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The Budapest Festival Orchestra took to the stage at two major music festivals at the weekend. On Saturday evening in Italy they played at the Stresa International Music Festival. Italy’s Prime Minister, Mario Monti, unexpectedly appeared at the BFO concert, but that didn’t fluster either the conductor Iván Fischer or the Hungarian musicians, and they simply started the concert with Vittorio Monti’s “Csárdás” instead. Although the family of the Prime Minister has nothing to do with the composer, both he and the audience understood the amusing reference. After the concert, Monti warmly congratulated Iván Fischer, and they discussed the fact that the Prime Minister’s residence is not far from the place where the famous Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini used to spend his summers.

The Festival Orchestra travelled from Stresa to the Edinburgh International Festival, where they gave a concert in the wonderful Usher Hall that can take up to 2500 people. After Bartók’s Peasant Songs they played Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 1, with Barnabás Kelemen playing solo, then moved on to Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. The audience at the world-famous festival gave them a vociferous, standing applause. Incidentally, the Festival Orchestra is a well-known and much-valued guest at the Edinburgh International Music Festival.