The third Bartók Spring International Art Weeks kick off on 31 March 2023, offering not-to-be-missed events and unforgettable experiences for the lovers of culture and those looking to recharge their batteries. For seventeen days, world-renowned ensembles, unprecedented collaborations, award-winning compositions and the legends of different genres await the audience.
The festival bearing the name of Béla Bartók was launched by Müpa Budapest in 2021 with the aim of celebrating, through a variety of genres and productions, the mindset that is part of the composer’s legacy. “Bartók’s spirit is an inspiration and a universal solution for cultural sustainability: he encourages us to explore and learn about our roots, and to interpret the values inherent in them, again and again, through the lens of our own present,” writes Müpa Budapest CEO Csaba Káel in his words of welcome. Despite the initial difficulties – the first Bartók Spring coincided with the pandemic lockdowns – the festival quickly established itself in an often overcrowded cultural market. “Like its sister event, the Liszt Fest, the Bartók Spring International Art Weeks is a truly all-round event series that keeps the audience’s interest with numerous events every day, for several weeks, at countless venues, featuring world stars and leading Hungarian artists, offering entertainment in many styles,” explains operative director Janina Szomolányi the secret of the festivals’ success. “This I think is what makes our festivals special and different from other thematic or multi-genre events.”
The Czech Philharmonic, one of Central Europe’s most renowned symphony orchestras, and its conductor, Semyon Bychkov, will open the festival with a truly impressive programme: in addition to two pivotal compositions of 20th-century ballet, the Hungarian audience will hear the latest piano concerto of the world-famous organist, Thierry Escaich, only two weeks after the world premiere in Prague, featuring the young Korean pianist, Seong-Jin Cho, who lives in Berlin.
The young Finnish Santtu-Matias Rouvali has been at the helm of London’s iconic Philharmonia Orchestra for two years, and the partnership has proved very productive between one of the world’s most innovative conductors and an ensemble that has never ceased to reinvent itself over a history of almost eight decades. The programme of the closing concert was designed with this in mind, specifically for the festival audience: alongside Beethoven, Rouvali chose works by an iconic composer each of Finland and Hungary, Sibelius and Bartók. The soloist of the concert will be one of the most outstanding Hungarian violinists, Kristóf Baráti.
Klangforum Wien, a leading performer of new music, brings its tribute to György Ligeti to Müpa Budapest two days after its debut in Germany, with conductor Péter Eötvös, a former collaborator of the composer, who was born 100 years ago. The four concertos on the programme feature internationally renowned Hungarian stars, Barnabás Kelemen, László Fenyő and Zoltán Fejérvári.
Gábor Hollerung and the Budafok Dohnanyi Orchestra undertake a momentous task: the programme of their concert, The Sceptical Spirit, an event of the 10th Theatre Olympics, explores existential questions through three monumental works. Dániel Csengery’s opera for children, Frau Holle is an adaptation of the classic fairy tale of the Grimm brothers, and was an award-winning piece of Müpa Budapest’s 2020 Composition Competition. The composer set himself the task of winning over young audiences that might be averse to the genre. And the show has all that it takes: an enlightening story, captivating music and a spectacular stage set. Castles, Warriors, Frontiers, this stirring music for dance by Benjamin Eredics was inspired by The Testament of the Aga of Koppány, an adventure novel loved by generations. Another award winner of Müpa Budapest’s Composition Competition, the material draws on folk music and is enriched with modern elements. Performed at the Grand Hall of the Liszt Academy, Miklós Vecsei H.’s production features the Liszt Academy Symphony Orchestra and Géza Hegedűs D. as the inspired narrator.
Considered a committed and authentic representative of the baroque musical tradition, the Swiss Gabetta Consort comes to Budapest with one of the most promising lied singers of our time, Benjamin Appl, whose velvety baritone is the perfect choice for a programme dominated by Bach’s compositions.
Dénes Várjon will continue the highly successful concert series started last year, in which he joins forces with Concerto Budapest and conductor András Keller to perform all of Bartók’s works for piano and orchestra. This year, in addition to Piano Concerto No. 1, he will also perform two works that are new to his repertoire, the rarely heard Rhapsody and Scherzo.
György Vashegyi, the Hungarian ambassador of early music, the Orfeo Orchestra and the Purcell Choir bring to the Ceremonial Hall of Pesti Vigadó what is a rare treat to even those who know the genre well: Gyöngyösi and others worked tirelessly to put an end to the 300-year slumber of Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel’s passion, and this Good Friday the public can get to know an undeservedly forgotten masterpiece.
Muzsikás band, a pioneer of the dance house movement and a pillar of the new wave in folk music, who have introduced the world to the beauty of Hungarian folk music, celebrates its 50th anniversary at the Bartók Spring.
Lauded as one of the greatest flamenco dancers, Sara Baras and her company return to the roots of the genre in their production, Alma (Soul). His Cross Blossomed, the Easter production that the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble premiered last year to great acclaim, revisits the most beautiful festive music and dance traditions on the stage of Müpa Budapest’s concert hall.
Fans of popular music are in for a long-awaited treat: for the first time in their decades-long history, multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Mark Oliver Everett (aka E) and his alternative indie rock band EELS will be performing in Budapest. The Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice, who is coming to Müpa Budapest as part of his European tour, is also eagerly anticipated, while the Swiss pianist and composer Nik Bärtsch, an exceptional figure of modern jazz, will reflect on the oeuvre of Bartók with Hungarian musician partners.
As every year, Budapest Ritmo, the region’s leading world music festival will take audiences on a musical voyage of discovery from Europe to Africa, from Iceland to Cuba, and from the Balkans to Cyprus. Mazaher, an Egyptian band playing traditional zar music, will set the spiritual mood at the opening concert, but Emilíana Torrini and Fanfara Station will also be there, and Monsieur Doumani will perform with Óperentzia. Among the professional programmes of the four-day festival, the House of Music Hungary will again host a number of panel discussions on serious and topical subjects, Toldi will screen documentaries, and Szimpla will host free showcase concerts. The weekend is all about unbridled rhythms, as the performers at the Akvárium Klub and on Erzsébet tér are sure to push everyone out of their musical comfort zone.
A new exhibition at the Ludwig Museum offers a very unique take on one of the greatest catastrophes of Western culture, the Shoah, through a radical Holocaust project by the American Boris Lurie and the German Wolf Vostell. The other two exhibitions opening under the auspices of the festival will shine the spotlight on outstanding Hungarian painters of whom we can be justly proud: a temporary exhibition at the Hungarian National Gallery presents the oeuvre of Lajos Gulácsy with almost 200 works, while the Museum of Fine Arts will explore the work of Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka, who was born 170 years ago.