The fifteenth day of the Budapest Spring Festival began with a conference in the Korona Hotel on Choral Music and its Audience. The foreign speakers and prominent figures from Hungarian choral life - Gábor Hollerung, Éva Kollár, Gábor Baross and others - analysed the phenomenon that can be observed at the international level too, of why it is difficult to find an audience today for choral music, the international experiences, and possible ways forward. Jeroen Schrijner, the president of Europa Cantat who came to Hungary solely to give this talk, also spoke on this theme. Because of other commitments he spent only two hours in Budapest and returned immediately to Amsterdam. You will soon be able to read about this in more detail here, on the Festival Centre's website, as a summary of the conference is being prepared.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra again gave a concert in the National Concert Hall, this time performing Mahler's last, 9th Symphony, conducted masterfully by Daniel Barenboim. It was not by chance that their performance, very colourful stylistically and marked by waves of emotion, was received with twenty minutes of applause. Many people made purchases after the concert at the merchandise counter which even offered tour T-shirts like those of rock bands: the back of the shirt showed Vienna, Berlin, Essen, Budapest, London, Manchester, the stops on the tour and the front was emblazoned with the logo of this year's tour: the Hungarian parliament (!).
The Italian Institute of Culture hosted the 100-member Gypsy Orchestra celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. Foreign visitors made up the majority of the audience in the full house. The 100-member Gypsy Orchestra has always been famous for the expert way it entertains audiences and this concert was no exception: the cimbalom playing in particular was a great success and the company gave two encores.
When they arrived in Budapest the members of the Cracow klezmer group, Kroke announced that unfortunately they had forgotten to bring their instruments. The associates of the Festival Centre, of course, in panic set about finding suitable instruments for them. But it wasn't long before the Poles admitted that this was their April fool's joke. In the evening Kroke drew a capacity audience to the A38 boat where it soon became clear that they not only have a sense of humour but have a very relaxed stage presence, treating the audience as old friends and acquaintances.
The Győr Ballet celebrated its 25th anniversary at the Budapest Spring Festival. As a result the audience in the Thália Theatre saw an anniversary gala where they evoked the company's history, its outstanding personalities and choreographers - with music, dance, gestures and a documentary film. The performance of Purim earned the biggest success, then in the finale the members of the company lit birthday candles.
We can confidently say that the most moving performance in the history of the festival is now associated with the name of Sigmund Groven whose mouth organ recital will be remembered forever by those who were in the audience in Matthias Church. Everything came together: the choice of programme, the unusual sound of the mouth organ and organ together, and the movingly sensitive performance. The wonderful acoustics of Matthias Church wove a fantastic aura around the audience. It was in this atmosphere, during a brief pause that the big bell of Matthias Church pealed out, calling for a prayer vigil for Pope John Paul II and raising the concert to another plane, giving the evening a new, movingly spiritual meaning.
On Saturday there will again be a bustle of open-air activity in Vörösmarty Square: "Our guest, a town: Debrecen" is bringing the entertainments of a traditional fair. Come and taste the food, buy a folk souvenir and hear the Angelica Girls' Choir.