The Hungarian Radio Children’s Choir was founded by Valéria Botka and László Csányi, who both directed it between 1955 and 1985. In 1985 the work was taken over by a trio of conductors: János Reményi became the artistic director of the choir, while Lenke Igó and Gabriella Thész were the conductors. From 1995 Gabriella Thész acted as principal conductor and artistic director, in cooperation with László Norbert Nemes between 1997 and 2009. After Gabriella Thész retired, from 2012 the principal conductor and artistic director of the Hungarian Radio Children’s Choir was dr. László Matos. Sándor Kabdebó was assistant conductor until 2015. Currently Judit Walter is the chorus master, and she is assisted by Katalin Körber Vargáné, the conductor of the Lower Junior Choir and Upper Junior Choir.
Since 2000 the Hungarian Radio Children’s Choir has drawn on children from the Kodály Zoltán Primary, Secondary and Music School, where children who get into the choir can start and continue their studies in the “radio” classes.
The Children’s Choir has four structural divisions:
• „Lower Junior Choir” (8-10 year-olds): here children learn the basics of choral singing, easy choral works, round games, games related to folk customs, folk music, Christmas, Whitsun and wedding feast songs, with roleplay, movement, and dance steps.
• „Upper Junior Choir” (10-12 year-olds): here children learn mostly works for children’s choir from the Hungarian repertoire of the 20th and 21st centuries (mainly Bartók, Kodály, and important contemporary, predominantly Hungarian, composers).
• „Senior Choir” (12-15 year olds): this choir performs in concerts and on tour. Their repertoire is constantly expanding to include music from Gregorian chant through Renaissance vocal polyphony to contemporary works. As well as regularly performing choral works by Bartók and Kodály, much emphasis is placed on performing works by living composers.
• „Girls’ Choir” (14-18 year-olds): this latest formation took shape in autumn 2016, and includes girls from the Secondary School and class 8 in the Primary school. The choir acts as a transitional stage between a children’s choir and an adult choir. The repertoire consists predominantly of more serious Romantic works, and pieces from the 20th and 21st centuries requiring the sound of more mature female voices.
As a member of the Hungarian Radio Art Groups, the Hungarian Radio Childrens Choir has worked with renowned musicians such as Luciano Berio, Semyon Bychkov, Myung-Whung Chung, José Cura, Dennis Russell Davies, Peter Maxwell Davies, Péter Eötvös, Ádám Fischer, Iván Fischer, Philip Glass, The King’s Singers, Ken-Ichiro Kobayashi, Zoltán Kocsis, Zoltán Peskó, Paul Sacher, András Schiff, György Solti, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Geoffrey Tate, and Tamás Vásáry.
Holder of the Bartók-Pásztory Prize and the Príma Prize, the chorus has for many years been a recognized and respected actor in music life in Hungary and abroad. It regularly participates in music festivals and other musical events in Hungary and elsewhere in Europe, and has made many radio and television recordings both at home and abroad. It has been invited to give concerts in almost every country in Europe, it has toured in the USA and Japan, and has also been to South Korea and Taiwan.
Some of the more important guest appearances abroad:
1988 La Scala (Milan) – world premiere of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s opera Montag aus Licht
1993 Geneva Contemporary Music Festival – works by Nicolo Castiglioni, Franco Donatoni
1996-97 Vienna Modern Music Festival
1999 Salzburg Festspiel, Flemish Festival
2000 Milano Musica – Luciano Berio: Ofanim, conducted by the composer
2002 Rome, inaugural concert of the Auditorium – Mahler Symphony No. 8
2003 Catania: Teatro Bellini, Florence: Teatro Pergola, Turin: Verdi Conservatoire
2004 Linz Bruckner Festival – Mahler Symphony No. 8
2005 Ravenna Festival – Berio: Ofanim
2007 Schleswig-Holstein Festival
2008 Milano Musica Festival
2008 Innsbruck, Linz European Capital of Culture Festival
2009 Saint Petersburg International Youth Choir Festival