This year's Budapest Spring fest serves up lashings of Liszt

2011.02.24. 13:17


Unsurprisingly, Ferenc Liszt, whose 200th birth anniversary is being celebrated this year, will feature heavily at the Budapest Spring Festival, which gets into full swing on March 18 with 97 performances over 17 days.

But for punters who want a little respite from the Romantic master, a good excuse to listen to the works of another great Hungarian pianist and composer is also presented. On March 25 the 130th anniversary of Bela Bartok's birth is being marked by a concert of his First Orchestral Suite given by the National Philharmonic Orchestra, Zsofia Zimanyi, the artistic director or the Budapest Festival Centre, told a news conference on Tuesday.

Liszt was not only a dazzling pianist and composer but a central figure in the courts of 19th century Europe. Evidence from his correspondence with various luminaries even suggests that he was not adverse to a bit of spying. He was valued for his political skills and tidbits of gossip from the Vatican and the royal salons of Paris and Vienna, as well as being famous for more anguished periods. Aspects of Liszt's life beyond the keyboard and writing desk will also be showcased at the festival.

Anew opera, for example, by Gyula Fekete is a working of an especially intense and tormented period in Liszt's life. Commissioned by the Festival, it will be premiered on the opening day in the Thalia Theatre. The Budapest Festival Orchestra and Ewa Kupiec will give a rendition of one of the most virtuoso piano pieces in the repertoire, Liszt's A major concerto, while the Csokonai Theatre of Debrecen will perform scenes from the Christ Oratorio in the Palace of Fine Arts (MUPA). An exhibition "Liszt and Budapest" will be held in the Liszt Memorial Museum, while the Kogart House will hold chamber music evenings, one of which places a new song cycle by Emil Petrovics next to Liszt songs performed by Eva Batori. Among the stars performing at the festival, which coincides with Hungary's six-month EU presidency, will be Belgium-based cellist Mischa Maisky playing with the Prague Chamber Orchestra, and Adam Fischer will conduct the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. The European Union Youth Orchestra will return to play at the Spring Festival. Non-Liszt acts include the Palast Orchester playing music of the popular film composer of the 1920s Max Raabe, and among dance ensembles appearing will be the legendary Antonio Gades Company with its cult rendition of Carmen, at the Thalia.

As part of the International Theatre Festival, which was launched as part of the Budapest Spring Festival two years ago, will be a performance of Macbeth by London-based Cheek by Jowl, and audiences will get a chance to see Ferenc Molnar's Liliom in a production by Schauspielhaus Graz directed by Viktor Bodo. Bergman's Persona will be set for the stage by Slovenia's Mini Theatre, among other productions. The experimental Fringe Festival returns to Budapest after a year in the venue of Pecs, which held the title of European City of Culture in 2010.

This year's festival is Zimanyi's swansong after fifteen years organising the event, which has grown in international stature over the years. She noted that between 1997 and 2011, altogether one hundred premieres were performed and 112 works by Hungarians had an airing.