Was it an orchestra take over?

The audience could have been forgiven for gasping during a performance by the Budapest Festival Orchestra of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in Budapest this past weekend when two dozen or more young musicians, clutching everything from flutes to violins to double basses, rushed on stage from the wings, without warning, for the final movement and seamlessly joined in the fun.

No heart attacks were reported, much cheering ensued.

Audiences have come to expect the unexpected at the sell-out performances by the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Hungarian conductor Ivan Fischer obliges. When the orchestra toured Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony recently, a potted tree was installed centre stage.

For Schubert symphonies, the woodwinds have been moved up in front of the strings. And at Saturday’s Beethoven extravaganza in the Bela Bartok National Concert Hall, the timpanist – who customarily is banished to the nether reaches of the stage – was right under Fischer’s nose.

Fischer has said he likes to inject an element of drama and theatre into concerts and his explanation for the stage invasion by the music students was that the piece itself is joyous.

“It’s like an explosion” of happiness, he said of the Fifth’s final movement backstage after the orchestra’s final home concert before it embarks on a two-week tour of the United States, with stops in Newark, New York, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Boston.

Pianist Richard Goode, a longtime collaborator with Fischer who has recorded the five Beethoven concertos with him, will reprise his enchanting Fourth. It’s a collaboration Goode said continues to delight and challenge him even though he and Fischer have been playing the concertos for more than a decade.

And while the Hungarian music students won’t be joining the tour, audiences should be forewarned: with Fischer, expect the unexpected.

Michael Roddy


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