‘Hungarian folk culture is one of the greatest treasures of Europe,’ avers Iván Fischer, and this night he conducts the Budapest Festival Orchestra in a sequence of reimagined and transfigured dances and rhapsodies from the region.
Both Liszt and Brahms developed a deep love for the music of the Gypsy bands that emanated from the eastmost regions of the Habsburg Empire. In creating concert hall versions of these Magyar melodies, the two composers combined the instinctive improvisatory freedom of the folk tunes with the discipline of their own art-music training. Spanish violinist-composer Sarasate, too, set off virtuoso fireworks in his adoption and arrangement of Hungarian hit melodies. The second half of this concert shows the other side of Brahms.
His First Symphony was often derided as ‘Beethoven’s 10th’ but in it Brahms created a new template for the late 19th‑century symphony to carry forwards the Beethovenian legacy – a work on the grandest scale in which darkness and drama ultimately give way to a triumphant conclusion.