Budapest Symphony Orchestra

CHRISTOPHER SMITH St Andrew's Hall, Norwich (Norfolk and Norwich Festival)


The tall, grave-faced percussionist rose, waited for the crucial moment, then clashed his shiny cymbals. Supported by the majesty of the tuba, the chorus of trombones declared the grand theme once more while strings scurried in well-ordered frenzy. This was the concluded climax of the Firebird Suite, a version of the work with which the young Stravinsky first asserted his originality and then claimed his place in the great Russian tradition of vividly scored ballet music.

The Budapest Symphony Orchestra entered into the spirit of this music with a will. To give these moments of resonant energy their full value, the players lost no opportunity for revealing a gentler style that was reflective, even pastoral.

At the start there was mystery and menace in the low strings, and the second episode gave opportunities for both the cello and the oboe to bring out a lyric mood. The absolute control of these quieter sections gripped the audience's attention.

The orchestra was conducted by Tamas Vasary. Directing the instrumentalists from the keyboard with expressive fingers, he was also the soloist in Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto. As he began, his touch produced a rather dry sound that was pleasing because of its crispness. Later, though, he discovered a greater tonal range, and this added character to his interpretation.

The first item in the programme was Mozart's Overture to Don Giovanni.

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