The famous “Beethoven Fifth” references hammered at the listener as I have seldom heard them.After all this excitement, the slow movement was serene.As a work of art, it would be easy to argue for the preeminence of its perfection.
Fischer took the exposition repeat, always a bone of contention in Brahms, but the performance was so alive, one didn’t mind being taken back to page one. The third movement left one nearly prostrate with its nostalgic beauty, and the finale, for all its swift tempo and electrifying energy, concluded in a very “Forest Murmurs” manner, reverential and moving.
The Budapest Festival Orchestra has piquant, almost sour sounding woodwinds, but once used to them, I enjoyed the dancing beauty Fischer managed in the first movement’s lyrical episodes. The Brahms Third is a marvel of internal connectivity, a perfectly constructed world built from a simple foundation of four notes.
And the third movement’s central section was so lively, I was half reminded of the ebullient spirit to be found in the “Academic Festival Overture.” Creepy pizzicati in the introduction, which lead to the great melody, were played almost like a movement of their own, slow and virtually inaudible at the start, and then somehow plucking so hard as they sped up, you felt as though the orchestra were snapping your belt and dangling you from it!
The horns also covered themselves with glory in the introduction and, it should be said, throughout, interweaving with each other as much as with the rest of the orchestra.
The performing style of the Budapest Festival Orchestra comes to us from this cafe culture.
Considered rightly one of the world’s great orchestras, it is not a particularly accurate one.
This is an ensemble which listens to itself as it plays; indeed, that is the key to aliveness in music-making.
The symphony concluded in a frenzy of power, and the audience responded, as you might imagine, with a frenzy of its own. Sitting above the players in the second half, one could feel how much conductor and musicians have meant to each other over the years.
The pounding introduction, taken slowly, tends to be followed now by an equally heavy and slow tempo for the Allegro – disobeying its own instructions, you might say. Iván Fischer’s opening was slow, at first not very loud, but more quietly dramatic than usual, with a lot of internal surging and fading of dynamics. “Wham,” began the Allegro, and Fischer took off like a jackrabbit… One of the key moments in this work is the central climax of the first movement.