Péter Wolf

Born: June 21st, 1947, Budapest (Hungary)
Nationality: Hungarian

Eurovision record
Péter Wolf conducted two Hungarian entries in the Eurovision Song Contest (in 1994 and 1997), for both of which he also wrote the orchestration. Moreover, in the 1993 Eastern European preliminary round, in which seven ‘new’ EBU members vied for three places in the contest’s final in Ireland, he was the Hungarian juror.

Biography
Péter Wolf was born into a musical family, his father being a pianist and his mother a singer. Having mastered the piano at a very early age, he studied classical piano in Budapest, at the Béla Bartok Conservatory (1961-1966 and 1967-1969) and the Franz Liszt Academy of Music (1966-1967). During his student days, listening to Radio Luxembourg, he developed a penchant for jazz music.

As an arranger, he worked for Hungarian radio and did countless studio recordings and radio transmissions with many prominent Hungarian artists of popular music. Moreover, he composed music for films, cartoons and theatre productions. This does not imply that he left his ‘classical’ roots behind; quite the contrary, he loves Bach and Mozart above all. From 1969 onwards, he has been the composer, arranger and pianist of Ex Antiquis, the group around whistling virtuoso Tamás Hacki; the trademark of this band is making modern crossover versions of classical pieces. With Ex Antiquis, he performed all over Europe and even in America. In 1998, he recorded a studio album with the renowned violinist Isaac Stern (1920-2001) and the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra, for which he re-arranged several classical works of Christoph W. Gluck, Fritz Kreisler and Jean-Marie Leclair. Nowadays, he works as a music teacher, but still devotes most of his time to composing. More recently, he wrote a cycle of rhapsodies based on old Transylvanian folk songs. He is a board member of Artisjus, the Hungarian federation of composers.

Péter Wolf in the Eurovision Song Contest
In 1993, Péter Wolf was chosen by Hungarian TV to be the country’s juror for the 1993 Eurovision preliminaries in Ljubljana, in which seven Eastern European countries, who had newly become EBU members, vied for three places in the Eurovision final in Ireland. Wolf gave his top mark to the Croatian entry ‘Don’t ever cry’. Hungary, along with Estonia, Romania and Slovakia, failed to qualify, with Slovenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Croatia making it through. Wolf on this: “I do not have very fond memories of Ljubljana. It was somewhat disturbing to see that all countries of the former Yugoslavia seemed to help each other. I cannot and will not claim that they had fixed the contest, simply because I cannot prove it. But strange it was, to say the least.”

In 1994, Hungary finally made its debut in the contest. Friderika Bayer and her song ‘Kinek mondjam el vétkeimet’ stunned the whole of Europe; Hungary landed a well-deserved 4th place. Péter Wolf had arranged the song for the Hungarian preliminaries and also conducted it in Dublin. Wolf: “Nearly one thousand songs were submitted for the Hungarian selection that year. These were divided among several arrangers. Friderika’s song was ‘given’ to me. At that point, I already told everyone that I ‘had’ the winner. I kept the arrangement simple and small, with some strings and an oboe – on purpose, because I wanted to preserve the spirit of the original. The strength of the song was its simplicity and the romantic aspect. It was hugely successful in Hungary. Szilveszter Jenei, a well-known musician and a diligent composer, wrote the song, which will remain his most successful composition ever. But the key to the success was Friderika. She was impressive; not only on stage, but also during the press conferences in Dublin. The journalists adored her. She was so natural. I was not surprised that the song did so well in the contest. When the voting started, we were awarded 12 points by all of the first three juries. Around me, Hungarian TV officials turned pale… it would have been an outright catastrophe if Hungary had won the contest. Organizing a festival as big as that is a financial disaster!”

Wolf continues: “At the contest, there was a spirit of friendship between the different nations. Besides, the Irish organisation was perfect; rehearsals, for example, went on without any delay and each and everyone was given exactly the same amount of time. For me, this festival was something special; to wit, I was chosen by the orchestra members as the best conductor. After the show, two violinists came up to me and handed me a flower. Moreover, I was lucky enough to witness the birth of ‘Riverdance’, the interval act of that year’s contest. I am very proud to have seen that in Dublin.”

Péter Wolf with his close friend Miklós Malek, the only other Hungarian Eurovision conductor, during an interview with EA-Nieuws in Budapest, 2007

Péter Wolf returned to the contest in 1997, conducting his own orchestration to ‘Miért kell, hogy elmenj?’, sung by the boy band VIP. This time, Hungary came 12th. Wolf: “That year, the contest was staged in the Point Theatre in Dublin once again and the organisation was just as brilliant as three years before. What is so good about the Irish is that they are so friendly; that is an enormous asset when organizing such an enormous event! As to the Hungarian entry, these guys of VIP were technically good singers and their song was quite all right too. But it did not stand out in the way that Friderika did – neither the vocalists nor the song. Perhaps the quality of it was slightly inferior to what she had done."

Other artists on Péter Wolf
Friderika Bayer: “To my mind, he is one of the best conductors in Hungary. After I had won the Hungarian selection with ‘Kinek mondjam el vétkeimet’, we went to Dublin together. Péter succeeded in giving me a lot of confidence in a very nice way: the night before the contest was broadcast, all members of the Hungarian delegation participated in a bet on the place that I would get. Péter was the only one to predict that I would land a spot among the first five. For me, this was a real morale boost at that time!” (2007)

Tamás Hacki, Péter’s long time colleague of Ex Antiquis: “Péter not only is a talented musician, but a gifted entertainer and stage personality as well. Since 1969, we have performed together in over three thousand concerts. He has been an agreeable and reliable friend with an indomitable sense of humour: he knows every facet of irony, sarcasm and satire – which can sometimes be recognized in his arrangements, too. Péter is quite unbeatable as a musical director during studio recordings; not least because of his psychological and organisational qualities, he always succeeds in bringing the best out of symphony orchestras and jazz and pop artists alike.” (2008)

Szilveszter Jenei, composer of ‘Kinek mondjam el vétkeimet’ worked with Péter Wolf for the first time in 1994: “I made the original arrangement for the song, and that was the basis for Péter’s orchestration in Dublin. He did a great job; I was very satisfied with the music. Furthermore, since neither Friderika nor I speak English very well, he functioned as our interpreter in Dublin. He is a gentleman and one of the best musicians and composers in Hungary.” (2008)

Links & sources
  • Bas Tukker did an interview with Péter Wolf (and Miklós Malek); this interview was published in EA-Nieuws (2008-2009, no. 1), the magazine of Eurovision Artists (www.eurovisionartists.nl).
  • For more information on Ex Antiquis, the band in which Péter has played since 1969, turn to the website of the group’s singer, Tamás Hacki: www.hackitamas.com.
  • Thanks to Friderika Bayer and Szilveszter Jenei for providing the additional information. More information on these artists can be found at www.friderika.com and www.artisjus.hu/jeneiszilveszter.

Website(s):
www.artisjus.hu/wolfpeter  

  

Songs conducted
1994: Kinek mondjam el vétkeimet
1997: Miért kell, hogy elmenj?