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After a gap of four years, Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra have been touring once again with the pianist András Schiff, at such great European concert venues as Frankfurt’s Alte Oper or the Vienna Konzerthaus. Critics wrote of “memorable” and “special” concerts, “perfect unity” and “charismatic” performances.

“It is rare to hear Brahms’ First Piano Concerto in such a harmonic, emotional way, with such great attention to detail and unity of orchestra and soloist,” wrote the Dorstener Zeitung after the first concert, in Dortmund, on András Schiff’s and the Budapest Festival Orchestra’s European tour. The author added that it was a joyous evening, and that the orchestra had never before played the Konzerthaus so engagingly.

The Festival Orchestra last toured with András Schiff in October 2011, when they performed Bartók’s Piano Concertos in Carnegie Hall. This time they played together in Dortmund, and then Frankfurt, Basel and Vienna. Dimitris Sgouros played the soloist for the Rotterdam and Eindhoven concerts, which the Budapest audience will also be able to hear at Müpa.

The reviewer fromDer Westen was pleasantly surprised to see the orchestra’s female musicians assemble to form a choir. As he put it, “they sang with a warm voice and in a not-at-all amateur way”. According to the reviewer, this was not the only thing that made the concert special. The Hungarian Trio, that is Fischer, Schiff and the Orchestra, presented the Dortmund audience with some memorable moments. “It was a special, very beautiful evening,” he said, adding that he was gripped by Schiff’s “breath-taking playing” and by the harmony within the orchestra.

The Frankfurter Rundschau noted how many surprises there were that evening. “The encore was not just about András Schiff taking a seat at the piano, the musicians also gathered around the instrument and sang.” The critic even went as far as to call the musicians “multi-talented”, and found their performance very “heartening”, the concert “memorable”.

Before the concert, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung had done a feature article on the work of Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra. The account refers to the BFO as an important ‘export commodity’, as well as discussing the kinds of reforms its music director has introduced over the past decades, what the Synagogue concerts are all about, and the importance of the DanceConcert at Heroes’ Square.

According to the reviewer from Die Presse, there is no doubt whatsoever that the Festival Orchestra is one of the most important orchestras in the world, and is prepared for all kinds of musical challenges. In the Vienna Konzerthaus “they performed their carefully-chosen concert programme in the best possible way, [and András Schiff] played the Bösendorfer with great freedom and a singing tone”. The Viennese review concluded that this was “art, as a discourse in defence of a much sought-after political culture. This is what made the concert special.”

The Festival Orchestra is bidding the year farewell with four sold-out Surprise Concerts at the Academy of Music.