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.