Thousands of music lovers flock to Hungarian capital for Budapest Spring festival

Palace of Arts, photo:

The Budapest Spring Festival opened on Friday night. First launched 26 years ago in the off-season to see whether world famous performers and audiences would be willing to visit the Hungarian capital in March, the Spring Festival now attracts tens of thousand of people. In 2005 it won the European Cultural Prize.

This year's festival coincides with the first birthday of the Palace of Arts, a new landmark in Budapest. Gyorgyi Jakobi spoke to Judy Pwetranyi, a spokeswoman for the Palace of Arts and who opened the Budapest Spring festival:

"I think the first year was extremely successful. Perhaps even more successful than was expected. This is a place in which you have a huge concert hall with a capacity of 1,800 people and truly fantastic acoustics, a theatre, and a large five-storey exhibition area, which houses Hungary's Museum of Modern Art. So, it's a very complex establishment that attracts many visitors, especially with concerts. With 400 concerts, there were many more concerts than there are days in the year."

The 'birthday' concert marked the beginning of another highlight of our cultural life - the Budapest Spring festival...

"Yes and one of the important venues is the Palace of Art. But there are many more, of course. Concerts and classical music have always been important at the Spring Festival. Now it is especially so, with the festival based on two birthdays - the 125th anniversary of the birth of Bela Bartok and the 250th birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Some of the highlights include a guest performance by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra who play Mozart, the Swiss Romande who play Bartok, the Mozarteum Orchestra from Salzburg under Ivor Bolton, and one can go on and on."

We should mention a grand event at the palace, which is the opening of the new organ...

"Now the organ is a very traditional and conventional instrument, of course, but digital technology does wonders nowadays. It is an extremely important addition. The first concerts will take place in early April and will produce wonders."

What events of the Spring Festival would you recommend to those who will be in Budapest?

"First of all, they should go and see the Ludwig Museum of modern art. The museum itself as a building is extremely interesting. They should also take a look at the concert hall, when either the organ is being tested - you can actually experience this in these days, or go to any of the concerts because the acoustics are just wonderful. I should also add that the concerts will not only feature Bartok or Mozart. There will be many other concerts too. For instance, conductor, pianist, and all-round musician Daniel Barenboim will play a Bach recital. I am certainly looking forward to that one."