Modern stage arrangement with traditional chorus
On Thursday night, February 18th, Iván Fischer brought his Budapest Festival Orchestra to Carnegie Hall with the Overture to Weber’s Der Freischütz, Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5. Click here
The key feature of the performance is combining modern instruments while with an old-fashioned sound. The stage arrangement is in the current fashion: cellos and violas in the middle and basses in the back; while chorus are dressed in traditional performing costume and can be easily recognized as Central Europeans simply from their color. However, the most attracting part of this chorus is achieved by how they work coherently with the orchestra. They gave up the usage of exactitude of accents, rhythms, and phrases like most chorus normally do but used a more warm and complex sound combination to make ensemble works together.
On the other hand, the conductor Fisher rediscovered the Weber overture. He enhanced the drama of the music by rearranging the stage: split the horns and place them standing in pairs on each side of the orchestra. By doing so, the opening chorale became more deliberate, drawing attention to narrative instead of the music itself. In the performance of Liszt piano concerto, the pianist Marc-André Hamelin was a star. His touch at the keyboard was explosive or silky, depending on the demands of the moment. Hamelin’s ease in playing this piece was not showy, but made the music sing. After intermission, the Prokofiev symphony came off oddly. The orchestra played with substantial energy and power, and handled all the technical challenges.
The most interesting part of the performance is the conductor’s idea of stage arrangement and chorus’s coherence with the orchestra. He innovated the stage performance while jumping out of the tradition of the human sound in the performance. And this is the highlight of the whole performance.