Archive | December, 2016

The Budapest National Phil Orchestra Visits Bydgoszcz

4 Dec

Bartok was probably the most radical Hungarian composer of his generation, and both he and Kodaly  had much in common in that they collected Hungarian folk tunes and incorporated them into their work.

A world-class orchestra came to the Philharmonia hall in Bydgoszcz on 27th November. The theme of the visit was its commemoration of the 1956 Hungarian uprising, which was stopped when the Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest and crushed resistance to  totalitarian rule. Now things are rather different, but every great  orchestra should have a distinctive sound, even in this globalised world, and our Hungarian visitors were no exception.

Imagine the notes and harmonies of an orchestral piece served up as a very hot Hungarian goulash with mounds of paprika, syncopated but unifying dance rhythms and you come close to how Kodaly’s Dances of Galanta was interpreted by this astonishing band. The musicians brought off this tremendous piece with real Hungarian bravado, fiery and fast and superbly played under the baton of Gergely Vajda. The maestro had replaced Zoltan Kocsis, the great conductor and pianist who sadly recently died.

The second work, Liszt’s Piano Concerto no. 1, was also Hungarian in flavour as well as in its composer, and I’m sure Mr. Kocsis had performed it himself many times. Its sudden shifts in mood make it  a mercurial piece, but absolutely in keeping with the late romantic idiom.  This time, the pianist was David Ball (there’s an accent on both ‘A’s in his name) who performed the piece with style and feeling,  before he played a meditative piece in memory of his colleague Kocsis as an encore.

By the interval, the buzz in the audience was considerable and the final piece, one of Bartok’s masterpieces, the Concerto for Orchestra, was as eagerly anticipated as a fresh Tokaji by a lover of dessert wines. Bartok is not by any stretch an easy composer, but the Concerto for Orchestra is one of his most accessible pieces, though no easier to play than any of his other works. The audience gave the orchestra a deserved standing ovation. In response, the orchestra gave two encores, both of which were the ever popular Brahms Hungarian Dances,  to round off a memorable evening of music-making.