Festival Music

Budapest Festival Orchestra

Usher Hall

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Keith Bruce

five stars

EVEN Nicola Benedetti, who is currently at the top of her musical form, is not the only focus on the platform when the Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra are in town. It is 20 years since the Budapesters, as my colleague Michael Tumelty called them, took the Festival by storm, and won the first of a series of Herald Angel awards, and they have been a regular presence at the Usher Hall, and now also in the opera programme a the Festival Theatre, ever since. This partnership with Scotland's biggest classical star, shortly after her 30th birthday, was the latest instalment in an unfolding story.

In a way that was not quite so true at the start of her tour of Florida with the RSNO earlier this year, Benedetti has now nailed the Brahms concerto in the way she did Shostakovich at the Proms a few weeks ago. Fischer took a slightly slower, more deliberate, approach to the opening than had Peter Oundjian, and the result seemed to be a more expansive account of the work, with the violinist dispatching the virtuosic leaps in the fingering in flamboyant style, and the cadenzas with raw power and panache. The closing chords of the piece were immaculate, and the icing on the cake Benedetti's encore of country blues on the fiddle.

Schubert's rarely heard Zauberharfe overture supplied the hors d'oeuvre of great tunes, and Dvorak's Eighth Symphony the more familiar main course melodies, Fischer's dynamic control of the orchestra in the slow second movement, and the dance band aesthetic of the third making the most of some of the composer's loveliest music. And for the orchestra's second encore, the female players formed themselves into a harmonious choir. But of course they did.