Katalin Károlyi was the weak link at the latest concert of the National Philharmonic Orchestra, which is primarily surprising because audiences generally react better to concert pieces featuring a human voice.
The orchestra's concert otherwise comprised of rarities: Stravinsky, a barely known Bartók (Four Orchestral Pieces), Rachmaninov orchestrated by Respighi, all things to alarm audiences. So let me try and give a precise quotation of a rhetorical question that occurred before the concert: “Shouldn't a law be introduced that says only one piece in a concert should be used to hassle the paying viewers?” And in all this unfamiliarity, an unknown song cycle by Ravel, Sheherezade. With text and translation in hand, there should come the recognition, the listener's self confirmation that we love music, even if we don't know it, but it didn't come. But the lady singer was a fine spectacle and a nice voice. Only it did not really penetrate the orchestra. The accompaniment was restrained, colourful but polite in vain, the pleasant mezzo soprano was lost between the instrumental sections, there was no expression and cultured boredom ensued because the voice is not suitable for what it is being used for. This was a shame because otherwise this was one of the most important evenings of the concert season, full of unusual experiences. The opening work was Stravinsky's %u201CScherzo a la Russe”, and I think for the first time I saw, during Kocsis's conducting, a musical joke not just as something sounded but also demonstrated to the audience: that movement as the perpetually returning musical process once breaks off with an “etcetera” gesture, the conductor also turns with the same motion, bowing outwards. It was perfect and you had to laugh.
In the second half, the Rachmaninov works – orchestrations of five “Études Tableaux” by Respighi, came across a little as soft film music, other times as decisive Respighi music, with tambourines and Italian temperament, but it is the triumph of Respighi's sovereign orchestrational knowledge that the listener did not imagine for a minute that these pieces were originally written for piano. The closing number was again Stravinsky, the Symphony in Three Movements. The strings playing in unbelievably good form, the graceful and yet intensive block of the violins, the mature fruit of several year's work, and then comes some unusual dissatisfaction. Because generally a concert attests together with its mistakes and great moments that it is an emphemeral moment, it passes, becomes a memory, that is what it is for. Here however the situation was reversed why cannot it remain so we can experience it again and again?
Two days later at the Városház in Kapisztrán square, the Hortus Musicus gave the final concert of their French Baroque series. The experience – although there too they played unknown works before a wider audience: Marais, Bernier, Leclair – was precisely the reverse of the Music Academy concert. In the Baroque ensemble only the foundation, the harpsichord and gamba came across as anchored, the lady flautist was also a little lost acoustically, the violinist however, well, we wished he would vanish because sometimes what he did wrenched our ears, but there was a constant guest, Edit Károly. She doesn't have a big voice but it is very beautiful and then something. When she walks onto the stage, a small sparrow, it seems she is nervous, but as soon as she starts to sing, she relaxes and the music comes alive. An extract in French from Jeremiah's lament. This is not the music that a listen necessarily feels himself bidden to listen to on a spring evening. But if the frames are exquisitely filled, if the expression goes to the maximum within its own narrower boundaries, to where it is still stylish, tasteful and yet personal, then these few minutes say more than the whole works of Mahler bound in leather.