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On Monday evening, the Budapest Festival Orchestra held an extremely successful concert in Paris comprising the works of Bartók and Schubert: the almost two thousand people in the Salle Pleyel in Paris reserved some of their rapturous applause for pianist Dezső Ránki, who stepped in to replace András Schiff in the solo of the Second Concerto after he suddenly fell ill.

We were extremely lucky that Dezső Ránki was able to replace András Schiff who came down with flu – said music director Iván Fischer after the concert. The conductor also revealed that the change came to light only three days before the concert, and he personally recommended Dezső Ránki to the French organisers of the concert after the pianist had previously played the same work with the Budapest Festival Orchestra.

The first half of the concert comprised Béla Bartók’s Peasant Songs and Piano Concerto No. 2, while after the interval the orchestra played Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 9. A few months after the orchestra’s major tour of the USA and Europe last year, Iván Fischer said the “last and overdue stop was Paris” with the Bartók-Schubert programme.

– It was fantastic to see the enthusiasm of the Parisian audience – said Iván Fischer, referring to the fact that he asked the audience to vote at the end of the concert whether they would like to hear Bartók or Schubert in the encore. The audience shouted out both of the composers’ names in turn, and so after it transpired that both Bartók and Schubert were equally popular, the orchestra played short excerpts of the works of both composers in the encore.

The conductor believes that there is strong kinship between the two seemingly very different composers, and this is why he paired them together. – These are two composers speaking two very different languages yet whose works are strikingly similar in content: People encounter very profound poetic emotions through Bartók’s works, and Schubert was the first major creator of such emotions – said Iván Fischer.

The “permanent relationship” between the orchestra and one of the most prominent French concert halls is “extremely successful”, in the words of the music director; the Budapest Festival Orchestra is considered a returning guest at the Salle Pleyel, taking to the stage here most recently one year ago as part of the international Liszt Ferenc Year, and set to return in September.

The Festival Orchestra will next be performing in Hungary on 29 March in Veszprém.