The Budapest Festival Orchestra took Europe’s most prestigious concert halls by storm, from Berlin to Luxembourg and the Philharmonie de Paris. Seven venues, more than 9000 people in the audience and nearly 10,000 kilometers covered, spanning snow-capped mountaintops and sun-drenched Mediterranean towns. Not even strikes at airports in three countries could deter the orchestra: they were on time for each rehearsal and performance, and the set-up and break-down of the stage was carried out – as conductor Iván Fischer put it – at speeds that would put Formula-1 tire changes to shame. The success was universal: international press highlighted the orchestra’s “ecstatic performance,” the “phenomenal coordination of the instrument sections” and the “visionary abilities” of the BFO’s Music Director.
Berlin, Alicante, Madrid, Luxembourg, Munich, Lugano and Paris– the Budapest Festival Orchestra, led by conductor Iván Fischer, gave concerts in seven fabulous European concert halls in the second half of March as part of a grand tour.
“It is rare to see a conductor who is able, with just their art and without any motivational trainer nonsense, to generate such enthusiasm that the musicians play as though their lives depended on it,” wrote the critic of the Munich Abendzeitung. The Isarphilharmonie in Munich is brand new, having been completed two years ago, making this the BFO’s debut performance at the venue. It was also exciting to play once again at the Philharmonie Berlin, where the orchestra last performed over twenty years ago, as well as in Madrid, where audiences in the Spanish capital had not had the chance to enjoy the BFO’s music live since 2004. (This concert also saw a Labrador enjoy the performance from the front row.)
A critic for the Spanish Scherzo had nothing but praise for the orchestra and its leader. “The BFO is an elite member of the world’s symphony orchestras, thanks to its visionary, restless, enterprising and intelligent founder, Iván Fischer.” The piece highlighted the “rounded sound of, and excellent performance by, the orchestra," the “security” of the brasswinds and the “brilliant” woodwinds. According to the report, the performance of Richard Strauss’s Don Juan was so passionate that the conductor could not even hold on to his baton at one point. “The orchestra received a tremendous and well-deserved ovation, which they reciprocated with an unexpected treat,” the author noted, referring to the encore performance.
The Festival Orchestra sets no boundaries for itself: its repertoire spans pieces from the Baroque to music from the most modern periods, and members of the ensemble often show off their skills as folk musicians, too. The concerts of the tour concluded with folk music blocks by violinist István Kádár, violist András Szabó (a horn player in the orchestra) and double bassist Zsolt Fejérvári. They took this a step further in Paris, where a jazz improvisation based on Strauss’s piece Till Eulenspiegel brought yet more color to the encore, led by violinist Balázs Bujtor. The light-hearted performance concluded with some Transylvanian folk music.
The critique in Luxembourg praised the “sensitivity of the ensemble’s music and the perfect balance of tones” in Richard Strauss’s works. “The orchestra’s performance was full and precise: quite simply, everything was in its place. The audience’s ovation was guaranteed,” the author concluded.
Two soloists performed Schumann’s piano concerto in A minor during the tour: As in Hungary, audiences in Berlin, Luxembourg, Munich, Lugano and London heard the piece in the legendary Rudolf Buchbinder’s performance, while audiences in Alicante and Madrid were treated to a performance by Francesco Piemontesi, who is exactly the same age as the BFO, which is celebrating its 40th birthday next season.
When are the Festival Orchestra’s next performances in Budapest?
Following the March 28 Ligeti 100 concert the Festival Orchestra’s next performances in Budapest will take place on April 15 and 16 at the Liszt Academy, where the program will include some brilliant Baroque pieces, led by one of the most exciting and most creative figures of early music, Midori Seiler.
On April 22, 23 and 24 the orchestra will perform a truly romantic program, featuring grandiose and evergreen hits by two masters of German music literature: Mendelssohn’s violin concerto in E minor and Bruckner’s symphony no. 4. Conducting the concert at the Budapest Congress Center will be the Israeli Daniel Oren, with a violin solo by Guy Braunstein, gifted with unbridled musical imagination and talent.