3-D Experience for the Ear
Budapest Festival Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall
At a time when it seems that every other movie is enhanced with 3-D technology, it is rare to be awed by a stereophonic experience. No glasses were required at Sunday’s concert by the Budapest Festival Orchestra under the direction of Ivan Fischer, who created volleys of sound so vividly three-dimensional that you sometimes had to resist the impulse to duck.
On paper, the program he presented at Avery Fisher Hall promised no great discoveries: selections from Shostakovich’s frothy Suite for Variety Orchestra, Rachmaninoff’s chocolate-box Symphony No. 2 and Bernstein’s bookish “Serenade.” But with the Dutch violinist Liza Ferschtman bringing refined beauty and character to the solo part of the Bernstein, and with the orchestra’s architectural power magnifying the humanity of Rachmaninoff’s Romanticism, the concert was nothing short of revelatory.
In part, the orchestra draws its generous, zaftig sound from the basses. Where other ensembles relegate them to the side of the stage, Mr. Fischer places them on a raised platform at the rear of the orchestra, where they offer a big-brother embrace to the rest of the players.
The sound is also a result of the glossy brilliance of a first-rate violin section, the patrician authority of the brasses and the stubbornly individualistic colors of many woodwind soloists, including a memorably soulful English horn solo by Clément Noël. But ultimately it is the work of Mr. Fischer, who founded the orchestra in 1983 and now enjoys a symbiotic relationship with its players.
This was evident from the first downbeat of Shostakovich’s “March,” which Mr. Fischer gave the instant he walked through the stage door, smiling at the audience members who scrambled to put away their programs as he briskly strode to the podium and — even more startling — encouraged them to clap along to the mock-martial music.
Ms. Ferschtman brought laserlike purity and intensity to Bernstein’s “Serenade,” which was conceived as a five-part Platonic dialogue in praise of love. Her sound was melting and lustrous in the long phrases of the first movement, “Phaedrus,” and alluringly veiled in “Aristophanes.” In the fast spiccato passages of “Erixymachus” it showed satisfying bite.