The broadcast of the opening concert of the Budapest Music Weeks was also interesting from a television perspective and although it was shown a week after the event, at least it preserved what should be preserved.
The television people had to solve a complex task, partly because the premiere of the Twenty Hungarian Folk Songs was something they could prepare for but not know intimately. It is not a disadvantage to see those making the music on the screen. From this point of view, they did their job, occasionally the changes of picture were perceptibly disturbed, but nothing too outrageous. And in the second half, with the broadcast of the Concerto, director László G. Kecskés truly used his cameras to illustrate the music.
The second technical problem was the placing of microphones. Three works were performed. In the Twenty Hungarian Folk Songs, the orchestra accompanied soloists and choir, in the two Rhapsodies, a solo violinist stood in front of the ensemble, and in the second half, only the orchestra had to be microphoned. For the music making to proceed uninterrupted, it is probably not possible to solve these three technical problems with the means available. I think Barnabás Kelemen drew the shortest straw, I don't think we can establish the true colour of his playing from the television. At least, I didn't. Nor do I believe that the National Choir will circulate this recording around the world as publicity material either.
Of course the technique and the broadcast, are side issues. On this evening, it was music making that was more at stake. For example, did Zoltán Kocsis succeed in convincing the audience of the elevated importance of the Twenty Hungarian Folk Songs. I think that the answer to this question is yes, and looking at this concert, I would say it is a scandal that only one recording of this work, made for the Bartók Complete Recording, exists. And the true scandal is the recording itself which needs to be urgently replaced.
There were two heroes at this concert, Dénés Gulyás and Júlia Hajnóczky. The former had to step in at the last moment when the original artist was indisposed, but this was not his only merit. There was his musical precision, expressive power, and the secure way he located the natural, effortless, folk mood. To be perfectly honest, I didn't really like Júlia Hajnóczy's voice, somehow it is tight, taut and hard in the lower register, but there is so much fire, so much to say and such richness in her singing, so much bravery in her style of performance when this fragile girl dares to wail like a peasant woman as we hear in Bartók's own phonograph recordings. So ultimately, I think it is neither here nor there whether I like the sound of her voice. Mihály Kálmándi, on the other hand, sang with a fine voice but inaccurately, and also rather inflexibly, while the anti-hero of the evening was Márta Lukin, her ennunication of the text, her singing technique, the discordant mezzo soprano in its unpleasant registers, was simply not for public consumption.
I dare not pass judgement on Barnabás Kelemen's achievement based on the broadcast. From what we could see, he played the two Rhapsodies cleanly, but then he knocked the wind from the lungs of the viewers with his performance of a movement from the Bartók solo sonata. The question is now will this boy be a very good violinist, or whether he is one already.
The bomb then exploded with the Concerto. I know it is a little premature to comment based on the opening concert, but what the National Phlharmonic Orchestra produced will surely go down as one of the great events of the season. The strings were unbelievable as they stood up to Kocsis's strained tempos and now it is not just the violins that catch fire in the musician's hands but the violas also signify a full blooded section, for example in the Fifth Movement. The woodwind was superb throughout, particularly the first clarinet Zsolt Szatmári, and the horn section. It was technical security where virtuosity remains just an expressive tool. The Music Academy has rarely heard a Concerto performance like this. And I doubt if television anywhere in the world has recorded anything similar anywhere. If at all.