We have got to know each other with our Hungarian core audience during our four decades of concert experience quite well, so it would be appropriate to introduce ourselves mainly to newcomers. Please allow me to seek outside help for this, and for the little story I have to guide you to the Canary Islands and to a bit more peaceful times than today …
After a concert performed in a townlet in the islands, a German gentleman, an ardent music fan, (even older than me) came into my dressing room and was delighted to congratulate me on the concert. He was a senior EU official (I kept his business card in my tuxedo pocket for years). He said that he had flown there to relax and escape from the pressure of work, and seeing that a concert of a Hungarian chamber orchestra performing Bartók was on program, he thought he should definitely see and listen to it.
His official job was to organize conferences, in a few days he had to decide on the right country and venue. He claimed his decision had been made under the influence of the concert. Besides the musical experience – and in addition to the deep impression by Bartók’s music – he realised that we had displayed the ideal model of a small republic on the podium very well! According to him, every musician played with as much enthusiasm and intensity as if he was playing the piece alone, while they were also watching the conductors and most importantly the concert master, whose direction was not ignored for a single moment. He’s heard a lot of chamber orchestras before – but he liked this Hungarian model the most, “we have the ideal site: we’re going to Hungary next time!” He declared. Then it actually happened as he had promised it.
At the moment of Hungary’s accession to the EU in 2004, the speech of the President of the Republic was given after the noon toll of bell at the Sándor Palace in Budapest as part of the festive concert by our orchestra. And two days later, in Stuttgart, following the speeches of the Ministers of Culture, we also gave a festive concert at the Weisser Saal…
The Budapest String Chamber Orchestra gave its first concert in 1977. The orchestra was formed from the students of the Liszt Ferenc College of Music. They requested Károly Botvay to be their art director, while they concert master was Béla Bánfalvi from 1986; he held this position for 25 years. The orchestra achieved its first international success in 1982, winning the Belgrade International Chamber Orchestra Competition. Since 1983, the orchestra has given concerts regularly in Hungary and abroad alike, and today it performs on several independent season-ticket and concert series each year at the Academy of Music, the Palace of Arts and the Budapest Music Center, while it is a regular guest at concert halls in big cities in Hungary as well.
The chamber orchestra conceived the International Haydn Festival in Fertőd-Eszterháza in 1995 and has been organizing the event every year ever since, featuring renowned domestic and foreign artists, including David Grimal, Jenő Jandó, Lajos Lencsés, Zoltán Kocsis, Maurice Steger, Miklós Perényi, Reinhold Friedrich and Andrea Rost.
The orchestra recorded its repertoire on records in collaboration with Hungaroton, Nuova Era, Naxos, Laserlight, and Capriccio record companies. Besides, they have recorded more than 40 CDs under an exclusive contract with Delta Music.
In 2001 the orchestra received the most prestigious professional recognition in Hungary, the Bartók-Pásztori Prize, and in 2006 the Artisjus Prize of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
In addition to the usual chamber orchestra repertoire, their concerts often feature pieces and symphonies of baroque, classical and romantic music completed with wind instruments. The orchestra considers it highly important to play the works of contemporary Hungarian composers, and often plays works composed specifically for the orchestra itself. It is also especially important for the Budapest Strings to convey musical experiences to the younger generations, / Opera playgound season-ticket series / and to support talented young musicians at the start of their careers, / the oerchestra regularly cooperates with art schools in several districts of Budapest./
The orchestra celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2017, and the following year it launched its second annual festival, the Óbuda Zenezg Festival at the venue hosting the orchestra: The Óbuda Society,
The concert master of the Budapest String is Liszt Prize-winning János Pilz
The founder and art director of the Budapest String is Kossuth Prize-winning Károly Botvay.