One of the highlights of their European tour came when the Budapest Festival Orchestra (BFO) gave a five-star performance at the BBC Proms, one of the greatest classical music festivals in the world. The recording of the concert is available to hear for the next month through the BBC’s website. The ten-day tour began in residence in San Sebastian and concluded at an amusement park in Copenhagen.
Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra took to the stage of the Royal Albert Hall, before an audience of nearly six thousand, and played three works by Mozart, which included his Requiem. The BBC Proms remains one of the grandest and most popular classical music festivals in the world, and the BFO is a regular guest.
The Telegraph gave a five-star rating to the performance in which two Festival Orchestra players, Ákos Ács (principal clarinetist) and Zsolt Fejérvári (principal double-bassist), made their solo débuts with the Clarinet Concerto in A major and the concert aria Per questa bella mano, respectively. The reviewer emphasised the orchestra’s “deep, inward expressivity”, which the audience honoured with a “stunned silence”. Fejérvári’s “absurdly virtuoso” performance and Ács’s “unshowy, graceful musicality, which was mysterious and eloquent” also captivated the reviewer. The concert is freely available for the next month, via the BBC’s website.
It wasn’t the first time the BFO had made an appearance at San Sebastian’s Musical Fortnight, but this year they did so as a resident orchestra with three different concert programmes. Besides the Mozart performance, they played Mahler’s Third Symphony and gave a Stravinsky-Bartók-Dvořák concert. According to local reviews “the thousands of people who have been to one, or all, the concerts in this series would have a certain sensation of having been very fortunate... The Festival Orchestra has earned a perennial place in the hearts of San Sebastian’s music lovers. Let’s hope that rumours of their return turn out to be true.”
Dénes Várjon played Bartók’s Third Piano Concerto on the tour, and he received critical acclaim for an outstanding solo performance; the Basque review called him “a fabulous soloist with perfect technique and expressive ability, with rounded and graceful notes.” The review went on to say “the orchestra’s playing was bright, refined and free of mannerisms.” La Razon’s account emphasised that while the Festival Orchestra sounded “as unified as a chamber ensemble, they had the energy and impetus of a symphony orchestra.” You can read about he achieves this effect in Iván Fischer’s August interview in The Guardian.
In Santander, the orchestra performed Mahler’s Third, which Bachtrack’s review called “colossal” before going on to say they were “definitely transported to the majestic serenity of an affirmative conclusion with the finale extending into eternity, possessed by an almost hypnotic character”.
The Hungarian ensemble concluded its tour in Copenhagen’s Tivoli, one of world’s oldest surviving amusement parks. Reviewer Andrew Mellor summarised his impressions of the concert on Twitter after the orchestra’s performance was greeted by the kind of standing ovation unusual in that part of the world: “What a magnificent, magnificent sound. Can’t think of the last time I saw a Scandinavian audience go quite so wild at the end of a concert.”
After the concert, the Hungarian ambassador in Copenhagen, László Hellebrandt gave a reception for the BFO which featured Bertel Haarder, the Minister for Culture and Church, as a guest of honour. It was he that gave the welcome speech to Iván Fischer and his orchestra.
In collaboration with Müpa Budapest, the season-opening Bridging Europe festival, which takes to the stage between 21 and 28 September, will be your next chance to meet the Festival Orchestra in Hungary.
For further details, go to: