Budapest Festival Orchestra
Budapest Festival Orchestra
Iván Fischer, Music Director and Conductor
Márta Sebestyén, Vocalist
Ildikó Komlósi, Mezzo-Soprano
Krisztián Cser, Bass
BARTÓK Romanian Folk Dances
TRAD. Hungarian Peasant Songs
·· "The ballad of Borbála Angoli"
·· "Fade, my rose"
·· "Come this way, come my way"
·· "I went up the plum tree"
·· "Little girl from Komárom"
·· "The cricket in the green woods"
·· "By the Danube there is a mill"
·· "The girls of Izsap have all together"
BARTÓK Hungarian Peasant Songs
BARTÓK Bluebeard's Castle
Event DurationThe printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.
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At a Glance
Bluebeard’s Castle was—at least in Bartók’s lifetime—something of a rarity on stage, but since his death in New York in 1945, the opera has been regarded as one of the most psychologically acute works of the 20th century. It is based on Béla Balázs’s vivid response to Maurice Maeterlinck’s version of the original fairy tale written by Charles Perrault. When seen for the first time in 1918, the opera revealed the sheer breadth and depth of Bartók’s musical style. In addition to reflecting his innate understanding of the equally dark stage works of Richard Strauss (such as Salome and Elektra) and Debussy’s own Maeterlinck-inspired opera Pelléas et Mélisande, Bluebeard’s Castle underlined the profound impact of Hungarian folk music on Bartók. Just as Balázs drew his inspiration from the poetry of Hungary’s past, so Bartók incorporated the rhythms and harmonies of native peasant music into his own highly complex idiom.
On the first half of tonight’s concert, we encounter that material first hand, as sung by Hungarian folk singer Márta Sebestyén. From 1905 onwards, Bartók and his fellow student at the Music Academy in Budapest, Zoltán Kodály, “went into the country and obtained direct knowledge of a music that opened up new ways to us.” Their collecting trips proved both musically and sociologically interesting, documenting traditions and ways of life that would become scarcer as the 20th century unfolded. Although World War I curtailed Bartók’s project, his love of folk material continued, and he spent 1914 and 1915 arranging various songs and dances; he returned to them in the 1930s to write his orchestral version of the Hungarian Peasant Songs.
Budapest Festival Orchestra
When Iván Fischer founded the Budapest Festival Orchestra together with Zoltán Kocsis 35 years ago, he made a personal dream come true. The core of the orchestra’s philosophy is the total absence of daily routine: It is about taking the risk, initiative, and freedom to do things differently. Every concert is a joyful discovery of uncharted territory—a journey to new horizons in music, unexpected and surprising as if it were being played for the very first time. The orchestra is driven by an openness to the new and unknown, curiosity, and attention to detail. It is this innovative approach to music, and the musicians’ dedication and commitment to excellence, that has made the BFO the youngest of the world’s top-ranked orchestras.
The orchestra’s outstanding performances, inventiveness, and distinct ensemble tone have led to numerous accolades. It has won two Gramophone Awards and been nominated for a Grammy Award. Besides performing at the world’s most important venues, the orchestra’s driving mission is to serve its home audience in more than 70 concerts. The BFO makes ever more frequent appearances at alternative venues—in nursing homes, abandoned synagogues, hospitals, child-care institutions, prisons, and schools—where it can create an intimate connection with the audience.
The BFO’s innovative series include Dancing on the Square—one of the orchestra’s priority projects—which is as much about communal creativity, inclusion, tolerance, and equal opportunities as it is about music and dance. The Cocoa Concerts are another major initiative, providing a safe environment for children living with autism and their families. Through community and music education programs, the BFO strives to bring the beauty of classical music to every age group and stratum of society. It connects people, helping to build and strengthen communities through the power of music.
Iván Fischer is the founder and music director of the Budapest Festival Orchestra (BFO), as well as honorary conductor of the Konzerthausorchester Berlin. In recent years, he has also gained a reputation as a composer, with his works being performed in the United States, the Netherlands, Belgium, Hungary, Germany, and Austria. He has also directed a number of successful opera productions.
The BFO’s frequent worldwide tours and a series of critically acclaimed and fast-selling records (released first by Philips Classics and later by Channel Classics) have contributed to Mr. Fischer’s reputation as one of the world’s most high-profile music directors. The Berliner Philharmoniker has played under Mr. Fischer’s baton more than 10 times, and he spends two weeks of every year with Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. He is also a frequent guest of leading US symphony orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and The Cleveland Orchestra. As a music director, he has led Kent Opera and Opéra National de Lyon. He was principal conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC. Many of his recordings have been awarded prestigious international prizes.
