Budapest Festival Orchestra
• Founded 1983
The Budapest Festival Orchestra is far from being the ad hoc summer ensemble its name might suggest. With a varied repertory, an international touring schedule, and a top-flight set of soloists annually, the orchestra was named one of the top ten in the world by Gramophone magazine.
The Budapest Festival Orchestra was formed in 1983 by conductor Iván Fischer and pianist Zoltán Kocsis, drawing its members from the ranks of the most talented young musicians in Hungary; Fischer has remained the chief conductor since the orchestra's inception. The group garnered critical acclaim from the start, and by 1992, it was considered a permanent fixture of orchestral music in Budapest, giving concerts at the Béla Bartók National Auditorium as well as abroad. In 2000, the Budapest Festival Orchestra inaugurated full orchestral seasons. It has been backed by its own foundation, supported by the city of Budapest. Away from home, the orchestra has appeared at such major halls as the Konzerthaus in Vienna, Carnegie Hall in New York, and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and appears at major summer festivals. It has attracted to Budapest such internationally renowned soloists as Gidon Kremer, Yehudi Menuhin, and Georg Solti, who until his death was the group's permanent guest conductor. The group has often participated in operatic productions, and its repertory ranges from the Baroque to contemporary music. In the latter category, it has often favored the works of Hungarian composers. The orchestra has also often performed and recorded the music of Mahler, and Fischer founded the Budapest Mahlerfest.
Beginning in the 1990s, the Budapest Festival Orchestra has been much in demand among recording companies. The group has recorded for Philips, Decca, and most often, Channel Classics, where it issued a recording of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde in 2020. The Budapest Festival Orchestra maintains an orchestral academy for recent university graduates.