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gramofon.hu Mária Albert
The Budapest Festival Orchestra is launching new and improved projects. For them, “music for all” is not an empty phrase, but a specific aim, as expressed by music director Iván Fischer. Near the end of the concert season they are visiting nursing homes and synagogues, and playing Baroque music during concerts in churches.

The Budapest Festival Orchestra along with the Unified Hungarian Israelite Community (EMIH) is organising a national tour to reach provincial synagogues. During the first phase they will visit the Albertirsa, Keszthely and Mád Synagogues. These three buildings represent three major types – said Rabbi Slomó Köves, head of EMIH. The Albertirsa Synagogue is abandoned, while there is a faint sign of life in the one in Keszthely – he added – maintained by a small Jewish community. The Mád Synagogue has been finely renovated (primarily thanks to the Zemplén Art Festival), but since the community was destroyed, religious life has ceased to exist, and so the building has now other functions. Synagogues are surrounded by some kind of mysticism. Lack of understanding is a breeding ground for prejudices, that is why it was decided to involve locals to revive the former local Jewish communities through their factual and spiritual remembrances.

The BFO gives a free concert of 30 minutes with an appropriate number of instruments at the given venue, performing chamber pieces in particular – explained music director Iván Fischer. After the mini concerts, audiences are invited to enjoy Rabbi Slomó Köves’s review of history and a subsequent discussion before tasting some Jewish food. The first round will be an opportunity to gain experience, says the conductor, who believes that not only prestigious theoretical conferences must be held as Holocaust memorial services, but also informal discussions with people. Slomó Köves agreed with him, not only tragic numbers should be mentioned, but content should also be given to the reflections and dealings with the past.

The BFO’s involvement in the community is gradually increasing, and the synagogue concerts are also meant to be such gestures. The orchestra has recently organised a number of events where those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend the concerts of the orchestra in concert halls could also enjoy the magic of music. During the “BFO Comes Knocking” series, for instance, the orchestra artists played music in the lobby of the post office in Pécs, or in a hospital maternity ward, followed by a nursing home and then in a juvenile prison, to mention but a few. In music schools, they even held impromptu mini master classes for children with an aptitude for instruments. During their recent Asian tour in Shanghai, they played music in an orphanage raising abandoned children, an old people’s home and a children’s hospital.

Now the time has come to visit Hungarian nursing homes: the Békásmegyer Evangelical Centre, the Normafa Twilight Home, the Kamaraerdő, Veresegyház, Zugló, and Vezér út Old People’s Home. The BFO is keen to contribute to the extensive ecclesiastical musical traditions. With the establishment of the BFO Baroque Ensemble it almost became natural to initiate a project to perform Bach cantatas in churches using period instruments and techniques. The venues include the Deák tér, Hedrehely and Bakáts tér church.