Budapest Festival Orchestra
Press Releases May 04, 2016


There has recently been considerable speculation in the press concerning the Budapest Festival Orchestra’s financial situation. We are therefore disclosing the following information as an authentic response to inform the public.

States and cities do not support orchestras, rather they support the audiences. The utility of an orchestra is measured by comparing investment to the number of concert performances and ticket sales, the income generated through tourism and gains in improving the image of both the country and the city.

1.   An International Outlook

The Budapest Festival Orchestra is rated among the top ten orchestras in the world. Figures from 2014 show that similarly-successful orchestras received the following amounts from their respective cities and countries:

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra: €12.2 million – joint funding by the Dutch state and the city of Amsterdam

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra: €16.7 million – funding by the city of Berlin

Munich Philharmonic Orchestra: €19 million – funding by the city of Munich

Tonhalle-Orchester Zurich: 18 million CHF

Budapest Festival Orchestra: 1.41 billion HUF (Approx. €4.54 million) () – joint funding by the Hungarian state and the city of Budapest

Naturally, Hungary cannot support its orchestras at the same level as richer, West European countries. This is precisely why the Festival Orchestra’s standing as one of the world’s leading orchestras is internationally considered such a miraculous achievement.

2.   The BFO’s state funding

In the last three years, the Festival Orchestra received the following state funding through the Ministry of Human Resources:

1.15 billion HUF (equivalent to €3.73 million) in 2014

1.05 billion HUF (€3.46 million) in 2015

1.15 billion HUF (€3.68 million) in 2016

These numbers show that the BFO, rather than receiving an additional 100 million HUF this year, had their funding restored to 2014 levels after a cut in 2015.

3.   The BFO’s Budapest funding

Over the last three years, the Festival Orchestra received the following funding from the city of Budapest:

260 million HUF (€876,000) in 2014

260 million HUF (€857,000) in 2015

60 million HUF (approx. €190,000) in 2016

4.   Which concerts should we cancel?

Orchestras plan their programmes years in advance, so most European orchestras have their funding determined a few years beforehand. The unexpected 77% cut in funding from the city of Budapest (down to 60 million HUF from 260 million) means concerts are going to have to be cancelled. In making this decision we are aware that, where contractual obligations exist, those concerts cannot be cancelled. That means we can only look at those events that can be planned short-term and have not yet been signed off. Of course, we are unhappy about having to do this.

5.   Orchestral budgets

Orchestral budgets throughout the world are the accumulation of several income streams made up primarily of state and local funding, as well as ticket sales, corporate sponsorship, private donations and tour revenues. In their supporters’ eyes, a successful orchestra produces as much independent income as possible.

6.   The BFO’s own income

1.651 billion HUF (€5.38 million) in 2014

1.515 billion HUF (€4.95 million) in 2015

2016 figures to be announced

The orchestra covers all its costs from its own income and funding. These include the costs of domestic concerts, such as symphony orchestral performances in Budapest and elsewhere in the country, the Community Weeks which take place three times a year, the Cocoa Concerts, the Midnight Music concert series, the Sunday Chamber Music, the BFO Reaches Out! concert series and the free grand concert in Heroes’ Square. Every year we also put on 60 Choose Your Instrument events, ten school operas and the Autism-friendly Cocoa Concerts.

The orchestra covers the costs of international concerts, including aeroplane tickets, accommodation, transportation and insuring of instruments, musicians’ salaries, fees paid to guest performers, office and rehearsal hall maintenance and staffing, the costs of the sheet music archive, licence fees, purchasing and maintenance of instruments, advertising costs, production and printing costs for publications and programme booklets as well as live broadcasts of concerts and rehearsals etc.

7.   Fulfilling the requirements of the contract with Budapest

The capital city obliges us to perform a total of 35 concerts a year, which are:

22 symphony orchestral concerts

5 chamber concerts

8 youth concerts

In Budapest in 2015, the BFO performed 53 symphony orchestral concerts, 62 chamber concerts and 42 youth concerts to a combined audience of 61,928 - surpassing their obligations many times over.

8. The BFO’s community projects

In addition to its obligations, the Festival Orchestra organises free community concerts which see the orchestra’s chamber formations perform in nursing homes, child care institutions, churches and abandoned or out-of-use synagogues. The BFO has never claimed a chamber concert to be a symphony orchestral concert. The orchestra performs its community work alongside its numerous symphony orchestral concerts.