Iván Fischer| Photo Courtesy of the Los Angeles Philharmonic

Hit play below to listen to our bonus Arts Alive interview with Iván Fischer.


While the LA Phil is on tour in the United Kingdom, one of the world’s top orchestras is in residency at the Hollywood Bowl. The Budapest Festival Orchestra—ranked in the top 10 of Gramophone Magazine’s unscientific but well-regarded survey—is performing three concerts at the historic venue this week and next. In addition to a season of traditional performances, the BFO is an innovator in the concert space with a series of midnight concerts where the seats are removed and people can sit on beanbags, performances of Jewish music in abandoned synagogues, sensory-friendly concerts for individuals on the autism spectrum, and programs which target underserved young people in the city. Iván Fischer is the orchestra’s founder and conductor. I caught up with him backstage at Walt Disney Concert Hall just before a rehearsal.

On the BFO’s success: What I had in mind, being 31 years old when I founded the orchestra, was an orchestra with a completely different philosophy, attitude, and work ethic. … I never imagined it would have so much success in the world because success was not important. The important thing was the idealism we had.

On the last time the BFO was in Los Angeles: It was in the 90s and we had two weeks at the Hollywood Bowl which were Hungarian weeks. We had six programs in six days. The great fun was that after the American national anthem we played the Hungarian national anthem but nobody in the audience knew what that was, so people sat down and then they stood up again. It was great fun. And we had the Hungarian flag on stage next to the American flag.

On the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and elsewhere: I see it as part of a general tendency of intolerance. It can be targeted towards Arab immigrants, the Roma people, and all kinds of groups who have been oppressed. I’m a very simple person. I think a human being is a human being. It doesn’t matter what your skin color is, which country you come from, which continent you come from. We are all exactly the same equal creatures and this is how we should see the world.

On creating sensory-friendly concerts: There are many various tools [for making a welcoming environment for individuals on the autism spectrum]. For example, a person on the autism spectrum is very grateful if he or she knows in advance what will happen next. So, at these concerts, before we play a piece of music, in a very detailed form I tell them what they will hear and what it will look like so they feel a little more familiar, secure, and relaxed about what they are about to experience.

You can learn more about Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra’s upcoming performances at the Hollywood Bowl at hollywoodbowl.com.

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