The Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, which performed Tuesday at downtown's Copley Symphony Hall, trumpets the trend of touring ensembles from Eastern Europe and Russia. With their cold-war communism long gone, the orchestras are free from Soviet domination. But with freedom comes a price. The groups must learn to survive in the post-glasnost era, where state subsidies are no longer guaranteed. For these ensembles, touring is a necessity, both to generate income and to enhance their international reputations.No local organization presents more emissaries from the former Soviet bloc than the La Jolla Chamber Music Society.”There's an increased interest in this country in hearing these orchestras, which are steeped in tradition,” says Mary Lou Aleskie, the chamber music society's new president and chief executive officer. “As we become a more global society, we are more aware of these orchestras, and how important they are to the history and legacy of classical music.
“(…)Most symphony orchestras from the former Soviet bloc charge about $100,000 per concert. That includes the Hungarian orchestra, now in its 80th year, which Tuesday gave a skillful, spirited performance with conductor and piano soloist Zoltan Kocsis, its music director since 1997.”Most of these orchestras used to be highly subsidized,” Aleskie says. “But their countries haven't developed enough philanthropic support. They are forced to tour more and they're making themselves available.”The Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra is doing better than most. Just more than two years ago, the Hungarian government boosted funding by 300 percent, an increase that brought in $6.3 million last year alone, the Associated Press reported.Tuesday's all-Hungarian program – part of the orchestra's first U.S. tour since 1985 – showcased music by Franz Liszt and Zoltan Kodaly. As an encore, there was the Hungarian Dance No. 10 by Brahms – “an honorary Hungarian,” conductor Kocsis told the audience.Too bad there was no Bartok. After all, the 50-year-old Kocsis is an acclaimed Bartok specialist. Still, his pianistic talents were well-utilized in Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1, where he excelled at both thundering octaves and lyrical filigree. A vigorous conductor, Kocsis brought out the energetic rhythms of Kodaly's “Dances From Galanta” and the almost Wagnerian force of Liszt's “Les Preludes” (Symphonic Poem No. 3). Although Kodaly's Variations on a Hungarian Folksong (“The Peacock”) was like a less interesting relative of Stravinsky's “The Firebird,” the orchestra played up the instrumental plumage, as in the feathery soft passages for flute and harp.May it not be another 18 years before the orchestra returns to the United States.(…)
(The San Diego Union Tribune, January 26, 2003)