Symphony No. 3 (Birth) – review by János Malina


"Iván Fischer conducted a symphony written by Levente Gyöngyösi and another by Mahler at the head of the Budapest Festival Orchestra at the main concert of the Mahler Fest this year. Gyöngyösi, whose Symphony no.3 was composed for this event on Iván Fischer’s request, had a previous cantata already performed by the Festival Orchestra; thus, Gyöngyösi can be seen as the orchestra’s own composer. Similarly to his First symphony, this one is also a program symphony; moreover, it can be seen as the continuation of the former composition concerning its biographical nature. On first hearing, however, this new symphony is significantly more mature and seems to have been composed with bigger economy compared to the previous one. My impression is that, concerning purely instrumental music, Gyöngyösi has by now attained the naturalism he presented in his vocal music for almost a decade.

His Symphony no.3 is called Birth. Based on its movements (Conception, Inside, Birth, Outside), it obviously celebrates a new life coming into existence. Since the reference to the birth of his first-born child is an open secret, the first and third symphonies together continue on the way of Sinfonia domestica in their particular language. This language is exceptionally polished, admittedly eclectic and extraordinarily varied. Phrasing Gyöngyösi’s fantasy of colours and his sense of impelling and exciting effects is a cliché. Many characteristic, suggestive moments are abode in our memory: the well-instrumented, ecstatic moments of the opening movement; his idyllic folk dance episode; the heart-throbbing, pure lyric of the second movement; the blood-freezingly strong and original depiction of the struggles of birth equal to the distorted characters of Bartók or Stravinsky; the “breakthrough”, the momentum of birth itself and finally the charming simplicity of the closing song by Attila József (beautifully sung by Beatrix Fodor). The symphony, both in details and as a whole, shows signs of order and careful formation and even if we can recognise the sources of Gyöngyösi’s thoughts on a scale from jazz and Mahler, through Kodály, Bartók to folk music, I assume that Gyöngyösi is stubbornly working on building his individual world of music. The consistent devotion to his own way is by all means honourable and congenial. Iván Fischer and his orchestra approached the piece with undiminished concentration and respect and the suggestive and chiselled performance was enthusiastically welcome by the audience."