We've got used to seeing Budapest in full natural and cultural bloom in the spring. The capital turns green, trees and flowers are blossoming, and the weather is finally nice. And there are plenty of great concerts, exhibitions, and theatre and dance performances to brighten up weekdays and celebrate weekends. For the third year running, the Bartók Spring International Arts Weeks will kick off on March 31st. World-renowned ensembles, unprecedented collaborations, award-winning music, and legendary artists in their own genres will welcome audiences for seventeen days. Check out the most anticipated events!
Bartók Spring is bringing buzzing cultural events to Budapest
In 2021, Müpa Budapest launched Bartók Spring. The aim was (and still is) to bring a diverse range of productions and performances inspired by Béla Bartók's legacy in the fields of classical and popular music, theatre, dance, literature, visual arts, and world music, often crossing the boundaries of genres with stunning works. This year, you can enjoy a cultural buzz in Budapest for over two weeks, and recharge your batteries with performances by world stars and cutting-edge local artists, hosted by exciting venues.
World-famous bands at the opening and closing concerts
The festival will open with an impressive programme featuring one of Central Europe's best-known symphony orchestras, the Czech Philharmonic and their conductor Semyon Bychkov. In addition to two of the most important compositions of 20th-century ballet literature, the latest piano work by world-renowned organist Thierry Escaich will be performed by young pianist Seong-Jin Cho, just two weeks after its world premiere in Prague.
For the second year running, the Philharmonia Orchestra, London's distinguished ensemble, has been led by one of the world's most innovative conductors, the young Finnish maestro Santtu-Matias Rouvali. The programme for the closing concert is specially tailored to the festival audience, with works by iconic composers from Finland and Hungary, Sibelius and Bartók, alongside Beethoven. Kristóf Baráti, one of Hungary's most prominent violinists, will perform as a soloist.
Next in line: Classical pieces
Two days after its debut in Germany, Klangforum Wien, led by Péter Eötvös, will be paying tribute to György Ligeti. In the meantime, Gábor Hollerung and the Budafok Dohnanyi Orchestra will also be embarking on a major project in the form of a concert entitled The Sceptical Spirit, which will tackle existential questions in the context of the 10th Theatre Olympics.
The Swiss ensemble Gabetta Consort, a committed and authentic representative of the Baroque musical tradition, comes to Budapest with one of the most promising classical singers of our time, Benjamin Appl. His velvety baritone is the perfect choice for a programme of mainly Bach compositions.
Classical music lovers will have other delights to look forward to: Dénes Várjon will continue his highly successful concert series (details here and here), which began last year and will perform all of Bartók's works for piano and orchestra with Concerto Budapest.
Bartók Spring is not only for adults
Younger ones will also be in for a treat, with Dániel Csengery's children's opera Frau Holle, an adaptation of the classic Grimm's tale. The composer, who is also known for his film scores, has set himself a goal no less ambitious than to win over young people who may still be averse to the genre.
Benjamin Eredics's lively dance music also appeals to younger audiences, while his performance of Castles, Warriors, Frontiers is inspired by the story of The Testament of the Aga of Koppány. The complete musical material of the piece is enriched with modern elements but based on folk music. It will be performed in the Grand Hall of the Liszt Academy in the vision of Miklós Vecsei H., with the participation of the Liszt Academy Symphony Orchestra and the expert narration of Géza Hegedűs D.
The Hungarian ambassador of early music, György Vashegyi, the Orfeo Orchestra, and the Purcell Choir will bring a real curiosity to the Ceremonial Hall of Pesti Vigadó. Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel's Passion has lain unperformed for nearly three centuries, but thanks to Levente Gyöngyösi's dedicated work, among others, the audience will finally be able to hear this unjustly neglected masterpiece on Good Friday.
One of the mainstays of the new wave of folk music, the Muzsikás band, a pioneer of the Táncház movement (lit. “dance house”, a folk dance event aimed to revive Hungarian folk music and dance traditions), will celebrate its 50th jubilee at Bartók Spring, thanks to whom the world has been able to experience the beauty of Hungarian folk music for the past five decades.
In Alma (Soul), one of the greatest flamenco dancers of all time Sara Baras and her company return to the roots of the genre. But you might also want to see the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble's Easter production, His Cross Blossomed, which debuted last year to great acclaim, bringing the finest festive music and dance traditions to life on the stage of Müpa Budapest's concert hall.
Indie rock and world music
Fans of popular music are in for a long-awaited concert: for the first time in decades, the alternative indie rock band EELS, led by multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Mark Oliver Everett, will perform in Budapest. The Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice is also eagerly anticipated as part of his European tour. And the exceptional modern jazz musician and Swiss pianist-composer Nik Bärtsch is joining Hungarian musicians for a concert reflecting Bartók's œuvre.
This year, the region's leading world music festival, the inevitable Budapest Ritmo, will take us on a musical expedition from Europe to Africa, from Iceland to Cuba, and from the Balkans to Cyprus. Mazaher, an Egyptian group playing traditional zār music, will set the spiritual mood at the opening concert, but Emilíana Torrini and Fanfara Station will also entertain, while Monsieur Doumani will be performing with Óperentzia. In addition to the concerts, the four-day festival will feature documentaries in the Toldi cinema and free showcase concerts in Szimpla Kert. The weekend will be all about unbridled rhythms, as performers at the Akvárium Klub and Erzsébet Square are sure to challenge us out of our musical comfort zones.
Most Wanted Exhibitions
A new exhibition at the Ludwig Museum offers a very unique take on one of the greatest catastrophes of Western culture, the Shoah, through the radical Holocaust project of American Boris Lurie and German Wolf Vostell. Two other exhibitions opening during the festival will shine the spotlight on outstanding Hungarian painters of whom we can be justly proud: the temporary exhibition of nearly 200 works by Lajos Gulácsy at the Hungarian National Gallery and the work of Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka, born 170 years ago, at the Museum of Fine Arts.
For more details and information on the Bartók Spring programme, visit the official website of the festival.