1996 I was invited to teach as a guest professor in Darmstadt, when Ferienkurse für Neue Musik celebrated its 50th anniversary. Inspired by that experience I decided to attempt to form a chamber ensemble in the same vein as the Ensemble Modern or Ensemble Intercontemporain playing mainly 20th century repertoire. Although similar ensembles did exist in Hungary, their operation was in many respects immature, so they were unable to carry out a schedule like these renowned groups. That same year I shared my vision with two of my musician-friends, László Tihanyi, founder and artistic director of the group Intermoduláció and musicologist András Wilheim, who was an influential figure in the early days of the New Music Studio in the 70's and 80's. It was his idea that we should use the name UMZE when the ensemble gave its debut concert at the 1997 Budapest Autumn Festival.

The parallel between the original New Hungarian Music Society - formed by Bartók, Kodály and Leó Weiner in 1911 - and today's UMZE ensemble is apparent as we continue their ambition to keep the now classic compositions of the 20th century in the repertoire and to bring the most recent compositions of both Hungarian and foreign composers to the listener. We are building on their legacy and although they were not successful in those days, nevertheless stayed intact and removed from ideological debates.

The newborn UMZE gave its debut concert in the autumn of 1997 and since then has become an asset to Hungarian music. Lacking regular funding the ensemble operated on an occasional basis using Amadinda's infrastructure. Yet we appeared at the most prestigious Hungarian festivals such as the Budapest Spring Festival and Budapest Autumn Festival, gave concerts in Berlin, Karlsruhe, Avignon and Zagreb. We took part in the Wiener Festwochen and participated in one of the most important new music forums the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. UMZE also released 4 CD's, three on the BMC label.

This year we took the major step of forming the New Hungarian Music Society, with 17 musicians joined by many prominent figures of Hungarian music (György Ligeti, György Kurtág, András Szőllősy, Péter Eötvös, Zoltán Jeney, Ferenc Rados, László Dobszay, Miklós Perényi) as founding members and László Vidovszky as president. After preliminary negotiations lasting for a year and a half former cultural minister Dr András Bozóki granted UMZE 30 million HUF enabling us to take on a more regular schedule.

UMZE's executive board elected Zoltán Rácz as Artistic Director for three years, commissioned László Gőz as Managing Director and Péter Eötvös as honorary Principal Conductor. 12 concerts are scheduled for the 2006/2007 season, starting with "Hommage à Ligeti" and concluding with another concert dedicated to the ouvre of this great Hungarian twentieth century composer.

Zoltán Rácz
artistic director
May, 2006.