Over the last ten days, the Budapest Festival Orchestra (BFO) has performed Gustav Mahler’s monumental Third Symphony to sold out concert halls in seven European cities, each with resounding success. Tour stages included Rome, Milan, Barcelona and Brussels, which had recently fallen victim to terrorist attacks.
Following the orchestra’s concert in Milan, critics wrote of how the Budapest Festival Orchestra had brought the message of hope to La Scala. Gustav Mahler’s grandiose Third Symphony had not been performed there for ten years, and the musicians played as if their lives depended on it, said Bachtrack.
“It provided one of those rare musical experiences where playing enters into dialogue with the prevailing zeitgeist to produce something momentous”, wrote one reviewer, adding that the performance “enthralled and bewildered in equal measure.” Conductor Iván Fischer said before the concert that “if we play well, we’ll bring tears to your eyes.” According to the article, he kept his promise. “Passion erupted from all around [during the finale] – it was a glorious, staggering push to the summit.”
A reviewer at the Rome concert agreed with the above when he wrote that the work ended exactly as Mahler might have imagined it. The reviewer also talked of the fantastic harmony between Iván Fischer and his musicians, which would be worthless without the conductor’s ideas and the orchestra’s virtuosity. “The evening was a wonderful journey into Mahler’s world of sound,” he added.
After the Italian series, which concluded with a concert in Bologna, the BFO continued on to Brussels. The Festival Orchestra and its music director would like to take this opportunity to express sympathy for family members of the bomb attack’s victims.
As Iván Fischer wrote on the orchestra’s blog: “I would like to assure the Brussels audience of my deep sympathy, and I promise that the sound of violence will not repress the sound of music, that we will come again and play music.”
After the orchestra’s performance in Wrocław, Poland, the reviewer said that the musical structure was near to perfection: “It is said there is no perfect form, but the musicians came within arm’s reach of it, and after the concert the dazzled audience did not simply stand in queues for their coats; they were practically floating above the ground. As for me, the floating persists; it has still not passed. I am sailing along without a care, carried away on the noble sound which Iván Fischer and the BFO create.”
According to another Polish review “from strings through winds to percussion, Iván Fischer has such an outstanding ensemble at his disposal that even highly-challenging pieces like Mahler’s Third seem like a curious journey.” A critic who saw the Barcelona concert emphasised the childlike creativity that permeated the entire performance, as well as the art of playing, the love of which could be felt throughout the concert.
The tour concluded in Aix-en-Provence in France; Le Figaro’s reviewer wrote that the concert was an amazing experience, while another review spoke of the warm colours, the exceptional sound and precise playing. According to a third review, the orchestra is full of wondrous vigour, the musicians never take their eyes off each other and their playing betrays signs of limitless ability.
The work of the BFO is never done, even at home. The BFO is in the process of recording the 100-minute symphony with Channel Classics. The next tour is in May, when the Festival Orchestra will be playing an all-Mozart programme to concert halls in London, Bruges, Baden-Baden and Amsterdam. But before that, home audiences will get the chance to hear his Requiem, Clarinet Concerto in A major and The Magic Flute, sung in English, at Müpa on 4, 6 & 8 May.