Feb 05 2008

Budapest and Zagreb

Published by at 7:21 pm under PSO 2008 European Tour

Bartok National Concert HallBudapest’s Bela Bartok National Concert Hall is part of an overwhelming Palace of the Arts complex built just three years ago, with a National Theater and the Bartok Hall adjacent to one another. The Bartok is actually three halls, including the main concert hall for chamber music and other offerings. There are grand sweeping lobbies with escalators, and an elegant book store. CMU’s Russell Johnson designed the acoustics.

Bartok Hall balconiesThree high balconies were full to the top for the Pittsburgh Symphony’s debut. The orchestra tried the acoustics for 30 minutes, and rehearsed Beethoven’s Egmont Overture. Andres Cardenes’s student, Hejnal, told me that the Hungarians have special affection for the Egmont, since for an unknown reason it was played over and over on radio during the Hungarian Revolution.

Liszt MuseumI ran off to the Franz Liszt Museum, where you can see a cast of the composer’s hand, a death mask, his cane, family portraits, instruments he played, a massive silver music stand, his prayer stand, and a desk with a keyboard inside. The building is where he lived, the former Liszt Academy renovated in 1989, and now a part of the Liszt Academy just a few blocks away with its own gorgeous concert hall and conservatory scene. The Liszt Academy has a coffee bar in the lobby and a CD stand.

Bust of LisztI hurried back to the hotel, passing the nearby train station where the trains were standing still due to a strike.

Pianist Nikolai Lugansky played the Beethoven Fourth Concerto with great success. He was wonderful both nights, in Budapest and Zagreb. I shared a ride with him on the way home, and he told me he is off tomorrow for Gstaad in Switzerland, and then flies to San Francisco, 11 hours from his home in Moscow. He was downstairs in the lobby setting up for a chess match with Pittsburgh Symphony players. After the concert, he gave a post concert talk in English with translations in Croatian. He put me on the spot, asking which Brahms Violin Concerto I liked better–Leonidas Kavakos’s or Julia Fischer’s.

The American Ambassador to Croatia, Robert Radtke, was gracious during intermission in Zagreb, talking with Pittsburgh Symphhony CEO Larry Tamburri, Croatia’s Prime Minister, and the wife of Croatia’s President.

Lizinsky HallThe Lisinski Hall was wide and deep, with no balconies. It was built in the 1970s, and has a whiff of a Socialist feel. Nikolai Lugansky said it looked like a place for the party congress, but be liked the sound.

Nikolai gave his flowers to Tatjana Mead Chamis, and at the end, a giant bouquet of roses was delivered to Marek Janowski.

St. Mark's Church

In the few hours we had this afternoon, I enjoyed a walk to the Cathedral with hornist Zachary Smith and violist Paul Silver to the fantastic St Mark’s Church, with its colorful mosaic roof. We walked narrow streets, watched trams, and had hot dogs grilled at a sausage stand. The vendor inserted the dogs into warm rolls from the one end of the roll, rather than dropping them onto the usual split buns. He topped the dogs with mustard–“like the mustard at Wrigley Field!” declared Paul.

Sausage stand

Zagreb skylineWe walked through Tito Square, named for the post World War II strongman who doesn’t have many admirers, then past the National Cathedral. Zagreb is a quirky mix of old-world beauty, socialist cement blocks and modern high rise. I met Jana Haluza, an announcer for the Croatian Radio, who interviewed Marek Janowski for a broadcast next Wednesday between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm local time.

There was an encore from Nikolai Lugansky–the Intermezzo from Schumann’s Carneval, and then two Brahms encores from the Pittsburgh Symphony after Brahms’ Third Symphony.

It was a wonderful tour. Let Echo International know if you were able to catch the reports. They made them possible. I’ll add one more post in Pittsburgh, but for now I’ve got to pack, because we must have the bags out at 6:45 am. Everyone had to bring their passport to the lobby to get the departure organized.