In memoriam Zoltán Kocsis: tribute by the Budapest Festival Orchestra tops a stunning concert
The Budapest Festival Orchestra had a busy week. On Thursday, they performed a fund-raising concert with Daniel Barenboim as soloist, while on the next day, they presented the first of a four-concert series with the thought-provoking combination of compositions by Franz Schubert and Béla Bartók. Critical review, Zoltán Szabó, Bachtrack.
Unusually, however, when Iván Fischer stepped in front of the orchestra on Friday night, he had a microphone, rather than a baton, in his hand. In a simple but touching speech, he paid his respects to his colleague and founding member of the BFO, pianist and conductor Zoltán Kocsis, who passed away a few weeks ago. What followed was a most effective tribute to this extraordinary musician. The BFO performed the slow movement of Béla Bartók’s Third Piano Concerto on a stage devoid of both a piano and a soloist, a gesture as poignant as it was symbolic; with seamless technological assistance, the piano part, in Kocsis’s performance, was played through speakers, adding his recording from the distant past to the live orchestral performance.
Only then began the advertised first item, The Magic Harp Overture by Schubert, with strikingly lush, impeccably balanced chords. After the sombre introduction, the main section of this delightful work (often and incorrectly called the Rosamunde Overture) radiated effortless joy, a smorgasbord of cheeky Schubertian accents, elegant phrasing and perfect unity between conductor and his orchestra.
Leonidas Kavakos is a favourite guest artist of the orchestra. He had already presented Bartók’s Second Violin Concerto a few years ago in Budapest and performed the same work again in this concert. Kavakos is one of those artists whose aim is clearly not to ‘sell’ himself with extra-musical gestures; his focus on stage has one purpose and one purpose only: to offer the best possible interpretation of the composition. His technical assuredness is awe-inspiring and he produces a round, warm sound that at its loudest easily carries to the furthest point of the auditorium without distortion, while at its softest, excels with clearly distinguished whisper-like delicacy.