Oettingen Press


As an online introduction to each city featured on our tours, we provide excerpts of music, literature, art and film.

For Budapest we start with Sing (Mindeki) a film by Kristof Deak that won the 2017 Academy Award for Best Short Film. 

"Based on a true story, SING follows an award-winning school choir and the new girl in class facing a tough choice:
to stand up against a corrupt system – or to fit quietly into it." 

The dilemma facing the choir director is summed up with the statement,  "if everyone sings, we can't be the best." And so she instructs those who don't meet her standards just to mouth the words, not to sing. Watch the students' collective response:


As a first glimpse of Hungarian literature, here is a blog post by the respected translator George Szirtes offering his own translations of poems by Joszef Attila. In addition to Szirtes' brief biography of Attila, the comments to the post offer an illuminating informal discussion of the specific difficulties in translating Attila.


While many music students, fans and performers alike may associate these cities with earlier composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt, Smetana (the list goes on...), there is a reason why our tour focuses on the early modern period. Our group leader Kathryn Woodard is fascinated by how the early decades of the twentieth century marked such significant changes in the way music was heard and composed, the artists and authors reflected on society and their surroundings. And these changes also influenced societal and political changes. 

Hungarian composer Bela Bartok was a central figure in Budapest's embrace of modernism, most notably with his opera Duke Bluebeard's Castle. (More on that later.) For the pianists interested in learning more about his style, here is Bartok performing his own pieces using rhythms that he most associated with Bulgarian dances he heard while doing music fieldwork research:

While the use of folk tunes and rhythms might imply a more simplistic approach to composition, these irregular rhythms are anything but simple for the beginning and even intermediate pianist! Bartok's use of modes and dissonant sonorities also points to influences from folk music but that also broaden his harmonic language and expressive intentions. These are the last 6 pieces of a six-volume set Mikrokosmos, which serves as a piano method based on Bartok's compositional approach.


In spite of its name, Grand Budapest Hotel, the Wes Anderson film doesn't seem on the surface to be an educational resource for our tour. In addition the film's stated inspiration in the credits - the writings of Stefan Zweig - never seemed right to us, as the fanciful, comical nature of the film isn't reflected in Zwieg's more earnest and romantic style. However, our tour director, Kathryn Woodard, on a recent tour through the sale book stalls in Munich did in fact find an interesting connection between the film and a novel by the Hungarian author Janos Szekely called Temptation. It follows the trials and misfortunes of Bela, who is raised in a small Hungarian village but eventually makes his way to Budapest to serve as a lift attendant in a luxury hotel there under the guidance of head concierge, Elemer. View the trailer to see the connection yourself!

The novel is quite epic in scope, but well worth the read!