Hungary’s Budapest Festival Orchestra (BFO) held its first tour concert in Korea in Seoul’s Lotte Concert Hall on Monday. Conductor Ivan Fischer came on stage with a microphone.
“We’re from Budapest, where a tragic accident occurred. Together with the Hungarian people, citizens of Budapest, and all members of the orchestra, I’d like to express my deepest condolences to the bereaved families. We’ve prepared a song to extend our sympathy. This is a song about waiting for someone who has left.”
As he started waving his hands, the audience seemed surprised in silence. The orchestra’s musicians began singing in Korean.
“Call out to me when the sun rises at the Sunrise Peak. You’re not here, though I’m still waiting.”
It was a Korean song “The Waiting Heart,” composed by Jang Il-nam with its lyrics written by Kim Min-bu. Tears welled up in the audience’s eyes. Fischer is known to be a conductor who often chooses songs to be performed on stage. The BFO’s players have in fact sung songs for the encore in several concerts. In their 2016 tour concert in Korea, the orchestra even replaced some parts of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 with their own voice.
Fischer is also well-known for being an activist. In 1989, he led the BFO to hold surprise concerts and musical events for refugees from East Germany, which triggered people to escape from borders and later collapse the Iron Curtain. Also as a composer, he premiered his opera “The Red Heifer” in 2013, which was composed in an opposition to rising anti-Semitism in Hungary.
Hungarian President Janos Ader also wrote a message of condolence in the BFO’s program book for the concerts in Korea. Joined by South Korean pianist Cho Seong-jin who performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, the orchestra performed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, bringing delight to the audience.
“The concert started rather calmly with condolences, but the hall seemed to be full of pleasure at the end,” a visitor said. The BFO led by Fischer will perform in the Seoul Arts Center Tuesday, in the Busan Cultural Center Wednesday, in the Daegu Concert House Thursday, and the Daejeon Arts Center Friday with pianist Cho Seong-jin.