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Budapest Festival Orchestra: Rachmaninoff

Budapest, Palace of Arts — Bela Bartok National Concert Hall

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About the Event

Immerse yourself in the stunning architecture of Budapest's breathtaking Palace of Arts for the ultimate concert set to awake your understanding of classical music.

Immerse yourself in melodies that speak volumes, transcending the need for words. Dive into the depths of a piano concerto that drew its creator out of the abyss of despair, and a symphony that redeems a painful past mistake. The works of Rachmaninoff not only captivate with their exquisite beauty but also tell the tale of their birth. While some critics of his era dismissed them as overly sentimental, we, on the other hand, find solace and beauty in their tunes.

Opening the concert is the orchestral rendition of 'Vocalise', a masterpiece originally composed for voice and piano. This jewel of the vocal canon is followed by Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, brilliantly executed by Anna Vinnitskaya – an artist celebrated as 'a true lioness' by the Washington Post and lauded by Gramophone for her 'dazzling play of light and shadow'. After a brief respite, the grand Symphony No. 2 will reverberate through the hall.

'Why resort to words when one's voice and interpretation can communicate with unparalleled eloquence?' Rachmaninoff once mused in a letter to singer Antonina Nezhdanova, dedicating to her the last song from his Op. 34 set. The voice in 'Vocalise' resonates on a chosen vowel, weaving melodies so evocative they could be mistaken for a violin's lament. The orchestral version, birthed by the composer himself, further amplifies the piece's entrancing allure.

Now, about that concerto… In 1901, Rachmaninoff unveiled his Piano Concerto No. 2, marking a personal renaissance. This composition, a salve for the wounds of a previous public humiliation, acted as his savior from alcohol and depression. Gratitude for his recovery was directed at his therapist, Nicolai Dahl, who used hypnotherapy to aid in both the composer's healing and the concerto's creation. This three‐movement magnum opus, replete with mesmerizing melodies, intricate dialogues, wind solos, and a grand C major finale, symbolizes Rachmaninoff's phoenix‐like resurgence. He never again succumbed to the shadows of despair.

Yet, symphonies remained his Achilles' heel. After a decade‐long hiatus since the ill‐fated Symphony No. 1, he revisited the genre. Initial dissatisfaction compelled revisions, leading to the Symphony No. 2's premiere in 1908, under Rachmaninoff's own baton, in St. Petersburg. This triumph not only fetched him the prestigious Glinka Prize but also signified his victory over past demons. Beginning with a contemplative intro, this opus later surges with tempestuous energy. Recurring motifs, a tranquil scherzo borrowing the 'Dies irae', and an exquisite slow movement culminate in a luminous, grand finale, rounding off the composer's narrative of redemption and rebirth.


  • Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff – Vocalise op. 34 Nr. 14
  • Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No. 2 In C Minor, Op. 18
  • Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff – Symphony No. 2 in E minor, op. 27
Program is subject to change


Orchestra: Budapest Festival Orchestra
Conductor: Ivan Fischer

Ivan Fischer is one of the world's most sought‐after conductors. Chief Conductor of the Konzerthausorchester Berlin since the 2012/13 season, he was the founder of the Budapest Festival Orchestra in 1983, and he enjoys a close partnership with the Vienna State Opera. Ivan Fischer has won numerous awards, and he has performed in practically every major concert house in the world.

Piano: Anna Vinnitskaya

Palace of Arts

MÜPA Budapest is a multipurpose cultural and arts centre, situated in the Millenium Quarter of Budapest. The former 'Palace of Arts' houses three cultural institutions - the Bartok National Concert Hall, the Festival Theatre, and the Ludwig Museum. Opened in 2005, the centre was immediately recognised for its state-of-the-art architecture and functionally sleek interior. The MÜPA's objective is to introduce modern arts while appreciating old traditions, and to make Hungarian art more accessible to a wider audience. The Bartok Concert Hall houses a magnificent organ, one of the largest in Europe. The complex presents events of many kinds, from opera to dance and concerts of contemporary music.


Palace of Arts, Komor Marcell sétány 1., Budapest, Hungary — Google Maps

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