With its splendid acoustical qualities, the Béla Bartók National Concert Hall at Müpa, Budapest attracts the world’s finest international soloists and orchestras. After the pandemic hiatus of the last two years, touring has happily resumed and the 2022-23 season at Hungary’s cultural hub is brimming with rich variety in its programming. There are stellar names, to be sure, but there is also rare repertoire to attract those who are musically curious rather than just blinded by stars in their eyes. 

Béla Bartók National Concert Hall, Budapest
© Gábor Kotschy

It’s good to see home talent promoted, with both the Artist and Composer of the Season celebrating Hungarians. Incredible trumpet virtuoso Gábor Boldoczki plays Penderecki’s Concertino with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and joins the Wroclaw Baroque Orchestra for Vivaldi and Torelli concertos. Then in May he performs the world premiere of Fazıl Say’s Concerto for two trumpets, where he is joined by the legendary Sergei Nakariakov, who seems to have been around forever but is somehow still only 45 years old. 

Boldoczki’s first concert of the Müpa season pairs him with the venue’s featured composer, Judit Varga, where he performs the world premiere of her concerto grosso titled Bending Space and Time. Other Varga works performed include the Hungarian premiere in May of Happy Birthday, Major Ludwig – yes, Beethoven – and the world premiere of Stars buried deep in April. 

But what of those star soloists? Yuja Wang always draws an expectant crowd and will be sure to delight when she opens Müpa’s season playing Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto no. 1 with Andris Nelsons and the Leipzig Gewandhaus, with their principal trumpeter Gábor Richter in the concerto’s cheeky other solo role. Viktoria Mullova plays Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and Martin Grubinger performs the Hungarian premiere of Daniel Bjarnason’s Percussion Concerto with the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg. 

Yuja Wang
© Julia Weswly

Starry orchestras don’t come any more prestigious than the Vienna Philharmonic, who play Mahler’s Seventh Symphony under conductor Andris Nelsons. Iván Fischer – well known to Müpa audiences, of course – appears with Amsterdam’s renowned Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra to perform a programme of Bartók and Beethoven. The Filarmonica della Scala journeys from Milan to play very unoperatic fare, Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, with its Music Director, Riccardo Chailly. In March, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Daniele Gatti bring an unusual programme of Stravinsky, Brahms and Hindemith. 

And if you want some serious voices, look no further. Nina Stemme sings an aria recital with the Hungarian State Opera Orchestra and Bo Skovhus sings a Mahler Lieder recital, both as part of the venue’s treasured Budapest Wagner Days festival next June. Axel Kober conducts a fully staged production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, directed by Michael Schülz. Thomas Johannes Mayer sings Hans Sachs, the kindly cobbler-poet, with AJ Glueckert as aspiring songster Walter von Stolzing and Hungarian soprano Polina Pastirchak sings Eva. 

Stuart Skelton
© Sim Canetty-Clarke

As ever, Ádám Fischer conducts Der Ring des Nibelungen in special concert stagings. Günther Groissböck tackles the role of Wotan in Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, while Egils Siliņš takes over as “The Wanderer” (aka Wotan in not so subtle disguise) in Siegfried. Other cast members include the tireless Iréne Theorin as Brünnhilde, Stuart Skelton as Siegmund and Hungarian bass-baritone Péter Kálmám as Alberich. No word yet on the casting of Siegfried, so keep your eyes peeled for our updated listing. The Budapest Wagner Days also includes a special concert performance of excerpts from Parsifal featuring Skelton and Groissböck and again conducted by Fischer. 

But opera at Müpa does not begin and end with Richard Wagner. Next season sees some real rarities hit the Budapest stage, including a concert performance of Verdi’s fourth opera, I Lombardi alla prima crociata (The Lombards on the First Crusade) featuring the Munich Radio Orchestra conducted by Ivan Repušić. The fine cast features Nino Machaidze as Giselda and Michele Pertusi as the baddie-turned-hermit Pagano. Franz Schubert is celebrated for his hundreds of Lieder, but he also composed operas too, none of them part of the standard repertoire. Aapo Häkkinen conducts a rare semi-staged performance of Alfonso und Estrella in November. There is also a concert performance of the first version (1737) of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Castor et Pollux featuring Reinoud Van Mechelen and Tassis Christoyannis as the titular twins as part of Müpa’s Early Music Festival. 

Local orchestras feature too, with appearances by the Szeged Symphony, MÁV Symphony, Györ Philharmonic and Miskolc Symphony Orchestras to complete an eclectic season at Müpa, Budapest.

Click here to see all the events of the 2022-2023 season at Müpa, Budapest.

This article was sponsored by Wavemaker Hungary, on behalf of MUPA.