Switch to mobile view
American pianist Garrick Ohlsson plays during rehearsal of Special Concert on the 200th Anniversary of Fryderyk Chopin?s Birth at Warsaw Philharmonic

Concert of the Festival Orchestra / European Bridges Festival (revizoronline.com)

THE NEW FESTIVAL OF THE BUDAPEST FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA AIMS TO BUILD BRIDGES WITHIN EUROPE BETWEEN HUNGARY AND THE MUSIC CULTURE OF SEVERAL NATIONS. THE FIRST BRIDGE LED TO A NATION ALMOST ON OUR DOORSTEP, TO THE CZECH REPUBLIC, AND MORE THAN HALF OF THE PROGRAMMES COMPRISING THE SEVEN PILLARS – THE SEVEN CONCERTS – INCLUDED THE WORKS OF ONE PROMINENT COMPOSER ONLY: ANTONÍN DVOŘÁK. BY JÁNOS MALINA

 

On 15 and 17 September, the programme comprised orchestra pieces composed by the master who lived by the Vltava river: two popular Slavonic Dances, a seldom-heard Piano Concerto, a short orchestrated Legend and the composer’s second most popular symphony. A fine and diverse programme was offered for those who love Dvořák – a composer very close to the conductor of the concert, as Iván Fischer revealed in the opening film. I attended the second concert on the afternoon of 17 September.

In the traditional orchestral concert pattern, the opening pieces were two Slavonic Dances from the second, Op. 72 series (No. 2 in E minor and No. 1 in B major). The fine and gracious composition in E minor conducted by Fischer was played with the noblest sentimentality, while the orchestra’s sparkling performance gave prominence to the circus polka character of the other dance.

As for the Piano Concerto in G minor, Dvořák’s first concerto accompanied by the orchestra, it is usually observed that the piece is void of the composition routine based on one’s own experiences as a performer, which would otherwise make the piano part really attractive to the audience and a substantial part of the orchestral sound. Whether this judgement is excessive from the beginning, or whether it should be credited to the soloist Garrick Ohlsson as well as to the conductor and the orchestra, I am not sure; however, I did not feel that anything similar was missing from this interpretation. On the contrary, the musical texture made up of the orchestra and the piano proved to be admirable with its integrity resembling chamber music as well as the polish of the entire piece and its genuine lyricism. The orchestra and the soloist were one and the same in the flexible expressivity of playing music. You immediately come to like Ohlsson for his acting, which lacks any posing, and for his self-confident technique, impeccable concentration as well as his refined and sensitive way of touching the keys. The thrilling accents of the rather original second movement, which occasionally resembles the magnificent effects of the slow movement in Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 3, was performed in a particularly suggestive way. Moreover, Ohlsson even confirmed our personal liking with his soaring performance evoking the particularly sensitive melodies of a Brahms intermezzo.

After the break the idyllic Legend in B-flat minor Op. 59. No. 10 brought the audience back to the atmosphere of Czech folk music, after which Dvořák’s Symphony in G major was performed with a rightly pastoral tone. If this symphony is in any way pure poetry, then Iván Fischer placed the most poetic side of his performing arts at the service of the composition – because the most important thing about this performance was indeed its poetic magic. This was served by the well-known merits of the orchestra, the transparency and colourfulness of the sounds, the confident technique, the natural virtuosity, and the soloists’ high-quality performances. As for the latter, I would like to highlight the brilliant flute solos by Erika Sebők, whose performance is always very inspirational, and the beautiful piano notes in the first movement, but I could also mention the melting sensuality of the clarinets and the deep strings starting the pianississimo in the second movement in a tense, suppressed and unearthly way, and the clear sound of the unisono trumpets at the beginning of the final movement. It is nevertheless to the credit of the entire orchestra and its conductor that the monumental simplicity and uncomplicatedness present in the first movement and typical of Dvořák’s compositions did not become hollow or boring during the performance, because the frames of the music were perfectly filled by the performers. Scherzo, possibly the best movement of the piece, was played, for instance, with such deep brightness and humour and in such an unspoilt and diverse way that the most beautiful moments of the concert were extracted from it. In the finale, the audience experienced both noble and clean sounds and a carnival atmosphere; it was all hearty and jolly and lots of clapping, just as it should be.