Iván Fischer and his Budapest Festival Orchestra want to play in every abandoned synagogue in Hungary. Daniel Barenboim joined them for a memorable fundraiser. The music critic of The Observer had the chance to participate in the concert and published a report about our initiative and the concert itself, saying: “Free from any symphonic boundaries, this remarkable orchestra must also be the world’s most versatile.”
The scene was the great Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest, one of the biggest in the world. Franz Liszt played the organ there in 1859, the year it opened. Tony Curtis and Estée Lauder, not commonly mentioned in the same breath as the great Hungarian virtuoso-composer, spearheaded its restoration in the 1990s in memory of their Jewish forebears. Candelabra, immaculate gold leaf, wood, marble and rich ornament, in Byzantine and Romanesque styles, now gleam. (Its contours may look familiar: the Central Synagogue in New York, built a few years later, is a near replica.) Despite periods of neglect and disrepair, this cavernous edifice has always survived in active use.