The Budapest Festival Orchestra (BFO) dived into the festival season with performances in August at some of the most renowned classical music events, including the BBC Proms. The Royal Albert Hall, with six thousand seats, was filled to capacity on two nights to hear the Hungarian orchestra. 14 days, 9 concerts, 7 venues and more than 20,000 audience members: the international press was brimming with stories of the concert series. The Financial Times, The Telegraph and The Times all reported on the tour, making the world aware that the BFO is the only symphony orchestra with a regular choir. Following the orchestra’s free Community Week performances, the BFO will be back in Budapest in September to perform at the Bridging Europe festival.
Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra kicked off their concert tour at the Ravello Festival, offering breath-taking panoramas and an exclusive ambiance: the BFO gave two open-air concerts with the Amalfi Coast as the backdrop. The stage was constructed atop a cliff, but neither the heroic task of bringing their instrument cases up, nor a fear of heights kept the musicians from performing at the highest level. According to Italian critics, the BFO reaffirmed its reputation as one of the ten best symphony orchestras of the world, and Iván Fischer “brought out the best of his ensemble”, especially with their performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4.
The tour featured two main programmes: an Enescu-Bartók-Mahler trio with solos by Anna Lucia Richter and Christina Landshamer; and a Brahms-Liszt-Sarasate line-up, for which they were joined by the three amazing Roma musicians József Lendvai Csócsi and József Lendvay on the violin, and Jenő Lisztes on the cimbalom.
The high point of the concert tour was the BBC Proms festival in London, where the Hungarian orchestra performed both programmes to a full house, thus sharing their live music with 12,000 people. Since then, on the Facebook page of the festival alone, more than 170,000 people have watched the orchestra play and sing in their encore; a BBC radio station broadcast both concerts live, and a BBC television station aired the second evening concert in its entirety. “Oh, that concerts could all be like this” – said one of the critics. “The Budapest Festival Orchestra makes other orchestras look routine […]. The sense of an orchestra actually enjoying themselves, wanting to communicate this joy as directly as possible, the generosity and talent and spirit of it all is quite overwhelming.”
“There are a few concerts that automatically go to the top of the list. Some promise the highest quality of music-making, others have performers with a track record of delivering something out-of-the-ordinary – or, as in this case, both at the same time”, wrote the Financial Times. The Times gave the performance the maximum five stars, noting that while all orchestras may be said to have their own voice, the Festival Orchestra “has reinvented the multilingual voice of Central Europe”. According to The Art Desk, the BFO is one of only a few world-class ensembles with a voice of their own, and “there seems no limit to the sheer creativity that fizzes from Iván Fischer and his Budapest Festival Orchestra”. The Telegraph wrote of enchanting moments providing the perfect link between the fiery spontaneity of Gypsy music and romantic orchestral music.
After London, the next stop was Santander, then two more concerts in San Sebastián, for the tour to come to a close with one concert each in Stresa and Merano. As the others, the Basque Country performances earned good reviews, with reports saying the orchestra’s music was of “exceptional quality”.