the traveler's resource guide to festivals & films
a site
part of Insider Media llc.

Connect with us:

An Evening of Choir & Music with the Budapest Festival Orchestra

Photo by Jennifer Taylor
A superb season at Carnegie Hall continued magnificently with two concerts on consecutive evenings—beginning on Friday, April 5th—given by the superlative musicians of the Budapest Festival Orchestra—one of the finest contemporary ensembles—under the brilliant direction of Iván Fischer, one of the greatest working conductors.
The first program, devoted to music by Béla Bartók, opened exhilaratingly with a mesmerizing account of the extraordinary Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin, one of three works the composer wrote for the stage. The conductor then announced that the next portion of the evening would pay tribute to Bartók’s contributions to music education, involving pieces that he composed for students to play. He invited a high school group from eastern Hungary, the exquisite Cantemus Choir, with the lovely girls in traditional dress, to perform a cappella selections from Twenty-Seven Two- and Three-Part Choruses, directed by Dénes Szabó. After this, Fischer led the orchestra—“pretending” to be a high school ensemble—in support of the singers in the five choruses for which Bartók later provided accompaniment in 1937, as well as the two arrangements for small orchestra he completed in 1942. It was especially exciting to have a chance to hear this glorious music live given that it presents a less familiar dimension of the composer’s repertoire—here traditional folk music is expressed in an idiom influenced by Italian Renaissance polyphony.
The second half of the program featured a thrilling rendition of the late masterpiece, the Concerto for Orchestra, in probably the best version I have yet heard in the concert hall. The first movement was effectively unsettling while the second was abundant in wit, and the Elegia was haunted if enigmatic. The ingenious Intermezzo was thoroughly bewitching while the delirious finale was notable for its unusually accelerated tempo. An ovation of unbridled enthusiasm was rewarded with an enjoyable encore, a traditional folk tune called “Banchida”, a forecast of the following evening’s concert, the first half of which was devoted to Bartók’s ethnomusicological inspirations.
That program opened with three instrumentalists—István Kádár on violin, András Szabó on viola, and Zsolt Fejérvári on bass—performing the music that served as the basis for Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances in a form that may have been similar to how the composer originally encountered it. The entire ensemble then enchantingly played Bartók’s beautifully scored version.
The same trio as before then accompanied the celebrated Hungarian folksinger Márta Sebestyén as she performed the songs that the composer orchestrated for his gorgeous Hungarian Peasant Songs, which the whole ensemble then executed ravishingly. Fischer and the programmers are again to be applauded for affording us the opportunity to appreciate these works in a live presentation, as they are seldom heard in the concert hall. Sebestyén then returned to the stage to perform an encore, supported by the trio of instrumentalists.
The concert concluded arrestingly with a powerful realization of Bartók’s mysterious operatic masterwork, Bluebeard’s Castle, featuring two outstanding singers: mezzo-soprano Ildikó Komlósi and basso Krisztián Cser. I look forward to the next local appearance of these marvelous artists.

Newsletter Sign Up

Upcoming Events

No Calendar Events Found or Calendar not set to Public.