The Budapest Festival Orchestra, led by Iván Fischer and featuring Richard Goode as soloist, “gave two of the freshest, least conventional Beethoven performances of the season” at New York’s Lincoln Center. The performances led The New York Times to call the ensemble “one of the most admired, and unusual, orchestras of the day”.
“Mr. Fischer had become a New York favourite for his virtuosity and his expansive ideas of what concerts can be,” said Jane Moss, the Artistic Director of Lincoln Center, to the New York daily. Again and again she has found herself surprised by the conductor’s “unbelievably powerful” ideas. In New York, the beginning of the last movement of Beethoven’s Fifth saw students from the Juilliard School and Bard College Conservatory of Music rush on stage; for his Ninth Symphony, members of the Concert Chorale of New York arose out of the audience to sing in the style of a flash mob; and the way timpanist Roland Dénes took over as instrumental soloist at these concerts brought another unique acoustic solution.
The several thousand-strong New York audience erupted in a breathtaking, almost ear-splitting ovation (click here to see a video clip) in response to these ideas, which brought tears to the eyes of some. Listening to the “paean to brotherhood”, Ode to Joy, many considered the BFO concerts to be a refined and powerful “declaration”, a soothing antidote to the actions of the Trump administration and the only possible reaction to the world’s current conflicts.
Away from New York, audiences in Newark NJ, Chicago, Ann Arbor and Boston got the chance to meet the Hungarian orchestra when they gave six concerts in eight days. A detailed critique in the Chicago Classical Review concluded by saying that the BFO had “brought the audience to its feet,” the Boston Classical Review emphasised the “remarkably uniform” sound and “technical finesse” of the orchestra, while The Boston Musical Intelligencer wrote: “May every all-Beethoven program be as exciting and convincing as this one.” In Boston, the Festival Orchestra were joined by students from the New England Conservatory.
A shadow was cast on the BFO tour when the visa of an orchestra member with dual-nationality was temporarily revoked as a result of President Donald Trump’s now-repealed executive order. All the BFO’s musicians did eventually enter the United States without problems.
The Budapest Festival Orchestra’s full ensemble can next be heard on 24th, 25th and 27th February, in concerts at Müpa Budapest where they’ll be under the baton of Robin Ticciati. March, meanwhile, will see them on tour again, this time in Switzerland, France and Germany.