Saturday, October 24, 2009

Concert in St Stephen's Basilica - Bach, Handel, Albinoni, Vivaldi, Gounod, Dvorak, Liszt, Franck, Massenet, Schubert & Mozart - 10/13/09

Organ: Gyula Pfeifer
Violin: Eva Dulfalvy
Trumpet: Gyorgy Geiger
Tenor: Laszlo Honinger
Soprano: Susanna Askoff
Bach: Toccata & Air
Handel: Oratio Messiah - Rejoice
Albinoni: Sonata di chiesa
Handel: Xerxes - Largo
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons - Largo from "Winter"
Gounod: Ave Maria
Dvorak: Biblical Songs No 5, 10
Liszt: Ave Maria Stella
Albinoni: Adagio
Franck: Panis Angelicus
Massenet: Thais - "Meditation"
Schubert: Ave Maria
Mozart: Exsultate, Jubilate - Alleluja

Between the long scheduled Budapest Festival Orchestra's concert and Bluebeard's Castle at the opera house, I had a night off, which I intended to spend, well, relaxing. But upon my reaching the top of the steps leading to the stunning Neo-Renaissance Saint Stephen's Basilica I noticed a poster advertising a concert to be performed in the basilica on that very night. What's a music lover to do? Being a five-minute walk away from my temporary digs was an additional incentive, and without further pondering, I got myself a ticket. So it was on another cold and blustery night (no worries, I had decent weather too) that I ventured outside to hear an attractive range of musical works that included religious compositions such as Bach's Toccata and Ave Maria from both Gounod and Schubert along more secular fare like the Largo of "Winter" from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons and "Méditation" from Massenet's Thais.

The beauty of the music combined with the beauty of the setting turned what could have been just another concert put together for the tourists into a very special evening. The clear and generous acoustics allowed the instruments and voices to divinely express themselves and grandly fill the immense space. All the numbers in the one-hour program featured the famed organ, which these days comprises no less than 5,898 pipes. I've never been big on organ music, but this performance proved one more time the importance of keeping an open mind. I did not leave a convert, but certainly a fulfilled, happy soul, and that is a lot.

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