The world focusses on Budapest from 5 to 22 April 2019, when the Budapest Spring Festival, the largest cultural event in Hungary, takes place in 23 venues all over town. Culture lovers will enjoy around 100 exciting events in more than 20 categories.
This year’s Budapest Spring Festival is already celebrating its 39th birthday! The Budapest Spring Festival was created in 1980 with the honourable intentions of using high-quality productions to stimulate the Hungarian capital’s spring tourism. The initiative was so successful that the series of events won the 2005 European Cultural Award. Famous artists, and also amateurs, consider it an honour and distinction to perform at this prestigious, all-encompassing arts festival. At the beginning of the year, many culture lovers in Hungary as well as increasing numbers of tourists hungry for cultural entertainment when visiting Hungary, eagerly await the details of the Budapest Spring Festival. It’s a good idea to check out the programme and reserve tickets in advance as the majority of productions sell out in minutes. Particularly good news this year is that the festival partially overlaps Easter and spring break, allowing attendees to spend an extended holiday weekend in Budapest with quality entertainment.
The festival’s special allure is further heightened by its inclusion of not only the greatest Hungarian performers, but also big international stars. Joseph Calleja, Jordi Savall, the Theater Basel Ballet company, Ferenc Snétberger, Jurij Basmet and the Moscow Soloists, the Moscow Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, Eric Whitacre, Ji, Kristjan Randalu with saxophone legend David Liebman, Judith Hill, GoGo Penguin, and Goda Gábor and the Artus are just a few of the many performers at the 18-day all-arts festival.
A much anticipated event each year, the Budapest Spring Festival holds pleasurable moments for devotees of all branches of the arts, offering free family programmes that will draw even the youngest concert-goers effortlessly and playfully into the enjoyment of music and dance.
As in previous years, events in 2019 will take place in multiple locations, the festival’s distinguished programme sites include Müpa Budapest, the Music Academy, Erkel Theatre, Uránia National Cinema, Vigadó Concert Hall, the Castle Garden Bazaar (Várkert Bazár), the Budapest Music Center, Akvárium Klub, and A38, among other of Budapest’s many theatres, cultural institutions, and museums.
The dozen or so locations include several of particular interest, such as Terminal 1 of Ferenc Liszt International Airport, which will host a concert by Kristóf Baráti (violinist) and the Kodály Philharmonic of Debrecen. Also of note are the festival’s Bauhaus walking tours, which offer a sampling of some of the tastier morsels from Budapest’s architectural heritage.
For a complete listing of locations and programmes, consult the Budapest Spring Festival website.
Spotlighted Themes from This Year’s Budapest Spring Festival: Liszt and Russian Culture
Every year, Budapest Spring Festival programmes are constructed around a number of specific themes. One such theme that returns year after year, the art of Franz Liszt, will again be occupying a key position in 2019. On 11 April, Kirill Gerstein, Zsolt Hamar, and the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra will perform Liszt’s Faust Symphony; Klára Kolonits and Bálint Zsoldos will enchant audiences with a selection of the composer’s songs at the Budapest Music Centre concert hall; and the Stuttgart Philharmonia Choir will also offer a special Liszt concert of its own. On 16 April the Symphonic Orchestra of the Franz Liszt Academy of Music accompanied by pianist Fülöp Ránki will perform Liszt’s Orpheus and Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major
Each spring, the festival programme additionally spotlights the art of a particular country: in 2019, this honour will fall to the great art and artists of Russia, with Russian classics, contemporaries, and living legends bringing Russian music and fine arts closer to enthusiastic audiences in the Hungarian capital. Events in this vein will include Mussogorsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, reworked for saxophone and piano, Tschaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, and a number of Prokofiev compositions, in addition to Budapest Art Week’s exhibition of some of the most exciting works of contemporary Russian fine art.
Special Appearances and Global Stars at the Budapest Spring Festival
Visitors to the 39th Budapest Spring Festival will find no shortage of international attractions to occupy their attention. The impressive reconstructed interiors of the Museum of Fine Arts, for example, are certainly worthy of up-close inspection, while an exhibition dedicated to the sketch art of Italian Renaissance genius Michelangelo also promises to draw large crowds to Budapest’s Square of the Heroes.
Also arriving in Hungary will be Malta’s star tenor Joseph Calleja, along with the excellent guitarist Ferenc Snétberger, who, drawing inspiration from flamenco, jazz, Romani, and classical music, will perform on the stage of the Béla Bartók National Concert Hall.
The young, but extravagant South Korean piano virtuoso Ji, whose been on the rise ever since becoming – at just ten years old – the youngest ever winner of the New York Philharmonic’s young artists competition, will be performing Bach’s iconic Goldberg Variations.
Another concert centred on Bach will feature Balázs Szokolay and the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra with their complete performance of the composer’s solo concertos for harpsichord: seven works and six movements in total.
Popularising choral music in Budapest will be one of the most popular musicians of our day, the Grammy Award winning composer and conductor Eric Whitacre, whose compositions are performed by hundreds of amateur and professional choirs, and whose global virtual choir project has drawn collaborators from 110 countries. Accordingly, the composer’s 12 April concert at the Academy of Music promises to be truly special event.
Debut acts in Budapest this year will include the astounding voice of Japanese-American soul singer and Prince protégé Judith Hill, while visitors to A38 will be treated to a new album of material by the specially talented Austrian composer/singer Anja Plaschg, stage name Soap&Skin, whose music infuses classical music with elements of electropop. Also premiering a brand new album will be Wigama Lekko, the brand new formation of Róbert Hrutka and Dániel Viktor Nagy, while at the Béla Bartók International Concert Hall, the Manchester trio GoGo Penguin will demonstrate the unmistakeable sounds of their own special rock-jazz-electronic fusion.
Lovers of dance, too, may begin the countdown to spring, as festival treats for them include a performance of the full-length ballet Tevye by the Theater Basel Ballet, the premier of A szél kapuja [The Wind’s Gate] by Artus, led by the emblematic Hungarian dance figure Gábor Goda, and – in yet another premier – an appearance by Rita Góbi, internationally successful member of Hungary’s younger generation of dancer-choreographers.
An unmissable event on the festival’s colourful palette is PONT Festival at Castle Garden Bazaar, known for its presentation of traditions, customs, dances, and tastes from UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. PONT events this year will focus on the treasures of the Balkans, including an open air costumed carnival parade on 12 April, and – to make a visit to the Castle Garden Bazaar really worthwhile – on 13-14 April, an entire array of free family programmes and concerts. Among them, Vilmos Gryllus’s spring greeting songs, the interactive musical storytelling by Hangoló, and a variety of drum, dance, and handicrafts workshops, folktales, and films hold entertainment possibilities for every member of the family.
Spring Festival Ticket Sales
- Online Tickets
- at the Müpa ticket office: 1095 Budapest, Komor Marcell utca 1.; Telephone: +36 1 555 3300, +36 1 555 3301; e-mail: email@example.com; Hours: daily from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., on performance days until the first intermission;
- The publicity service of the Budapest Festival and Tourist Centre: 1052 Budapest, Bárczy István utca 1–3.; Telephone: +36 1 269 0470; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Hours: Monday 12:00 – 6:00 p.m., Tuesday-Friday 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., closed weekends; closed 28 February for technical reasons.
The best way to enjoy both the wonderful atmosphere of spring, and the quality cultural programmes of the Budapest Spring Festival is to spend a few days relaxing and sightseeing in the city. For this, the Danubius hotels in Budapest, one on either bank of the Danube and a third on dazzlingly beautiful Margaret Island, are a high-comfort option.