The Budapest Festival
February 23, 2020
David Geffen Hall
Maureen Van Zandt, Steven Van Zandt, Layla Diba
Maestro Iván Fischer led The Budapest Festival Orchestra in a thrilling all-Dvorák program at David Geffen Hall Sunday including an encore of Braham’s Hungarian Dance No. 5. Maestro Fischer announced from his podium, “the arrangement includes some of the original folk melody", which was sung by the members of the Orchestra. It was a memorable performance punctuated by multiple standing ovations. Daisy Soros, chairman emeritus of the Friends of The Budapest Festival Orchestra, sat on an isle in the front row and clearly enjoyed herself. The New York Times wrote, “Always a highlight of any season, the visit of this of this exceptional orchestra and its provocative music director, Ivan Fischer.”
A benefit dinner followed chaired by Ambassador Nancy Brinker, Susan Gutfreund, Sylvia Hemingway and Friends of The Budapest Festival Orchestra. Maestro Fisher was greeted following the concert by admirers including Steven Van Zandt before sitting at a table that included Ellen Burstyn, Noreen and Ken Buckfire, Joan Hardy Clark, Andre Fratto, Joanna Fisher, Colin Fowler, Mark Morris, and Barbara and Donald Tober (who were honored with Mark Morris last year as Living Landmarks).
Also there were gala committee members Ambassador and Mrs. Donald Blinken, Beth Jacobs, Heidi Lee Komaromi, Barbara Rogoff, Mr. and Mrs. David M. Tobey, and Stephanie Stokes (the host of a small dinner for the Maestro the evening before at her home). Other guests included board members Andrew Komaromi, Aaron Feinstein, and Peter Thomas Roth, as well as Edgar Batista, Layla Diba, Sedi and Maximo Flugelman, Margo Langenberg, Jean Shafiroff, Judy Francis Zankel, and Gioia Zwack.
During dinner Maestro Fischer spoke movingly, “We come to New York often. It feels like home and you are our real friends. We love to be here. We’ve a tour planned for many cites in China planned soon so please if you can find a vaccine. We would hate to cancel our trip…. About the orchestra singing tonight. Why does my orchestra sing on stage? We want to set an example, to overcome the inherent fear of singing out loud. Everyone should be singing more. Mothers to their children, all of us. This morning I conducted another concert, a very special one, for children on the Autism spectrum. Thanks to Lincoln Center and The Friends of the Budapest Festival Orchestra. 150 children and their families came. That was all the room could hold. There was a waiting list twice that length. We try and do a concert like this everywhere we go. Always we do this in New York. It’s important. August 1st, 3rd, and 4th, we return to New York with an opera, Verdi’s Falstaff. There the orchestra is integrated with the singers right on stage and part of the action. It’s part of the Mostly Mozart Festival so please don’t go anywhere else in August.”
Peter Thomas Roth and Mary McFadden
Stephen Benko, Chairman of the Friends of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, thanked the board and chairs with a special recognition for, “my old friend Philip Reeker. We met when he was a young Foreign Service Officer in Budapest. Philip is now the U.S. State Department’s Acting Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs. He continues to stand up for democratic issues in Hungary as well as our national’s best export, the Budapest Festival Orchestra.“ Reeker dined between former Hungarian Ambassadors Nancy Brinker and Donald Blinken
During dinner Mary McFadden talked about visiting Maestro Fischer’s home in Budapest and her recent trip up the Nile with her daughter, Justine. Maestro Fischer suggested Joanna Fisher “add a “c’ to her last name”. Saying good night the proud Hungarian Susan Gutfreund offered “as we say in Hungarian, this evening was truly elbuvölo --- charming!”