Sunday January 14th, 2018 – The Budapest Festival Orchestra, with Iván Fischer on the podium, in an afternoon concert at David Geffen Hall as part of the Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series. I loved the configuration of the players onstage, with the basses on the top riser, dead-center; the BFO produce a solid-gold sound of Olde World cordiality. A critical review by Oberon’s Grove.
The matinee opened with an ensemble of eight musicians from the orchestra performing Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B-minor (ca.1738-1739) on period instruments. Flautist Gabriella Pivon piped up appealingly as this beloved music was offered up for us, so heart-warming on this frigid day. The pacing was lively, and the closing movement an especial treat. Was there a sense of variable pitch that came and went in the course of the piece, or is that a ‘period instrument’ illusion? At any rate, it was so nice to hear this music again; it’s always fresh.
Dénes Várjon then joined the orchestra for what was a truly revelatory performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C-minor (1800–03). Within the course of a half-hour this afternoon, Mr. Várjon soared into my highest echelon of favorite musicians.
Following the concerto’s rather lengthy, mood-setting introduction for orchestra, Mr. Várjon commenced with a striking, up-sweeping passage, and it was evident that we were in the presence of a master pianist. Immediately we can savour his big yet silken style and his lively, detailed technique. As the opening movement carried forward, I was increasingly mesmerized by the pianist’s hands, which were captivating in a rising series of trills followed by a dizzying downward cascade of notes. Mr. Várjon made a majestic start to the cadenza, which gave me chills of rapture as it progressed with immaculate, shimmering trills. The hushed re-entry of the timpani and orchestra that followed was a moment of sheer magic.