“Just over 35 years ago, I would never have thought that the Christmas concert of a new orchestra, news of which had piqued my interest, would go on to define my life outside my daily work for more than 35 years. The young conductor, and his – for the most part also young – orchestra have, through the years, treated their enthusiastic audiences to incredible artistic creations and productions, and have shared so many other surprises and such kindness. All of this has made them stand out in our usual world of concerts.” Mrs. György Berger has been following the story of the Festival Orchestra for thirty-five years, and is always glad to talk about her experiences. And for us, there is no greater joy than being able to share this with you. Enjoy!
Already back in the early days, we were able to visit their rehearsals, and other meetings of the orchestra, and then they had Christmastime gift exchanges, a baking competition… Iván Fischer is the “TEAM BUILDER” not only of this larger-than-life orchestra: he also fulfils the same role towards the audience, in a prominent and lasting way.
“The cherry on top” is the opportunity to participate in their TOURS. I was a little hesitant when I first had the opportunity to sign up. I was worried that as a simple enthusiast, who would not even pass the music theory exams we have Kodály to thank for, I might bother the orchestra’s artists with my presence. I could not have been more wrong!! They received me with such natural kindness as though we were long-time, dear friends. We spent a lot of time talking during long bus rides and airplane trips, and they’ve become dear personal acquaintances in the most noble sense of the word. And I learned so many “secrets” during these trips!
How could the musicians play in a different city every day without becoming exhausted? They stay kind and balanced. I had not known earlier that the performances each evening are preceded by at least an hour of rehearsing well-known pieces. Well, I guess that is just how an outsider approaches this, someone who simply enjoys the wonderful performance of the orchestra without thinking about how this artistic quality was able to come about and make the BFO one of the 10 best orchestras in the world. Success depends on so much that goes on in the background.
In the splendid “Golden Hall” of the Musikverein in Vienna, at the rehearsal before this particular concert, Iván Fischer asked for a taller riser for two violinists in the back row. After a quick test, he asked for another riser, this one 20 cm shorter. “Uh-oh,” I thought to myself, “what now?!” Well, of course, the shorter riser was delivered.
One of those in charge of stability behind the scenes is tour manager Bence Pócs, “MASTER” of logistics. With great care and attention to detail, he manages busses, airplanes, vans, hotels and tickets, as well as the “outsiders” participating in the orchestra’s tours. I still can hardly imagine how he is able to carry out these wide-ranging duties, and so many of them, delivering the same outstanding quality in Europe or overseas, with such kind elegance.
I must apologise to anyone who has bothered to read my little reminiscences, but I also have to mention the attentive and loving care we receive from Zsuzsi Deák while on tour. On several occasions, including most recently at the tour in Vienna, she arranged for us to be able to talk with members of the orchestra in the morning. These were such pleasant, nice conversations – only superlatives come to mind. László Herboly and József Bazsinka were enchanting, so naturally kind and humorous, yet displaying the same artistic professionalism and seriousness with which they get ready for their tasks.
Zsuzsi Deák also arranged – and we of course have Iván Fischer to thank for this – for us to be able to greet András Schiff in his green room after the concert. For me, as an enthusiast, this was an incredible experience, although I was also ashamed to be compounding the performers’ exhaustion.
The success of the concert was moving and resounding in one of the most revered palaces to music in the world. I saw the busses parked outside the hotel that evening already. I thought the musicians would be boarding them in the morning to return to Budapest. But no!! After the long concert, they quickly got on the busses, late at night, to arrive in Budapest early the next morning; and then a bit of rest before rehearsal in Selmeci utca at 10 o’clock for the next performance.
I’m going to stop here, although I have not even mentioned Vicenza; but perhaps another time. Thank you to Zsuzsi Deák and Bence Pócs for the wonderful trip with your colleagues. And most of all thanks to IVÁN FISCHER, sincerely and with love, for the magic of the last three and a half decades.
Mrs. György Berger