Throwback Thursday: Budapest

‪#‎TBT‬ to Jonathan Goldstein’s trip to Budapest back in 2004 to record his magnum opus for Kronenbourg 1664.

What were you working on in Budapest?

It was an ad for Kronenbourg 1664 beer called ‘Composer’. I had to write a 7-second ‘symphony’ that a fictitious composer started in 1664 and never finished as a result of becoming distracted by his beer. We recorded a live orchestra for two days playing the same few bars over and over until the conductor (a big name in Hungary) stormed out – literally – leaving me to take the baton. They got me to write umpteen variations while we were out there (printing off 40 parts each time in a movie caravan) but reverted to the first version when they started editing. Of course…!

What did you think about Budapest as a city? Did you enjoy working there?

It’s beautiful and an extraordinary place. Very much a city of two halves: Buda, the peaceful and calm area on the hill, and Pest, the busy bustling commercial centre below. The architecture is awesome but the street names are unpronounceable, which makes getting lost easy; and getting found, impossible. Gorgeous food and wine though.

Budapest - Orchestra for Kronenbourg 2004

How did it feel taking over when the conductor stormed out? Did you enjoy taking the reigns?

I had no choice in the matter! The producer, the wonderful and unflappable Peter Montgomery, came out to find me and said ‘you’re wanted… now’. I think the orchestra was rather glad of a change of face as they had been playing the same 7 seconds with the same conductor for over a day. Hungarian musicians are very disciplined and serious people so I was a little nervous about mounting the stage, but they gave me a round of applause after the first take which was very sweet (and a bit of a relief).  I’m never in shot though; they only used my takes for the close-ups.

Janos the Engineer - TBT Budapest

Was it a frustrating process coming up with so many variations before finally going back to the first version?

In short, yes! I was locked away in a movie set caravan on location trying to come up with numerous variations of the ending that told the story of the ‘music running out’ in different ways – more like anti-composing! The biggest drag was not so much the writing, but having to print out 40-odd orchestral parts on a little domestic printer each time, so that the idea could be demo’d live. The director, the brilliant and enigmatic Malcolm Venville, would scratch his beard on hearing each one and mutter ‘yes, yes… ok, not bad, anything else…?’. I’m glad they ended up with the first version as it was the best – the first ideas usually are!         

Watch the spot here!