After beginning his career as a flutist, Bela Drahos has added the roles of chamber music leader and conductor to his dossier.
With his recordings of the complete Beethoven symphonies, Drahos was propelled onto the international stage by the warm praise bestowed by critics, including H.C. Robbins Landon. Although he performs as an ensemble flutist and presents himself as an accomplished soloist, his work as a maestro has provided him with his greatest celebrity. While studying at the Gyor Conservatory beginning in 1969, Drahos won two flute competitions: in 1971, he took first prize in the Concertino Prague International Flute Competition, and in 1972, he placed first in an event produced by Hungarian television. After graduating with honors from Budapest's Liszt Academy, Drahos continued to win Central European awards such as the Hungarian Liszt Prize in 1985 and the Bartók/Pasztory Prize in 1988. Founder/leader of the Hungarian Radio Wind Quartet, Drahos was appointed principal flutist of the Budapest Symphony Orchestra in 1976. His solo career has taken him to numerous venues in Europe and the Far East. Drahos' podium activities significantly increased when he was engaged as resident conductor of the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra in 1993. A classical period orchestra, the Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia, was assembled for Drahos in 1992 from members of the HSSO and principal players from other key Hungarian orchestras. Initially, the ensemble was intended for recordings only, but the NES eventually began performing public concerts. The ensemble's size varies from Baroque string groupings to mid-sized for the Haydn/Mozart symphonies and even larger for Beethoven orchestral works. The majority of Drahos' recordings have been made for the Naxos label. As a soloist, he has been featured on discs devoted to the flute sonatas of C.P.E. Bach, Vivaldi flute concerti, and the flute concerti of Leopold Hofmann. With the Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia, Drahos' traversal of the complete Beethoven symphonies won top recommendations from many news publications and music magazines; his sinewy, rhythmically firm readings satisfied both period performance enthusiasts and those who preferred the more substantial sound of modern instruments. The conductor's recordings of Haydn symphonies and masses have also earned high marks from critics.