One of the world’s most frequently performed composers alive, the 83-year-old Arvo Pärt honoured the Budapest Festival Orchestra by visiting two of its concerts during the Bridging Europe festival to listen to the orchestra play his works under the baton of Iván Fischer. The maestro also attended a rehearsal, and helped fine-tune the pieces together with the BFO. Although Pärt has refused to give interviews for years, he now agreed to answer a few of our questions.
You’ve travelled to Hungary to hear the Budapest Festival Orchestra play your works. What did it feel like to hear your pieces performed here, at the Grand Hall of Müpa Budapest?
Arvo Pärt: I loved it, but then again, I expected nothing less – I’ve already heard the musicians of the Festival Orchestra perform my works conducted by Iván Fischer. This performance was preceded by lengthy preparations, as we reviewed and discussed the pieces with Iván Fischer already when we were in Berlin. I’m completely thrilled with the interpretation of both works. I felt Iván brought new life and gave a different effect to them. Each performance is different, including the two concerts I attended (on 21 and 22 September - Ed.). I liked both, and both could show me something new. I think the secret of this extraordinary feat lies in the fact that the members of the BFO are highly attuned to each other. Together, they understand perfectly all that is hidden within these works. With hearts and spirits in complete sync, they know exactly how to interpret and bring to life my compositions. I’ve never heard my own works in such a fresh and realistic interpretation. What is perhaps more important is the originality and creativity that the musicians of BFO and Iván Fischer lend to the interpretation of the pieces. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean they make changes to what I had in mind, but simply add something to it to make it even more elevated. They practically breathe together with the piece.
What do you think can explain the orchestra’s great feel for the musical world you have created?
A.P.: I honestly don’t know - perhaps the air, the ambience, the many magnificent concerts behind them... no one knows.
I was told you are a very flexible composer. When faced with the possibility that world-famous Spanish soprano Sylvia Schwartz might not be able to sing your Como cierva sedienta at the concerts in Budapest due to vocal cord issues, you tweaked a few notes here and there to make it easier for her. How did that come about?
A.P.: This is not exactly what happened. I did not rewrite the piece, but I did change the dynamics and a few minor details, because Sylvia Schwartz is such a fantastic soprano that no one could have sung Como cierva sedienta better than her. I am very happy she’s made it and I was able to hear her perform.
The Bridging Europe festival is a joint production by the BFO and Müpa Budapest.
Photos by Zsófia Pályi/Müpa Budapest and István Kurcsák/BFO