A great review for a recent concert by the Budapest Festival Orchestra and guest soloist, Sir András Schiff.
Since its inception just over three decades ago under the guiding hand of Iván Fischer, the Budapest Festival Orchestra has been the stuff of legends, rising meteorically to be counted amongst the top orchestras to grace major stages, and the pride of this youngish ensemble is palpable. Absent is the feeling of musicians who are punching the clock, putting in their hours at just another day at the office which permeates performances – at least from time to time – of many established European orchestras. These musicians are attentive and engaged in their music, both physically and mentally. Already in the opening number, Schumann’s Manfred Overture, they offered the lush generosity of tone, dynamic breadth and energetic vigor which would please any conductor and audience.
Sir András Schiff joined the ensemble to perform Johannes Brahms‘ First Piano Concerto, a work almost as entangled and complex as Schiff’s own relationship with his homeland. Much has already been made of Schiff’s open proclamation not to return or play in Hungary due to the reaction after he spoke out against the anti-Semitic turn he perceived the country having taken politically in 2011, so this meeting in Vienna of these Hungarian forces was undoubtedly a weighty thing. Schiff navigated the labyrinth of twists, turns and hemiolas of the lengthy Brahms work with his characteristic critical attention to sound, clarity of expression and sense of architectural shape, and was called to the stage repeatedly by the enthusiastic applause of an appreciative audience, which actually would have left completely satisfied already after the first half.