Ez történt

Hungarian Radio, New Music Magazine

2002. 12. 21.

It rarely happens that a critic can hear the same programme with the same musicians in two different venues just a few days apart. On this occasion, this exceptional opportunity fell to me. On Friday I could observe the National Philharmonic Orchestra's concert with conductor Zsolt Hamar at the Pesti Vigadó and on the following Monday, heard the same program again in Miskolc. There were three works on the programme: Shostakovich's Second Piano Concerto, Emil Petrovics's Second Symphony (this was premiered in by the MÁV Symphony Orchestra in November and possibly our listeners will recall my report of the concert), and concluded with Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition in Ravel's well known orchestration. (…)

A month ago, I heard Emil Petrovics's new symphony as a cheerless, pessimistic work. On Friday and Monday, it transpired that the composition – excluding the slow movement – is full of playful elements. The composer amply counterbalances its dark, disconsolate tone with brighter colours. Perhaps as a consequence, its dark side becomes all the more frightening. I do not want to retrospectively diminish the merits of the MÁV Orchestra. They learnt the symphony with care and performed it to the best of their abilities over a month ago. However, there is no denying the fact that the National Philharmonic Orchestra supremely conquers levels that other ensembles can only glimpse with their ultimate efforts. Perhaps this is the fundamental explanation why we now could discover in Petrovics's music the brilliant virtuosic light passages. In other words, the fizz. The Friday performance was particularly successful. In the Miskolc theatre, the acoustics are unfortunately not ideal. We could immediately sense this at the beginning of the first movement. After the introductory bars, the woodwind virtually disappeared in the space. However, they were all blowing away as normal. But they were placed too far back on the stage.

The Mussorgsky work was also better in Budapest. In Miskolc the ensemble began to betray signs of tiredness. I do not know how many times it has been stated recently: but it is astounding what the National Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Zoltán Kocsis has achieved. The discipline and ensemble playing of the strings cannot be mentioned in the same breath as the string sonority produced by this same orchestra in the Kobayashi era. The brass is capable of a soft and yet intense sound as well as fortissimos which are never crude. The soloists are all superb. But they need to be careful. If the orchestra takes on too much, it may slide back to its former condition. A tired musician does not concentrate enough and makes mistakes – and mistakes irritate the critic who starts to think about the long journey home… I won't continue. Observing the concert programmes of the past few weeks, I have begun to sense that the National Philharmonic Orchestra is playing more than is desirable. But they should not reduce their performances in the provinces: it is important for Miskolc, Pécs and Szeged that from time to time, the finest musical ensembles in the country perform there.

On both occasions, Zsolt Hamar proved this superb qualities. His conducting effuses security. He not only knows the compositions inside out, but he loves them too. And best of all: he gives very clear signals to the orchestra to realise his knowledge.

Sándor Kovács