László Tóth: “At 168, we are still capable of renewal”

- November 1, 2021
Tóth László - fotó: Emmer László
Tóth László - fotó: Emmer László

The Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra celebrates its 168th anniversary on 10 November at the Palace of Arts Budapest. In this grandiose concert, the orchestra’s former conductor Rico Saccani will conduct a very special programme, this time focusing on American composers. We asked President László Tóth about the event.

– Celebrating 168 years of the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, the concert will be conducted by Rico Saccani, whose relationship with the orchestra has not just begun.

– Rico Saccani, our President-Conductor from 1997 to 2005, has conducted countless concerts for us and is well known to audiences from the Opera House. During his stay in Budapest, he developed a very fruitful, even friendly relationship with the orchestra, and both the musicians and the maestro enjoyed working together. When it came to this concert, it was clear to us that we would choose him.

– What is it that makes the working relationship between you so good?

– Maybe it’s the way of working that Rico Saccani brought with him and that he was able to pass this on to the band. It’s a mix of joie de vivre, leisureliness, and effortless elegance that, needless to say, has made him very popular with the musicians. Born in Italy but raised and socialised in America, he has the character of both nations, and his very direct personality inspires the productions he participates in.

– Is that why the programme includes mainly works by American composers?

– Yes, to a certain degree, as the maestro really feels and understands this repertoire. At the same time, we wanted to emphasise that at 168 we are still capable of renewal, looking for new challenges, open to other musical worlds, while of course we feel obliged to cultivate and show our national culture to our audience. In this case the works of Gershwin and Bernstein have been included in the programme, but together with Zoltán Fejérvári we are going to play Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major, which, only few people know, contains several American-inspired jazz melodies.

– The presentation of works by contemporary Hungarian authors has also become your trademark. This year Zoltán Kovács represents this line.

– And with a world premiere! Ludus luminis, composed and conducted by himself, promises to be an exceptional experience. All the more so, because Zoltán Kovács feels himself comfortable in tonal, traditional music, making his compositions easy to understand, yet at the same time very innovative and exciting.

– Do you consider it as your task to cultivate a new, understanding audience?

– Yes, definitely. Our larger concerts are designed to attract audiences who come to more traditional concerts, while with our new and special venues and chamber music evenings we would like to address young people. Such are our concerts at the Agroverzum in Martonvár, where music historian Mona Dániel tries to arouse the interest of those who are just getting acquainted with classical music with his unusual presentations. It also includes our online series KameraZene, which uses humour to tell the history of music. We also consider the relationship between music and visuality in general to be important, and have launched a new video clip series called ZeneHorizont, in which we create short films for pieces by contemporary composers: these put music of our time in an unusual context, making it more understandable and relatable, and thus more accessible to the average listener.


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