Mr. Fischer studied piano, violin, cello, and composition in Budapest before continuing his education in Vienna, where he studied conducting under Hans Swarowsky. He is a founder of the Hungarian Gustav Mahler Society and patron of the British Kodály Academy, as well as an honorary citizen of Budapest. He has received the Golden Medal Award from the President of the Republic of Hungary, and the Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum for his services in promoting international cultural relations. The government of the French Republic named him a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 2006, he was honored with the Kossuth Prize, Hungary’s most prestigious arts award. In 2011, he received a Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award, Hungary’s Prima Primissima Prize, and the Dutch Ovatie Prize. Two years later, he was made an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music in London. In 2015, he was presented with the Abu Dhabi Festival Award for lifetime achievement, and in 2016, he won the Association of Music Critics of Argentina’s award for Best Foreign Conductor.
Márta Sebestyén has been captivated by music since childhood, not least because her mother was once a student of Zoltán Kodály. She was especially taken by folk songs, and her talents as a folk singer were obvious from a young age.
Ms. Sebestyén is one of the few Hungarian performers who give an unadulterated, traditional representation of Hungarian culture both at home and around the world. She makes the almost-forgotten folk song tradition, as recorded by Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály, come alive at her concerts. She is truly a cultural ambassador, singing Hungarian folk songs for the Emperor of Japan, the King of Spain, and the Queen of England.
Ms. Sebestyén has received every major award for a performing artist in Hungary, including Singer of the Year (1984), the Franz Liszt Prize (1991), Kossuth Prize (1999), Prima Primissima Prize (2003), and Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary (2005). She sang in the Academy Award–winning film The English Patient and on Deep Forest’s Grammy-winning world music album Boheme.
Ms. Sebestyén has been named a UNESCO Artist for Peace. She is a member of the Hungarian Academy of Arts.
Mezzo-soprano Ildikó Komlósi graduated from the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, and continued her studies at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama and La Scala in Milan. She won the Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition in 1986 and made her US debut alongside the world-famous tenor, conducted by Lorin Maazel. After winning a series of competitions, she found success in Vienna, Frankfurt, and Milan. She is sought after by the most prestigious opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, London’s Royal Opera House, and Deutsche Oper Berlin.
Recent successes include her performance as Amneris in Aida, opening La Scala’s 2006 season in a production directed by Franco Zeffirelli; she performed the same role at the Royal Opera House, directed by Robert Wilson and conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano. For 15 years, she has been a regular guest at the Verona Arena, where she has performed the title role in Carmen, Amneris (Aida), Santuzza (Cavalleria rusticana), and Laura (La Gioconda) to great acclaim. In 2015 and 2016, she opened the Verona Arena’s festival season with Aida. In 2017, she performed with such conductors as Iván Fisher, Charles Dutoit, and Vladimir Jurowski, and was invited to Berlin, Budapest,
St. Petersburg, and other cities to perform her repertoire of Verdi, Mascagni, and Richard Strauss. In 2018, she traveled to Bilbao and Tenerife for performances of Salome and Don Carlos, Berlin for Cavalleria rusticana, and London for Oedipe, as well as to Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Daegu for concert appearances.
One of her favorite roles is Bartók’s Judith, which she has performed more than 175 times around the world. She celebrated her 150th performance of the role at La Scala in September 2015, opening the symphony season. In addition, she appears on the Decca recording of the work with bass László Polgár and conductor Iván Fischer.
Krisztián Cser was born in Szeged, Hungary, to a family of musicians. He graduated from the University of Szeged with a degree in physics; between 2002 and 2006, he studied singing at the university under István Andrejcsik. In 2008, he graduated from the opera program of the Franz Liszt Academy of Music.
Mr. Cser has sung under the batons of renowned conductors, including Pierre Cao, Peter Eötvös, Helmuth Rilling, Peter Schreier, Muhai Tang, Gábor Hollerung, Kirill Karabits, Zoltán Kocsis, Ádám Fischer, Iván Fischer, Zoltán Peskó, György Vashegyi, and Tamás Vásáry. He regularly performs in recital, and has been a finalist, special prize winner, and winner of several international singing competitions.
Mr. Cser made his opera debut in Italy in 2008. The same year, he received a scholarship from the Hungarian State Opera, where he later became a resident performer. Throughout his career, he has performed the title role of Bluebeard’s Castle in Hungary and major cities around Europe, as well as around the world, including the opera’s premiere in China. He is a frequent soloists with the Budapest Festival Orchestra, singing—in addition to Bluebeard—Sarastro in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte under the baton of Iván Fischer. In 2014, he received the Silver Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary.