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Fireworks of European Union

State Opera House
03/16/2004 -  to 4st April 2004
The Budapest Spring Festival

One month before EU accession, Hungary has been greeting its entry to Europe with many events and performances. The yearly Budapest Spring Festival has lived up to its tradition in bringing an incredible choice to its international and home audience.

This series of performances is mainly a “classical” music festival but the variety of events that it sponsors makes it certainly one of the most colourful festivals in Europe and the world. The range goes from concerts performed by home ensembles like the Budapest Festival Orchestra, the National Philharmonic to the Bartok Quartet and the highly acclaimed Amadinda percussion ensemble. Internationally known Hungarian names such as Eva Marton, Andras Schiff and Péter Eötvös have also enriched this 2004 edition. From around Europe we could hear, among others, the Clemencic Consort and the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra conducted by Maestro Abbado.

We should not forget of course opera, ballet theatre and visual arts which are also part of this multicoloured feast or to some it up: a festival of Art in all its forms. A main event is the Giacometti exhibition opened at the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts with more than 80 works by the Swiss artist.

There were also events that reached far beyond “classical" music like the Hungarian Táncház Festival, which is a typically Hungarian folkdance festival, with food and wine, and a Hungarian folk crafts fair.

Back to the musical stage, one of the highlights of this edition was the presence of the highly acclaimed composer Péter Eötvös who just got a life achievement prize with Zoltan Kocsis in Cannes. He conducted the Netherlands Radio Orchestra performing some of his works like “Triangle and Replica”.

The taste of Europe started with the International Bachakademie Stuttgart performing Bach’s the St Matthew’s Passion. Helmuth Rilling conducted this remarkably well trained and this authentically “Bachian” ensemble.

The production of Verdi’s Requiem was conducted Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos was conducting the Filharmonica Arturo Toscanini. This was more than a concert, it was an unusual production created by Pierluigi Pier’alli. The audience could see a large screen illustrating the Requiem with computer animation. Behind this screen one could see the choir. This staging was not too distracting and would let us enjoy the music as well. A young new soloist sung the soprano role, Szilvia Rálik, though she is at the beginning of her carer she gave a good interpretation of this highly demanding requiem.

Another treat was I Fagiolini’s performance. This vocal ensemble, that was founded at Oxford University, not only excels in the art of singing but also of performing. They gave us a very lively production of Orazio Vecchi’s l’Amfiparnaso madrigal comedy in the tradition of commedia dell’arte.

The Festival Orchestra Salzburg proved us that since Sándor Vegh the late director of the Camereta, Hungarian artistic influence is still present in Salzburg. The orchestra was founded by Tibor Bényi who could not conduct that night (27th March). The soloist, the internationally known clarinettist Kálmán Berkes, replaced him. A very enjoyable Mozart programme (Divertimenti D major and F major, Clarinet Concerto in A major, and Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major) gave us the impression of a very professional ensemble, playing with transparency and virtuosity.

In other words there is no excuse to miss coming to Budapest in March because this festival will be, from next year on, one of the cultural fireworks of European Union.

Zoltan Becsi



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