An orchestral treasure from Hungary

Critic's Choice

Classical Music

January 12, 2003|By Tim Smith

In the course of two decades, the Budapest Festival Orchestra has established itself among Hungary's major cultural assets. The fact that Sir Georg Solti, one of the 20th century's most important conductors, served as its honorary music director until his death says a lot about its quality. Founded by conductor Ivan Fischer and pianist Zoltan Kocsis in 1983 as a part-time organization, the orchestra subsequently went full-time, complementing concert seasons in its home city with international travel. Several much-admired recordings have added to the group's reputation.

As part of its current U.S. tour, the ensemble will be presented by the Washing-ton Performing Arts Center this week at the Kennedy Center. Fischer, who has served as music director from the start, will lead the musicians in Wagner's Die Meistersinger Overture and two pieces by Liszt -- the stormy Totentanz (with Russian pianist Denis Matsuev) and the vivid, hourlong take on an ancient legend, A Faust Symphony. The chance to hear that underperformed symphony is particularly welcome.

The Budapest Festival Orchestra performs at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, 2700 F St., N.W., Washington. Tickets are $45 to $75. Call 202-467-4600 or 202-833-9800.

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