Audiences getting goose bumps and giving standing ovations – a tour which proved that Iván Fischer is the bridge between Heaven and Earth and that the Budapest Festival Orchestra is one of the world’s most renowned Mahler orchestras. The Hungarian ensemble wowed audiences in the concert halls of Bruges, Baden-Baden, Frankfurt, Prague, Dresden and Vienna: rarely are international critics so unanimous in their praise. Beginning 4 June, members of the orchestra will tour Hungary and will give an additional 24 free concerts during their Community Week, from Őcsény to Apostag and Zalaegerszeg.
Following the resounding success of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 in the Hungarian capital, the Budapest Festival Orchestra spent two weeks touring the concert halls of Europe with an expanded line-up of Mahler’s music. In Bruges, Iván Fischer and his orchestra performed to a full house three times, each time with a different programme. According to critics, the first performance was “enchanting,” with “Iván Fischer forming a bridge between Heaven and Earth.” As a rare treat, a Welte-Mignon player piano was used to bring Mahler’s piano music to life, using a music roll over 100 years old: essentially, the German soprano Christiane Karg was being accompanied by Mahler himself. At the second concert in Bruges, which critics also described as “meeting very high standards,” Robert Dean Smith and Elisabeth Kulman also joined the orchestra, dedicating their Mahler songs to “those fighting for peace.”
“Iván Fischer brought the essence of music to Bruges,” wrote Bachtrack’s critic after the third concert, calling the Festival Orchestra one of the most renowned Mahler orchestras in the world today. “Hearing Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 gave me goose bumps from the first moment.” The author also highlighted the ethereal sound of the Czech Philharmonic Choir (Brno) and the “sparkle” of the two soloists – Kulman and Karg – on stage. “Fischer’s genius and the music of the orchestra extend far beyond the musical notes on the page. The climax had an almost ceremonial force. […] No one today does Mahler better than Fischer. Amen,” the report concluded.
A critic in Frankfurt called the concert there “bombastic,” where everything was “irresistible and convincing.” Another account said the orchestra took the audience of the Alte Oper soaring “from the depths to the stars,” bringing “even the angels to tears.” “This breath-taking performance surpassed all interpretations heard before, and was rewarded by the audience with a ten-minute ovation,” said the author. Following the orchestra’s performance at Vienna’s Konzerthaus, Wiener Zeitung praised the “incredible precision” and “perfect sound” of the orchestra, with Der Standard calling it a “fantastic experience” and noting the “unending thunderous applause.” In Vienna, Christina Landshamer and the Wiener Singakademie contributed to the successful performance.
The next major undertaking of the Budapest Festival Orchestra will be the third Community Week of the season; taking place between 4 and 10 June, the series will see the ensemble give free concerts at 24 venues around the country. There will be free Synagogue Concerts at the Szeged Synagogue, which today serves as a centre for contemporary performing arts; at the one-time synagogue in Békés, which has served as a disco and today is home to a pálinka centre; and in Zalaegerszeg, whose synagogue functions today as a concert venue and exhibition space but in appearance resembles the Dohány Street Synagogue of Budapest.
This time, the Baroque ensemble of the orchestra will visit and perform in the churches of Apátfalva, Gyüre and Apostag. For children, the Music Castle will visit Őcsény, Monor and Szőlősgyörök; for the elderly, the Playtime programme will bring the orchestra to, among other places, Karcag, Jászladány, Nagyszénás and Pécs. Karcag will be the first city in the country to have hosted all of the orchestra’s community programmes.
The Budapest Festival Orchestra will wrap up the season at 7 pm on 17 June with the free Dancing on the Square concert outside Saint Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest. The ensemble will play Brahms’ Hungarian Dances, with Iván Fischer conducting the monumental event.