When Iván Fischer founded the Budapest Festival Orchestra in 1983, he made a personal dream come true. The orchestra’s core philosophy has been to form a team of creative, risk-taking musicians who continue to develop their musicianship in orchestral, chamber music and solo repertoire. Mr. Fischer introduced many reforms ranging from an intense, individual rehearsal technique to encouraging and promoting each musician’s creative activities. It is the innovative approach to music, the musicians’ complete dedication and their permanent striving for excellence that rocketed the Budapest Festival Orchestra into the group of the world’s top orchestras. This young orchestra is now a frequent guest of the major international festivals; its recordings (first with Philips Classics, then with Channel Classics) have won numerous awards. Gramophone Magazine’s international survey in 2009 listed the BFO among the ten best orchestras in the world.
At home in Budapest the BFO has become the most popular Hungarian orchestra, playing usually to capacity audiences in the MUPA concert hall and in the Franz Liszt Academy. Every season, three weeks are devoted to community programs, where groups of the orchestra take music to schools, nursing homes, churches and community centers. They organize a tour of Hungary’s abandoned synagogues in order to bring life and attention to these buildings and promote tolerance.
A number of innovative concerts have made headlines all over the world. The autism-friendly cocoa concerts bring the joy of music to the whole family. Audience choice concerts have been presented with great success in Hungary and internationally, including at the London Proms. The Music Marathon at MUPA features one composer in 11 concerts on a single day. The Midnight Music cycle attracts a young audience that sits among the orchestra musicians on beanbags. 500 Hungarian children — of Roma and non-Roma origins — dance together every June at Budapest’s Hero Square. The orchestra’s own Bridging Europe festival focuses on presenting the culture of a different European nation every September.
The BFO’s opera productions are usually directed by Iván Fischer as staged concerts designed for concert halls. In New York Magazine’s 2013 list of the city’s top classical music events, the BFO’s Marriage of Figaro was voted the best of the year. Other successful productions have been invited to major music centers, including the Mostly Mozart Festival, the Edinburgh Festival and the Abu Dhabi Festival. From 2018 the BFO will found the yearly Vicenza Opera Festival in the unique Teatro Olimpico.
The BFO has commissioned and premiered many new compositions. In order to educate young talents, the orchestra has developed an apprentice scheme in collaboration with the European Union Youth Orchestra and the Verbier Festival. Its first principal guest conductors were Sir Georg Solti and Sir Yehudi Menuhin. Now this position is held by Gábor Takács-Nagy. Since its foundation over thirty years ago, the BFO’s Music Director has been Iván Fischer. The Budapest Festival Orchestra is a foundation governed by a Board of Directors and receives subsidy from the Hungarian State and the Municipality of Budapest. Friends and Supporters’ Clubs of the Budapest Festival Orchestra have been formed in Hungary, the US, the UK and Germany.