Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra (BFO) were inundated by five-star reviews following their European tour in May. Audiences in London, Bruges and Leipzig celebrated the Hungarian ensemble with a standing ovation. Among others, critics of The Guardian, The Times, Die Presse and The Wiener Zeitung wrote rave reviews about the BFO’s concerts.
“The standing ovation was fully deserved; this Mahler was five stars all the way”, wrote the reviewer of The Times after the BFO’s concert at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Having listened to Mahler’s 9th Symphony, the author explained: “This performance showed Fischer’s Hungarian orchestra at its lucid best, making music with great honesty, whole-heartedness and virtuosity. But what was equally remarkable was the sheer beauty and character of the orchestral playing, from the warmth of the massed string sound to the sublime horn solo that seemed to float in from another realm.”
“Almost unbearably moving, and quite simply outstanding.” The critic of The Guardian was also deeply impressed and gave the performance five stars. “I’ve seldom heard more heartfelt ardor at the Royal Festival Hall than the acclaim for Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra last night”, Art Desk wrote, referring to the fact that audiences of the concert hall can be less-than-passionate.
After London, the concert in Vienna’s Musikverein was also a huge success. According to the critic of Die Presse, no one can play Bartók better than pianist András Schiff and the BFO conducted by Iván Fischer. “Five stars? Five little hearts!”, wrote the reviewer of the Wiener Zeitung about the same concert, also praising how the musicians of the orchestra turned into a choir to sing an encore. Ernst Woller, President of the Vienna Provincial Parliament attended the concert and presented Iván Fischer with a painting by artist Susanne Riegelnik. In his speech, he emphasized the important role of the Hungarian ensemble in Vienna’s cultural life.
The BFO performed as an orchestra in residence in Bruges, giving four concerts: in addition to the two full-orchestral programs, a chamber concert and an Autism-Friendly Cocoa Concert were also part of the tour. “Unforgettable, fantastic, movingly beautiful, magical” – these are some of the adjectives used by audiences at the Concertgebouw to describe the performance of the Budapest Festival Orchestra.
The orchestra concluded its European tour in Johann Sebastian Bach’s town, Leipzig, and their concert at the Mahler Festival, followed by an extraordinary standing ovation, was broadcast live by Arte. One of the most devoted members of the audience, who attended all the concerts of the event, found the BFO's concert to be undoubtedly the best.
“A breathless audience listened to Iván Fischer and the BFO for 85 minutes at the Gewandhaus”, the author of the Leipziger Volkszeitung wrote, who thought the concert hall had never witnessed a silence quite like the one at the Budapest Festival Orchestra’s performance. The critic also praised the huge opportunity provided by the special seating of the orchestra: “This is an extremely homogeneous, and intoxicatingly colorful and flexible orchestra, which is also overwhelmingly virtuoso."
As Orsolya Erdődy, the orchestra’s Managing Director, put it: “This Mahler concert moved so much energy that even Iván Fischer’s bowtie flew off. After the last note of Symphony No. 9, Iván lowered his hands very slowly, and there was a deep silence for a few seconds in the 1900-seat hall. Then the applause erupted. It was a fantastic, astonishing feeling to be in the audience. Everybody was standing and roaring! Click this link to watch the concert.
Adrienn Csepely, a journalist at. wmn.hu accompanied the orchestra on the London and Bruges stops of its tour. This is what she wrote in the first part of her tour diary, where she shared numerous behind-the-scene secrets about the ensemble’s work: “If I were asked what can prove that the Budapest Festival Orchestra is really one of the best symphony orchestras in the world, this is how I could probably best explain it: this orchestra conducted by Iván Fischer is able to stop time. In a concert hall seating two thousand people, it is not enough to play well to achieve a perfect, tense silence after the last note."
Their next tour in June will take the Budapest Festival Orchestra to Spoleto to perform Iván Fischer’s brand new opera production, Pelléas and Mélisande, which Hungarian audiences will be able to see at Müpa Budapest in September. August will also be full of excitement, as the orchestra will perform a total of seven concerts at two iconic festivals, the BBC Proms and the Edinburgh International Festival, including a Midnight Music concert and an Audience Choice concert. In the latter, there is no pre-announced program and the audience will vote on the pieces to be played at the venue.