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MUSIC REVIEW : Budapest Festival Orchestra in a Mixed Outing at Bowl

July 29, 1994|TIMOTHY MANGAN

Somehow, Wednesday night's concert by the Budapest Festival Orchestra at Hollywood Bowl added up to less than the sum of its parts.

Under its co-founder and principal conductor Ivan Fischer, the visiting orchestra had many fine wares on display: a single-minded ensemble; well-rehearsed interpretations; a characterful, unified violin section; Old World charm; enthusiasm even.

And yet, this isn't an orchestra that can knock you back on your heels, or take your breath away. Only 11 years old and just recently full time, it has not the power nor the plushness, the sheer luxury of a world-class ensemble. What it did was plainly admirable, but perhaps not always compelling.

Fischer's readings of the Liszt/Dvorak program proved consistently interesting, elegant and meticulous to a fault, rich in ideas. In fact, it sometimes seemed as if the 43-year-old conductor had a little too much to say, and stifled the free flow of the music.

The concert opened with a nifty performance of Liszt's "Mephisto Waltz," crisp of rhythm, delicately shaped and pliant. Fischer led from memory and the orchestra played as if this work must still be a staple in its native Hungary.

The second half featured a welcome foray into the neglected territory of Dvorak's Symphony No. 6 in D. In his unhurried, finely wrought performance, Fischer uncovered all of this music's gentle amiability. The orchestra positively caressed its lyrical phrases and remained pointed and controlled at climaxes. Eminently poetic, the performance lacked only abandon and spontaneity.

Replacing Zoltan Kocsis (who is suffering from a hand injury) on very short notice, Israeli pianist Ilana Vered sounded as if she were replacing Zoltan Kocsis on very short notice. Rough spots and approximations abounded in Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1. Fischer and orchestra, who have recorded this work handily with Kocsis, showed than they needed more than the one rehearsal allotted with Vered. The piano amplification sounded muffled and uneven.

There were two encores: a dreamy account of the Slavonic Dance No. 2 by Dvorak and a frothy one of "Eljen a Magyar" by Johann Strauss Jr.

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