Hungary reopens Liszt hall, Budapest's musical heart

Tue Oct 22, 2013 2:57pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary celebrated a rich musical heritage on Tuesday with a gala black-tie concert to mark the refurbishment and reopening of the main concert hall of the Liszt Academy music school in Budapest.

Starting with a rousing brass fanfare to show off the hall's famously pure acoustics, followed by a Brahms Hungarian dance, a folk song and Bartok violin duos, the program showed Hungary is a place for music and the Liszt Academy a place to learn it.

Since Hungarian is such a notoriously difficult language, "perhaps we show our talents more in music", Prime Minister Viktor Orban told the packed audience.

His government brought to term a 10-year project to renew the almost 107-year-old Art Deco building housing the music academy founded by Franz Liszt, the world's first piano superstar and one of the 19th century's great composers.

Orban said it was his intention to spend more on the arts and culture "because life is more than a struggle for living".

Asked by Reuters before the concert began if he thought Budapest, which now will have six major music venues, may perhaps be oversupplied, Orban said: "No, we need even more".

One of the world's cherished concert venues, where audience and performers alike praise the acoustics, the Liszt Academy's "Large Hall" has been painstakingly restored during a four-year closure to its early 20th-century style.

"The starting point was that this building is more than 100 years old and had never been renovated," said rector Andras Batta, 60, who cedes his post on November 1 to harpist Andrea Vigh.   Continued...

The Liszt Academy music school is seen in Budapest in this general view taken October 21, 2013. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh