Budapest Festival Orchestra
Press reviews September 01, 2014

Proms 2014: Budapest Festival Orchestra/Ivan Fischer, Royal Albert Hall - music review

Source:; by Barry Millington

Brahms’s Third Symphony begins with three richly expressive chords which may be punched out with exuberance. Or they may, as here, be coaxed from the orchestra and laid on velvet cushions. With those three chords the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Ivan Fischer put their signature on the evening.

In an age of globalisation and technological progress, international orchestras increasingly resemble each other. But the sound of the BFO is unique. It’s not so much the timbre of individual instruments — only the bucolic clarinets and a particularly zingy triangle are distinctive — more the voluptuous textures they create and the exquisitely blended chords.

An orchestra adhering to historically informed principles might bring more incisiveness and more rhythmic flexibility but Fischer achieves miracles of subtly calibrated inflections within a generally soft-grained sonority. And he still manages to capture the veiled quality of those evocative transitions that feature in all Brahms’s symphonies.

After an impassioned yet intimate Third Symphony, we had a Fourth that was faithful to its more tragic aspect, mettlesome but also noble.

Then for an encore Fischer announced Brahms’s Abendständchen (Evening Serenade), but the players downed their instruments and gathered in the centre of the stage to sing it. They won’t be doing their colleagues in the Budapest Radio Choir out of a job but it was impressive nonetheless: testament to the success of the Kodály Method in Hungary’s schools and perfect for this festival occasion.

I don’t see the BBC Symphony following suit any time soon.

Photo: Chris Christodoulou