NOSPR concert hall
Béla Bartók

Wooden Prince

Miraculous Mandarin

Iván Fischer
Budapest Festival Orchestra
Krisztián Gergye
stage director
Krisztián Gergye Company

Bartók’s legacy includes two ballets: The Wooden Prince (1914-1917) and The Miraculous Mandarin (1918-1919, orch. 1922-1923). Both reveal the composer’s fascination with the powers of Nature and both remind the listener that human independence from these powers is merely a long-standing illusion of the modern world.

In the Wooden Prince, based on folk motifs, the Fairy (Nature’s guardian) tries to prevent the Prince and Princess from falling in love. In The Miraculous Mandarin, the title character impersonates the power of desire, which is irrepressible even by repeatedly inflicted death (the Cologne premiere of the ballet ended in a scandal comparable only to that after the Paris performance of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring). Both scores explore mental capacities – irrational and inhuman – through the language of music, whose sophistication has earned them a prominent place in the music of the 20th century. With their asceticism and “primitivism,” they become as hot as lava at climactic points. And thanks to the Bartokian narrative genius, after almost one hundred years, those parables of love and loneliness do not cease to draw us with their irresistible power. [Marcin Trzęsiok]

© Marco Borggreve
© Marco Borggreve

Iván Fischeris the founder and Music Director of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, as well as the Music Director of the Konzerthaus and Konzerthausorchester Berlin. In recent years he has also gained a reputation as a composer, with his works being performed in the United States, the Netherlands, Belgium, Hungary, Germany and Austria. What is more, he has directed a number of successful opera productions.

The BFO’s frequent worldwide tours and a series of critically acclaimed and fast selling records, released first by Philips Classics and later by Channel Classics, have contributed to Iván Fischer’s reputation as one of the world’s most high-profile music directors.

Fischer has guest-conducted the Berlin Philharmonic more than ten times; every year he spends two weeks with Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; and as a conductor, he is also a frequent guest of the leading US symphonic orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and the Cleveland Orchestra. As Music Director, he has led the Kent Opera and the Opéra National de Lyon, and was Principal Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington DC. Many of his recordings have been awarded prestigious international prizes. He studied piano, violin, and later the cello and composition in Budapest, before continuing his education in Vienna where he studied Conducting under Hans Swarowsky.

Iván Fischer is a founder of the Hungarian Mahler Society and Patron of the British Kodály Academy. He has received the Golden Medal Award from the President of the Republic of Hungary, and the Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum for his services in promoting international cultural relations. The government of the French Republic made him Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 2006 he was honoured with the Kossuth Prize, Hungary’s most prestigious arts award. In 2011 he received the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award, Hungary’s Prima Primissima Prize and the Dutch Ovatie Prize. In 2013 he was accorded Honorary Membership to the Royal Academy of Music in London. In 2015 he was presented with the Abu Dhabi Festival Award.

Budapest Festival Orchestra

Budapest Festival Orchestrais one of the major success stories of the international music scene, being rated among the world’s top ten orchestras.

Its key figure is Music Director Iván Fischer who, alongside Zoltán Kocsis, was one of the Orchestra’s founding fathers. The BFO’s unique system works to encourage the artistic qualities of its musicians to blend together, forming an exquisitely homogenous orchestral sound. Both audience and critics alike acknowledge the quality in the ensemble’s captivating chamber music performances, as well as the all-pervasive dynamism with which it shares the joy of music-making with the audience.

Over the decades, the Festival Orchestra has presented the Hungarian audience with such stars as Sir Georg Solti – until his death he was the Principal Guest Conductor of the BFO, as well as great musicians such as Yehudi Menuhin, Pinchas Zukerman, Gidon Kremer, Radu Lupu, Sándor Végh, Sir András Schiff and Richard Goode. Iván Fischer also makes great efforts to invite young, internationally-acclaimed musicians and singers to perform for domestic audiences.

The orchestra is a regular guest at the world’s most important music venues and concert halls, including Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center in New York, Vienna’s Musikverein, the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and London’s Royal Albert Hall. They have repeatedly been invited to perform at international music events such as the Mostly Mozart Festival, the Salzburger Festspiele or the Edinburgh International Festival.

The orchestra’s famous Music Marathons and its own Bridging Europe Festival, focusing on the culture of a different nation every year, are organised in partnership with Müpa Budapest, one of the leading cultural institutions in Hungary. Opera performances, directed by Iván Fischer, are also staged as joint productions; following on from the highly-acclaimed renditions of Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro, they recently performed The Magic Flute.

Since 2014, the orchestra has been dedicating itself to Community Weeks of free concerts given in nursing homes, churches, abandoned synagogues and child-care institutions.

The orchestra regularly plays to young audiences, including Cocoa Concerts for the youngest and ’Choose Your Instrument’ programmes for primary school children. They hold frequent film competitions for secondary school students, while making efforts to reach out to young adults too – not least through the highly successful Midnight Music series.

Their innovative concerts include Dancing on the Square, one of the orchestra’s priority projects, which is as much about communal creativity, tolerance and equal opportunities as it is about music and dance. The Autism-friendly Cocoa Concerts are another of their major initiatives, providing a safe environment for children living with autism and their families alike.

Over the years, the BFO has received the highest accolades. In 2008, internationally-renowned music critics rated the orchestra the 9th best in the world, bettering such prestigious ensembles as the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In New York Magazine’s 2013 list of the city’s top classical music events, the BFO’s production of The Marriage of Figaro was voted the best of the year. The orchestra’s albums have twice won Gramophone Awards, while their rendition of Mahler’s first Symphony was nominated for a 2013 Grammy. In 2014, the recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 received wide acclaim, being awarded both the Diapason d’Or and Italy’s Toblacher Komponierhäuschen for Best Mahler Recording. The Association of Music Critics of Argentina awarded BFO as the best foreign symphonic orchestra in 2016.