Tout commence un soir de janvier 1937, à Boston où le chef Dimitri Mitropoulos achève son deuxième séjour par la Symphonie en ut de Schumann. Invité à suivre répétitions et concert, l’étudiant Bernstein sent, au cours de l’Adagio espressivo, son « coeur éclater dans un mélange terrible de fierté et d’abattement ». Conçue au fond du gouffre, achevée au retour de la lumière en 1846, cette Symphonie no 2 le poursuivra longtemps. Bernstein chef d’orchestre est né par elle, commençons de même [CD I, 1-4]. L’influence de Mitropoulos ne s’arrête pas là. Une saison plus tôt, le chef grec avait soufflé Boston en dirigeant du piano le Concerto no 3 de Prokofiev, numéro de voltige que son admirateur reproduira en substituant Ravel à Prokofiev. Pianiste magnifique, Bernstein jouait dès cette année 1937 le Concerto en sol, qu’il dirigera du piano pour la première fois à Londres en 1946 et dont il fera l’un de ses tout premiers disques comme directeur du New York Philharmonic en 1958 [CD II, 2-4]
Niu Niu is the nickname of Chinese pianist Zhang Shengliang, a prodigy who began studying music at age 3. He made his first public appearance at 6, playing a Mozart sonata and a Chopin etude. After moving to Shanghai at 8, he was invited to attend the Shanghai Conservatory, where he became the youngest student ever enrolled there. While his first teacher was his father, Niu Niu became a student of Hung-Kuan Chen at the New England Conservatory in Boston. In 2006, he made a significant career move by performing at Wigmore Hall, and the following year he played Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 1 in London, under the direction of Leslie Howard. In 2007, at age 9, he signed a contract with EMI, and recorded his debut album, Niu Niu plays Mozart, which was released in 2008. After touring China and Japan, Niu Niu released a recording of Chopin's etudes, and in 2010, he won the Prix Montblanc for most talented young artist. In 2012, he recorded an album of Liszt transcriptions for EMI.
When Iván Fischer founded the Budapest Festival Orchestra more than 30 years ago he made a personal dream become true. Core of the philosophy of the orchestra is the total absence of daily routine. It is about taking the risk, the initiative and freedom to do things differently. Every concert is therefore a joyful discovery of uncharted territory, a journey to new horizons in music. It feels unexpected and surprising as if it was played for the very first time. The Festival Orchestra is driven by an openness towards the new and the unknown, by curiosity and attention to details. It is the innovative approach to music, the musician’s dedication and their permanent strive for excellence that made Budapest Festival Orchestra the youngest of the top 10 ranked ensembles in the world.
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s oratorio Elias Op. 70 was premiered in 1846 at the Birmingham Festival. It depicts the life of the prophet Elijah, taken from the books 1 and 2 Kings of the Old Testament. While it was composed in the spirit of Mendelssohn’s Baroque predecessors Bach and Handel, its lyricism and use of orchestral and choral color clearly reflects Mendelssohn’s own genius as an early Romantic composer. Paulus Op. 36, written a decade earlier, was a popular work during Mendelssohn’s lifetime, but failed to maintain its stature in comparison to his other oratorios and the oratorios of Handel and Bach.