About us / Contact

The Classical Music Network

New York

Europe : Paris, Londn, Zurich, Geneva, Strasbourg, Bruxelles, Gent
America : New York, San Francisco, Montreal                       WORLD

Your email :



A Piece of Cake, a Glass of Wine and a Trip to Old Budapest!

New York
Isaac Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall
01/24/2009 -  
Traditional: Gypsy Folk Music
Franz Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 3 in D Major
Johannes Brahms: Hungarian Dances No. 15 in B-Flat Major, No. 1 in G Minor & No. 11 in D Minor – Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68
Pablo De Sarasate: Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20

Jόzsef Csόcsi Lendvai Sr., Jόzsef Lendvay Jr. (Violin), Oszkár Őkrős (Cimbalom)
Budapest Festival Orchestra, Iván Fischer (Music Director and Conductor)

Iván Fischer (© Budapest Festival Orchestra)

The irrepressible Iván Fischer, music director and conductor of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, should add another title to his job description – gracious host. For that is what he was on Saturday evening at Carnegie Hall when, just before the concert began, he invited the sold-out audience to imagine that we were in a Hungarian restaurant drinking a glass of wine. My mind wandered back to where it had been for days, as I’d looked forward to this concert with anticipation and nostalgia.

I was back in Budapest in the legendary Café New York, an architectural extravaganza, filled with mirrors, balconies, and alcoves. It was a famous meeting place for writers and artists. After the communist take-over in Hungary, it was renamed Café Hungaria : That was what it was called when I saw it for the first time – a fin de sičcle daydream in a sea of proletarian gray. I remember that visit as if it were yesterday. I struggled to speak student-level German; no one seemed to know any English. But everyone I met was so warm and friendly, and, especially when there was music playing, I could feel a joie de vivre that even communism could not stifle. On my way back to London, I stopped off in West Berlin, where I heard Kalman’s lovely operetta, Gräfin Mariza, a celebration of Hungarian gypsy music, at the Theater des Westens.

Now, Budapest had come to one of my favorite places in New York, the beautiful main auditorium of Carnegie Hall, with its own magnificent architecture, soft golden light, and plush red velvet seats. Maestro Fischer is a distinguished conductor. He works regularly with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Concertgebouw, and the Cleveland Orchestra. He is also famous as an innovator and popularizer, using various strategies to lure new audiences to classical music. Thus, it was no surprise to hear him announce his goals for the evening: His musicians wanted to demonstrate the debt owed by Liszt, Brahms, and Sarasate to the indigenous gypsy musical tradition of Hungary. And so they did.

First up was a selection of gypsy music performed with marvelous zest and improvisatory wizardry by violinist Jόzsef Lendvai, Sr. and cimbalom player, Oszkár Őkrős. (The cimbalom is a Hungarian instrument made of wood and strings that is played like a xylophone with wooden mallets.) Traditionally, gypsies do not read music, Fischer told us. They listen, they feel, and they play.

Liszt was next. He loved the creativity, virtuosity, and imagination of the gypsy style, said Fischer, and he incorporated it, and even some of their melodies, into his compositions. The orchestra played the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 3 with enthusiasm, energy, and sensitive dynamic and textural contrasts. But they performed it with a twist. Fischer stopped them so that we could hear a solo violin play the original gypsy tune that Liszt had used as his inspiration. His debt could not have been clearer.

Then came Brahms, who visited the country in the company of a Hungarian friend, violinist Ede Reményi. There he listened to and grew to love the gypsy bands. Brahms produced twenty-one Hungarian Dances, some of which he wrote, such as the next selection on the program, Hungarian Dance No. 15, with its broad, lyrical melodies. Then we heard his Hungarian Dance No. 1, a traditional gypsy melody which Brahms had merely arranged.

One of the highlights of the evening was the Zigeunerweise, the virtuoso violin work by Pablo De Sarasate, played by Jόzsef Lendvay Jr., a trained classical violinist and the son of Jόzsef Lendvai, the violinist who had performed earlier in the evening. He delivered a technically brilliant and soulful performance .The last piece before the intermission was Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 1, specially arranged for two violins and played by the father and his son. The piece was deeply affecting as was the kiss by the son at the end.

The second half of the program featured one work, Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in D Minor. The orchestra under Maestro Fischer’s direction, delivered a beautifully textured performance with an especially impressive and majestic fourth movement.

In response to a prolonged ovation, there were two encores, the most memorable, a jam session featuring the father and son violin duo, two other violins, a bass, and the cimbalom. The audience was on its feet clapping and cheering. By then, the musicians had given their all, so Fischer waved goodbye and we all went home, buoyed by the sheer joy of the evening and the knowledge that this was just the first event in the Extremely Hungary Festival of art and culture, which includes two weeks of concerts at Carnegie Hall and events at other venues in the city.

Site of the Extremely Hungary Festival

Arlene Judith Klotzko



Copyright ©ConcertoNet.com