Béla Bartók died on 26 September 1945, at New York's West Side Hospital. The night before the anniversary of this date is traditionally when the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra opens the Budapest concert season.
What is it that prompts many great instrumentalists, after decades of success as a soloist and without giving up that career, to also take up the conductor's baton? One presumes it is the need for completeness.
Is it a measure of the worth of a piece of music to be modern, or to have been considered so back in its own time? For a long time, popular opinion said it was indeed. In "better circles", it was normal to give preference to innovative composers and condemn those who were "behind the times". Nowadays we see things differently, looking primarily at the richness of the work's message, the quality of its artistic elaboration, and on its poetry and evocativeness.
The first piece in the concert is a true delicacy: Ferenc Farkas composed his rarely heard Philharmonic Overture for the 125th anniversary of the establishment of the Budapest Philharmonic. "Symphonic orchestral works make up a relatively tiny proportion of his singularly rich oeuvre, and even fewer are the number of large scale compositions employing a large number of musicians.
Leó Weiner's 1906 Serenade for Small Orchestra is a four-movement orchestral piece dedicated to the composer's teacher, János Koessler. The piece was premièred on 3 December 1907, in Cologne. One of Weiner's first compositions, it owes its popularity to its Hungarian sound. This master of classical forms virtuosically employed the twists and turns of verbunkos and "a fine csárdás".
Radio-Genève commissioned Frank Martin to write his work – to be performed after the end of the global conflagration – in 1944. He later said, "I had no illusions about the peace that would follow the end of the war. Nevertheless, the absence of any illusions did not prevent me from attempting to express the profound despair and the brilliant hope for the future.
"I finished my Paradise and the Peri last Friday, my greatest work, and I hope also my best," wrote Schumann to a friend in 1843: "I think of heaven with a heart full of gratitude, which gave me strength and kept me alert as I worked.
Chamber music concert featuring the artists of the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hungarian National Choir
The first piece in this concert dedicated to the music of Iván Madarász – RAP-petition – is a true cross-border excursion from the world of classical music to the distant one of rap – distant for both the composer and the young baritone Szilveszter Szélpál, who sings in operas and operettas at the National Theatre of Szeged.
Zoltán Kocsis died on 6 November 2016 at the age of 64, after inscribing his name in the most glorious annals of Hungary's musical history as a pianist, composer, teacher and conductor alike. In 1997, after a long and illustrious career as a pianist, he took over the helm of the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra, which under his leadership embarked on a great journey: renamed the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, it would evolve into a world-class ensemble.
According to records, Heinrich Schütz's Christmas Story (SWV 435) was premièred in Dresden in 1640 with the subtitle "The story of the joyful and blessed birth of Jesus Christ, son of Mary". The work's text consists of a selection of Bible quotes based on the translation by Martin Luther.