Budapest, home of world-class classical music

Budapest - Spice of europe

Budapest
Greater Budapest

The city of Liszt and Bartók, Budapest showcases classical concerts of the highest quality, the world’s most talented conductors, singers and musicians performing at venerable venues. The Music Academy founded by Liszt himself is a classic case in point, complemented by the nearby Hungarian State Opera (Magyar Állami Operaház) currently undergoing reconstruction.

Designed by Miklós Ybl, who also planned St.Stephen’s Basilica (Szent István Bazilika), the Hungarian State Opera opened in 1884. Lavish inside and out, a gorgeous fresco by Károly Lotz gleaming in a vast bronze chandelier in the Main Hall, the Opera is home to the Hungarian National Ballet founded the same year. While its ornate wrought iron and grand marble are given an overhaul, its productions are being staged at the Erkel Theatre until 2019.

 

Renovated and reopened in 2013, the formerly named People’s Opera once hosted the likes of Toscanini, Nijinsky and the Ballets Russes, Ella Fitzgerald and Béla Bartók. The Erkel Theatre has been operating under the same umbrella as the Opera House since 1951, and its current agenda features classical concerts, ballet, musicals and opera.

 

When Franz Liszt, Liszt Ferenc to Hungarians, established his Music Academy in 1875, it was at his home in Vörösmarty Street, now a memorial museum. Today’s Liszt Ferenc Zeneakadémia, on the square also named after the composer, is an Art Nouveau masterpiece created in 1907. Since its redevelopment in 2013, it has mainly arranged its own concerts, featuring stars such as Joshua Bell, Chick Corea and Steve Reich.

Known locally by its acronym of Müpa, Palace of Arts (Művészetek Palotája) is a striking complex by the Danube created for the new millennium. Here the Bartók National Concert Hall is known for its outstanding acoustics created by Russell Johnson, who worked with some of the world’s most renowned architects. This is also the home of the prestigious Hungarian National Philharmonic, founded in 1923, and under the musical direction of Zsolt Hamar since the untimely death of the legendary Zoltán Kocsis in 2016. In 1983, Kocsis and conductor/composer Iván Fischer established the Budapest Festival Orchestra (BFO), which appears at the world’s major festivals but finds time to give concerts for young audiences back in Hungary’s capital. Also performing at major concert halls in town are the Budapest Philharmonic, founded by Ferenc Erkel of Hungarian National Anthem fame in 1853, and the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, created by conductor Ernst von Dohnányi in 1943.

Across Budapest, historic landmarks also stage musical performances, most notably the choral and organ concerts at St.Stephen’s Basilica and Matthias Church, many of which are free to enter. On the Danube embankment, the revived Pesti Vigadó, where Liszt once performed, now hosts shows such as Hungarian Song Day in September. Look out also for the Budapest Spring and Summer Festivals for a cornucopia of musical events across the city.