Kocsis and Ranki

It sounds like Cockney rhyming slang but this was the delicious fare at the Palais des Beaux Arts this evening, played by the Hungarian National Orchestra under the expert baton of Zoltan Kocsis. We had, variously, Franz Liszt’s ‘Preludes and symphonique poem after Alphonse de Mamartine’, then his second piano concerto (with Dezsö Ranki giving an accomplished performance), then Bela Bartok’s four Slovakian songs and three village scenes, and finally, his Cantata Profana, The Nine Enchanted Stags. It was all great stuff but the concert, coming at the beginning of the Hungarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, was rendered special from the outset by the presence of the Hungarian President, Pal Schmitt, on a state visit to Brussels, and Belgian Princess Mathilde. Because of their presence, the concert began with the Belgian national anthem (sung twice, once in French, once in Flemish), the Hungarian national anthem and, most movingly, the ‘European anthem’ – Beethoven’s Ninth and Schiller’s Ode to Joy sung by a double choir – that’s right, a double choir. It really did make the hairs stand up on the back of the neck. Europe, endless!