio Symphony and Symphony Silicon Valley.
2008-09: his introduction to the Salzburg Festival as assistant conductor to Peter Eötvös. He conducted the final performance of Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle with the Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna State Opera Chorus, before returning to the Atlanta Opera to lead La Cenerentola, guest conducting engagements with the Toronto, Edmonton, San Antonio, and Silicon Valley symphonies. He helped inaugurate the widely talked-about EMPAC at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (NY) with a performance of Grabstein für Stephan by György Kurtag.
In past seasons, Vajda appeared with St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra, the Calgary Philharmonic, the Winnipeg, Louisville, Charlotte and Omaha symphonies, the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, Ensemble Intercontemporain, led the Klangforum Wien in performances of Péter Eötvös’ As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams and Three Sisters (as part of the Wiener Festwochen), gave the premiere of his chamber opera The Giantbaby at the Puppet Theatre in Budapest, and the premiere of Hungarian composer György Ránki’s opera King Pomade’s New Clothes at the Hungarian State Opera. He has also conducted at the festivals of Avignon and Strassbourg, at the Woodstock Mozart Festival, Grant Park Festival and the Mostly Mozart Festival in Lincoln Center.
In addition to conducting, Vajda is also a gifted composer. Composition highlights:
‘Captain Hume’s Last Pavin’ performed by cellist Tamás Varga at Wien Modern. Premiere and HD live streaming at Arte Concert of the fully recomposed new version of his first opera ‘The Giant Baby’ at MUTH Theater in Vienna as part of Armel Festival 2018. In May 2017 his composition ‘Drums Drums Drums’ had its European premiere with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony under his baton. ‘Alice Études’ for clarinet and string quartet was partially premiered in San Francisco by the Farallon Quintet in January 2017, and was fully recorded by the principal players of the Hungarian Radio Symphony. His “Comic Opera of the Modern South’ entitled ‘Georgia Bottoms’ was premiered with the Huntsville Symphony as part of its 60th Anniversary Season in 2015. In 2010 “Magic Mountain”, a hotel-opera based on Thomas Mann’s novel, was premiered in Davos, Switzerland. His chamber music composition “Conversations With Children” received a special mention by the jury at the ‘a Camillo Togni’ competition in Italy in 2008. Mr. Vajda conducted his own concert music for the silent film The Crowd at the Auditorium of the Louvre in 2001, with American pianist Jay Gottlieb. His solo clarinet piece, “Lightshadow-trembling” was published both by ECM and the Budapest Music Center. His orchestral compositions ‘Duevoe’ and ‘Clarinet Symphony’ were recorded with the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under his baton. Mr. Vajda’s music is published by recording labels BMC (Budapest Music Center) and Hungaroton Classic.
In March 2018 for his body of work as a composer Mr. Vajda was given the Bartók-Pásztory Award, founded by the widow of the great Hungarian composer. He was honored with the ARTE Concert TV Audience Award for the 2017 production of “Prima Donna” by Rufus Wainwright. He has received the Gundel Art Prize in 2001, the Zoltán Kodály State Scholarship in 2000, and the Annie Fischer State Scholarship in 1999.
Born in Budapest the son of renowned soprano Veronika Kincses, Gregory Vajda studied conducting at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music under Professor Ervin Lukács. He was also a conducting and composition pupil of well-known composer and conductor, Peter Eötvös.