Singing isn’t typically in the job description when you’re an orchestral musician. But the Budapest Festival Orchestra is not a typical orchestra, and on Sunday afternoon at David Geffen Hall, the players put down their instruments, stood up, and sang a short chorus by Dvorak — beautifully.
It spoke to what makes this ensemble so special. The conductor Ivan Fischer, who founded it in 1983 and is an outspoken voice for tolerance in Hungary, has always taken a comprehensive approach to making music. The main works on this program were Dvorak’s Violin Concerto and his Eighth Symphony.
But to introduce elements of folk song and dance that run through Dvorak’s major scores, Mr. Fischer began with three short pieces: a lyrically glowing Legend, a rousing Slavonic Dance and that wistful choral piece, “Misto Klekani” (“Evening’s Blessing”).
All musicians learn to sight-sing, at least as students. But the Budapest players still exercise this skill. Maybe that explains why their playing in the Eighth Symphony sang out with such fullness and breadth, and why chordal passages had such strong hints of a church choir.
Renaud Capuçon was a riveting soloist in Dvorak’s Violin Concerto. The violin essentially leads the orchestra through the rhapsodic first movement, playing restless lines that shift from searching lyricism to impetuous brilliance. Mr. Capuçon and the orchestra were inspired in the Finale, a dancing, sometimes impish movement full of sudden, startling dark bursts. After intermission, the performance of the Eighth Symphony was alive with color, fanciful flights, elegiac sadness and, in the rousing finale, almost frenzied abandon.