NAT Thurzó Zoltán 14-1667451214986
Thurzó Zoltán holds the UAE Flag after his Guinness Record-setting “highest altitude grand piano performance” at the Everest South Camp in Nepal. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Romanian-Hungarian musician Thurzó Zoltán set two Guinness World Records in piano performances within 105 days this year.

He played the UAE’s National Anthem in both the performances along with the UAE Flag in the first one.

Zoltán broke the record for “highest altitude grand piano performance” at 5,325.77m (17,473 ft) at the Everest South Base Camp, Nepal. The pianist performed 63 pieces for 132 minutes, at temperatures between 1°C and 3°C.

“Among the 63 pieces I played were 37 classical piano pieces, and 26 national hymns or anthems of various countries including the UAE,” Zoltán told Gulf News from Romania in an online interview.

UAE flag at Himalayas

Zoltan said he took a picture holding up the UAE flag in the Himalayas right after his record-setting performance. “The UAE flag was the fourth one after the flag of my own nation and regions. I then took a photo with the flag of each nation whose anthems were chosen. It was an honour holding up the UAE national flag after the piano performance, especially during the country’s Golden Jubilee. Really!”

In a span of 105 days, he set the second Guinness World Record, dubbed as the hardest one on piano. “Between September 19 and 25, I set the world record for the longest marathon playing keyboard / piano by an individual at 130 hours.”

During his second Guinness performance in his city, Oradea, Zoltán played “hundreds of classical piano pieces and transcriptions, and again a lot of national anthems. The national anthem of the UAE once again too. This big repertoire included nearly 450 pieces of music by various authors, including all of Mozart’s sonatas, which I played several times over the course of six days,” the artiste said.

I believe that the UAE and its culture play an important role in today’s world view and the demand for perfection. That is why I thought it was important to play the anthem of your nation at these unusual piano concerts—on top of the world, where no one has ever held a piano concert before, and in the longest ever piano performance.

- Thurzó Zoltán, Romanian-Hungarian musician

Describing the reason for choosing the UAE anthem, Zoltán said: “I respect your nation, although I haven’t had the opportunity to personally experience your hospitality, to admire your culture, to hold a piano concert in your country. But in any case, I believe that the UAE and its culture play an important role in today’s world view and the demand for perfection. That is why I thought it was important to play the anthem of your nation at these unusual piano concerts—on top of the world, where no one has ever held a piano concert before, and in the longest ever piano performance.”

Born in a family of musicians in the city of Oradea in Romania, Zoltán took up piano at age five. As an experienced concert pianist, it was not hard for the 39-year-old to learn the UAE anthem which he said “is very beautiful and melodious”.

Rigorous training

However, the record attempts were not without challenges. “They are very hard records, both physically and mentally. I practised for about four years for the two challenges. I started training with two renowned triathletes (Daniel Erdei and Ionescu Nikolett), a trainer, plus a gym supervisor.”

From Monday to Saturday, he would hit the gym in the early hours and would do a special training workout that would not affect his hand, and muscle mass.

NAT Thurzó Zoltán 1-1667451219550
Thurzó Zoltán holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for “highest altitude grand piano performance.”

“I also had a team of doctors by my side, those who monitored me in my attempts. To give up sleeping, but also play the piano at CD quality, and simultaneously make your brain constantly fresh is very difficult. There were several factors that pushed me to reach my goal beyond my physical and mental limits.”

In the first record, his challenge was to combine his love of playing the piano with his passion for hiking and the outdoors by beating the 2019 Guinness World Record achievement of the British pianist, Evelina De Lain. Her “concert in the clouds” in tribute to her mother was held at 4,946 m (16,227 ft) up the Himalayas.

Hurdles he faced

Nine days of inclement weather that separated him from his piano that was stuck in a valley, followed by the challenge of not finding a skillful pilot who could fly in the piano safely to the Everest Base Camp were the main hurdles that he faced.

“It was a very difficult period for me, because I was practically locked in an igloo. My partner Kócza Erika and I talked via WhatsApp whenever the network was available. It was very difficult for both of us since we have been together for more than nine years. On June 12, I took the courage to ask her for her hand in marriage. She said “yes!” Then a miracle came. The weather cleared up the next day, and the flight could be arranged for the helicopter to bring the piano up. I think it was a miracle...,” he said.

NAT Thurzó Zoltán 141-1667451208649
Thurzó Zoltán's feat atop the Everest were not without challenges, but in the end he overcame them all. Image Credit: Supplied

Luckily, Zoltán got a highly skilled pilot and also the permission to allow the helicopter to take off, “because not only the doors, but everything had to be removed from the helicopter except for the pilot’s seat. All this so that the piano could fit in the helicopter.”

Not less than an hour after the piano touched down on the snow, he completed the record-setting concert.

In the second successful attempt, using one of his own pianos, Zoltán coordinated with 29 people and six teams of two people each, plus a reserve person in case someone cannot come or gets sick.

“Each team, by rotation, could stay and watch me for four hours. The main role of the teams was to comply with strict Guinness rules. I had my fiancée by my side, and a super team of doctors. I was able to gather an army of professional people who helped me get through the hard times, and to bring the record to a great end.”

Why the risky feats?

“My motivation is to put classical music on the spotlight, and also to fortify the peaceful coexistence of nations with different cultures, as well as to draw attention to the importance of peace itself. Also, hopefully it will bring me one step closer to fulfilling my dream of opening a ‘Museum of Music’ in Oradea in memory of my violinist and musicologist grandfather,” said Zoltán whose family is famous for taking part in and archiving the musical life of Oradea for generations.

A message for UAE people

In his message to the people of the UAE on the occasion of the UAE Flag Day, Zoltán said: “Never give up on maximalism. This basic idea comes across to me from your country and the attitude of the people who live in the UAE. Always strive for perfection—in all areas of life, in all branches of activities.”

Zoltán hopes that in the future, he will get the opportunity to do a piano concert in the UAE. “On that occasion, I will be able to take with me my UAE national flag and the Guinness World Records title holder certificates - to show to you all. I can tell you that they look nice together. It has always been a dream to come to your country to give a piano concert.”