Concerts at St. Stephen’s Basilica
In the remarkable and humbling atmosphere of the centuries-old basilica of St Stephen in the heart of Budapest, classical music takes on a whole new dimension. The marbled walls and the beautiful stained-glass images blend seamlessly with the Baroque and Classical tunes performed by the celebrated Duna String Orchestra, with violin and soprano soloists. With a programme that goes back to two of the most prolific periods of classical music, Concerts at St Stephen’s Basilica makes for a memorable and unique experience in the stately capital city of Hungary.
The programme begins with one of the most recognisable melodies that came from under Johann Sebastian Bach’s pen, ‘Air on the G String’. Continuing the Baroque line, ‘Rejoice’ from the oratorio Messiah by George Frideric Handel and ‘Adagio in G-minor’ by Tomaso Albinoni bring in an emotional and musical range that demonstrates the richness of this musical period. The mad rush of ‘Winter’ from Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons then takes you on a wild ride as the hurried string passages bounce off the basilica’s heavy walls. Hearing such famous and beloved pieces of classical music in the unique setting of the old Catholic church imparts a special quality onto them.
Far from being, the concert then continues with more popular works by Vivaldi, such as his ‘Violin Concerto in G-Major’, and Handel, also featured with the ‘Largo’ from his opera Xerxes. The set list also includes two renditions of the divine ‘Ave Maria’, one by Charles Gounod and the other by Franz Schubert, both lovely and gentle in their own special ways. ‘When I Am Laid in Earth’ from Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell stands out as a rare gem in the company of composers mostly associated with continental Europe. The evening’s finale falls upon Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. ‘Lacrimosa’ from his famous unfinished Requiem in D-minor brings you down before the festive ‘Alleluja’ from Exsultate, Jubilate lifts you up again. Indeed, Concerts at St Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest take you through the main stations of Baroque and Classics full circle.