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László Lajtha, one of the most significant Hungarian musicians of the 20th century was born 120 years ago, in 1892. His immensely rich oeuvre – which includes composition and folk musicology, education and liturgical music – compares with those of Bartók and Kodály.
His culture, artistic conviction, faith, national commitment and steadfast humanism prevented him from making unacceptable compromises—for which he paid the considerable price of becoming completely isolated in the 1950s. Individual in tone and original in style, his music became a synthesis of European traditions and Hungarian folk culture, with a harmony and Latin serenity that recalled, and was a reminder of, a golden age even in the most unpromising of times, and was thus preparing, itself and its audience, for a new golden age. We will pay a tribute to Lajtha with the opening concert of the Festival, where Balázs Kocsár will conduct the Hungarian Radio Symphonic Orchestra in a performance of the suite version of Lajtha’s film score of a distinctive mood. Cinema aficionados will also be delighted by extracts from the original, remarkable film, the 1936 Hortobágy. Further, each the Erdődy Chamber Orchesrta and the Zugló Philharmonia – King Stephen Symphony Orchestra and Choir will honour the anniversary with a composition by Lajtha.For many years now, the Budapest Spring Festival has had the reputation of being a celebration of art and culture, a tradition we are keen to continue by presenting legendary artists and world stars. Many are happy to see the return of MaximVengerov, a genius of the violin, to the concert stage. Together with the brilliant Turkish violist, Özcan Ulucan, he will now perform a programme that includes two wonderful double concertos by Bach and Mozart.With Mikhail Pletnev on the conductor’s podium and Nikolai Lugansky at the piano, the Russian National Orchestra will play two pieces from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, by those twin-stars of Russian music, Rachmaninoff and Scriabin. Legendary masters of the Italian Baroque, the I Musici di Roma return to Budapest with a programme of Vivaldi concertos. As a special treat, the solos in Vivaldi’s evergreen violin concertos, The FourSeasons, will be played by the young French flutist, Magali Mosnier.
World-famous flamenco dancer Israel Galván will open the dance programmes of the Festival with his Golden Age, which was voted dance production of the year in 2005. There is even a symphonic event that will appeal to lovers of the ballet: timed to celebrate Béla Bartók’s birthday, the concert of the Hungarian National Philharmonic will present not only the music of The Wooden Prince, but Tamás Juronics’s new choreography for the piece as well, performed by the Szeged Contemporary Dance Company. The programme also includes Orpheus, a ballet by Stravinsky seldom played in Hungary. When this evening comes, conductor Zoltán Kocsis will have already appeared on our special Percussion Day in his pianist capacity, performing Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, with Ingrid Fliter and the Amadinda Percussion Group. At the same concert, Kocsis’s “heirs apparent,” four young Hungarian pianists, will pitch in a performance of Stravinsky’s The Wedding.
Other members of the new generation of pianists will delight us at solo concerts. The Romanian Mihaela Ursuleasa is admired for both an enchanting personality and exceptional technical skills. János Balázs was the Hungarian award-winner of the bicentennial International Franz Liszt Piano Competition.
Händel’s musical drama, Hercules had its world premiere more than 250 years ago—but this will be the first time it has been presented in a Hungarian theatre. We owe the discovery, as that of so many lesser known Händel compositions in recent years, to György Vashegyi and his ensembles, the Orfeo Orchestra and the Purcell Choir. The production is directed by Csaba Káel.
World star John Malkovich brings the tale of a serial killer, spiced up with arias and orchestral interludes. Premiered in Vienna in 2009, Infernal Comedy – Confessions of a Serial Killer has toured the concert halls and festivals of Europe and South America with great success, before chilling the Budapest audience.
The enthusiasts of jazz and lighter genres will not be let down either. Directed by Réka Pelsőczy, the production called Música, Musique, Musik evokes the musical cafés of European cities in the 1920 and 1930s, with songs performed by the actors of Katona József Theatre. Giants of modern jazz will soothe the soul at the concert of Gary Burton and Chick Corea, while another legend, Béla Szakcsi Lakatos will present a project that melds jazz with world music.
Finally, make sure you husband your energies carefully, because we end the Festival with a bang. One of the best ensembles of Britain, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will be conducted by Charles Dutoit, and will feature a Hungarian world star on the violin,KristófBaráti.