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Budapest Festival Orchestra Among Top 10 Orchestras in the World According to BBC

Balázs Frei 2020.10.14.

BBC Music Magazine has chosen Budapest Festival Orchestra as one of the top ten orchestras in the world. 

The foremost Hungarian ensemble is among such illustrious company as the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the London Symphony Orchestra.

According to the BBC, and indeed much of the musical world, the Budapest Festival Orchestra has become one of Europe’s most important ensembles under its director of music, Iván Fischer. Fischer co-founded the orchestra almost 40 years ago with Zoltán Kocsis, arguably one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century – but certainly of the last few decades until his illness and eventual death four years ago. Fischer rose to prominence through his conducting of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, and apart from leading the ensemble, is currently also the music director of Berlin’s Konzerthaus.

Since its founding, the orchestra has become renowned for its stunning surround-sound recordings of Mahler. Fischer is a dynamic leader who refuses to play by the book – which is why he gets the results he does, the BBC writes.

Some in the ensemble specialize in period instruments, some in contemporary music, while others in folk music. Break-out groups organized on this basis give the players musical freedom that they can channel back into the main ensemble. Fischer regularly invites members of the orchestra to concerts of program music, and has them compete with each other for concerto slots. The musicians seem to respond well to this, as evidenced by the orchestra’s warm yet sharp playing.

The Festival Orchestra can be seen and heard performing Mozart, Weber, and Haydn live in Budapest today and tomorrow at the Academy of Music (Zeneakadémia), this time with conductor Gábor Takács-Nagy, with Gordon Fantini on the bassoon. After this, the orchestra will be touring around Europe with Fischer himself at the helm.

Featured photo illustration by Budapesti Festival Orchestra’s Facebook page