29. 10. 2021.

Seventeen days, stunning creators and creations, celebrated new productions: the first Liszt Fest International Cultural Festival was a great success 

The first Liszt Fest International Cultural Festival came to an end with the unforgettable concert of the Brazilian legend, Gilberto Gil, a gala concert with the works of Bartók, Liszt and Roland Szentpáli, and the sell-out dance performance of the Danube Art Ensemble, Beautiful Mezőség. Organized by Müpa Budapest, the brand new festival presented 312 events, including classical and contemporary music, jazz and pop concerts, opera and dance performances, exhibitions, a film and a literary festival, walks in the city, numerous Hungarian and world premieres, awaiting guests at more than 30 venues in and outside Budapest.

“For many of us, the memory of the 210th anniversary of Ferenc Liszt’s birth will never fade, as we were there, along with thousands of viewers and our great Hungarian and international performers, at the birth of something new, something extremely valuable and promising. The first Liszt Fest International Cultural Festival gave us decisive moments in countless genres. There were uplifting concerts we can be proud of, euphoric, sold-out performances, important professional encounters: all this was a worthy salute of Liszt’s genius, his curious, innovative spirit,” says Csaba Káel, CEO of Müpa Budapest, which created the event series. He pointed out that the Liszt Fest hosted the world or Hungarian premiere of 26 works, including albums and unusual works specifically created for the festival. This was, for instance, the occasion when the audience could first hear the award winners of Müpa Budapest’s Composition Competition. 

Held between 8–24 October, the Liszt Fest presented special productions, unconventional collaborations and new productions by preeminent artists and young talents from Hungary and abroad. “Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities in Central Europe, and I’m very happy to return here. The Hungarian musical tradition is fantastic, and the audience is perceptive and enthusiastic,” said the excellent baritone, Thomas Hampson apropos of his concert at the festival. The evening of American poet and singer-songwriter Patti Smith will also be an unforgettable experience for many: the iconic figure of punk recited poems by Pilinszky and Ady, and at the end of the sold-out concert in the Béla Bartók National Concert Hall the audience sang as one and gave a standing ovation to the living legend on the stage. Like the eponym of the festival, the “Franz Liszt of the Hammond organ” started out as a prodigy: New York-based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Cory Henry brought his latest album, Best of Me, to the festival, and was happy to tell, then and there on the stage, that he was looking forward to playing in Budapest again soon. He was not the only performer to hypnotize their audience... With his signature joie de vivre and the irresistible pulse of Brazilian music, Gilberto Gil, the world star who soon turns 80, can quickly sweep audiences off their feet, and his performance at the Liszt Fest was no different: some in the capacity audience at MOM Kult started to dance between the seats. The world-famous Compañía Antonio Gades also brought down the house with their legendary production of Carmen.

On the last weekend of the festival, 23 October was celebrated with Béla Bartók’s Kossuth Symphony, Liszt’s masterpiece, Les Préludes, and Roland Szentpáli’s To the Hungarians. Held at the Béla Bartók National Concert Hall and conducted by Gábor Hollerung, this special concert was also streamed live for audiences around the world.

The first Liszt Fest hosted several “festivals-within-the-festival.” Art Market Budapest, one of the region’s most important event series in the visual arts, welcomed visitors at a new venue, the Bálna Budapest. The Budapest Showcase Hub, PONT Festival, and Cinemira TEEN and KIDS, which pampered young film buffs, were also part of the festival. At what was the most compelling survey of pop music videos, the 5th Hungarian Music Video Contest presented 200 of the 1042 nominations. 35 prizes were awarded, and the main prize was taken by Gloria’s PTS, directed by Luka Kostil. The tenth instalment of the Margó Literary Festival and Book Fair, which was held at the Várkert Bazár, also attracted hosts of visitors, and presented its award again: the Margó Prize for this year’s best first volume of prose was given to Rita Halász for her Deep Breath.

The Liszt Fest International Cultural Festival’s own magazine was available in print and online in Hungarian and in English as well, and tens of thousands visited the official blog of the event series for the behind-the-scenes contents, absorbing articles, interviews, podcasts and playlists.