An Evening at the Symphony

It seems like Kaposvár, for being a relatively isolated city, tries really hard to provide lots of cultural opportunities.  For a city of 65,000, I think there are at least three major performance halls/theaters. Unfortunately, we haven’t taken advantage of this yet and we’ve already been here for four months.  When there is an interesting performance, we just….have a reason why we can’t go.

Well, as we wandered down to the shopping mall this afternoon, I saw a flyer in the usual place I see flyers posted around here.  This one was for the Philharmonic Orchestra and it was advertising a concert in town tonight. Actually, I didn’t read any of the details of the performance; I didn’t try to.  I really only noticed that it was tonight and we didn’t have plans  (actually Kellie had a Skype “date” but was willing to reschedule it for me).  We have been wanting to take advantage of the low cost music performances  Hungary has to offer.  It’s fairly well-known that you can walk into the Budapest Opera House on the day of a performance and buy a perfectly good seat for less than $5, and we noticed that the prices were similar for this concert.  The venue was the Szivárvány Kultúrpalota, a downtown building which was remodeled last year to be a major cultural center of the area.  It was actually quite intimate inside; only about 300 seats I believe. The seats come in three prices: (in US dollars)  $8.96, $7.33, and $3.87! I have to believe that is at least 1/5 of what it would cost back in the US, for such a small concert hall.  We decided to go and see if we could buy tickets at the venue.

A kaposvári Szivárvány Kultúrpalota (photo:Moráth Rita/

We got there early (30 minutes), I knew some keywords (“emelet”=floor [balcony] and “legolcsóbb”=cheapest) and we had some great balcony seats that were near the back of the audience but still no more than 100 feet from the stage.

For two hours we were treated to five beautiful classical music pieces.  The first three were piano, the next was orchestra, and the last was piano and orchestra.  The pianist was an Austrian named Gottlieb Wallisch (

The orchestra seemed pretty young, and through my hit-or-miss perusing of the program, I believe they were the Pécs University orchestra.  The following beautiful music was played tonight:

Beethoven: Piano sonata in A major: Op. 2 no. 2
Piano Sonata No. 24 in F-sharp major Op. 78, “À Thérèse”

F. Liszt: Variations on “Weinan, Klage, Sorgen, Zagen” by JS Bach, S. 180

W.A. Mozart: Magic Flute Overture
Piano Concerto in E-flat major, K. 271 “Jeunehomme”
– Allegro
– Andantino
– Rondo. Presto – Minuetto

(courtesy of their Facebook page)

Today, I got some insight into the behavior or Hungarian crowds, in great contrast to the behaviors I am used to:

We got to our seats about 25 minutes before the performance…I don’t think that is too early.  We were basically alone for the next 15 minutes until the “10 minutes before the concert starts” mark when everyone else came in, in a matter of minutes. And then the performance started ten minutes late, anyway.  At the intermission I went down to check out the snack booth and lobby area.  There were at least 100 people there, eating “toast” and drinking drinks, which are not allowed in the seating area. I walked into the bathroom to wash my hands, and was in there for no more than a single minute.  I exited the bathroom to a completely empty, deserted lobby.  Apparently the “intermission is over” announced is not broadcast into the bathrooms, but for those who hear it, it is a call to drop everything and sprint back to one’s seat….it seems to me.

There is an even greater group phenomenon which occurs among audiences in Hungarian performances.  I read about this on the blogs of past teachers, but now I have experienced it! And I can’t understand it!  At the end of each piece, the crowd would clap….normally.  After a good 10 seconds of clapping and a bow by the pianist, he would head off stage.  At the instant he was off stage, the crowd somehow switched their clapping, in complete unison, to a rhythmic clap…maybe once every ½ second.  After about 10 seconds the pianist would come back onstage and at the exact instant he gave a “curtain call” bow, the clapping switched to a completely different rhythm…everyone, instantaneously and simultaneously!  It is quite mind-boggling.  And this happened throughout the show.  In fact, after the final piece, there were a few minutes of applause: first for the pianist, then conductor, then orchestra, then pianist, then the two went off-stage leaving the orchestra alone, then they came back on stage and bowed, and on and on some more. In those two minutes, there were about 6 or 8 distinct changes in the clapping rhythm of the audience…and as I said, it seemed like an instantaneous change among everyone.  I couldn’t make myself join it though; it seems so unnatural.  So I clapped as I normally would and I kept quiet during the rhythmic times, trying not to laugh. It clearly is a learned behavior; I wonder how it started.

Now I am looking forward to the future symphony performance dates.  In the next four months, they will be performing:

Feb 25: Bach, Brahms, Liszt, Bartok, Kodaly, Gershwin, by piano, violin, vocals, and     dance.
Apr 14: Carmina Burana (Orff), with vocals by Mozart Choir of Pecs Cathedral
May 5: Jazz pieces of Duke Ellington, by the National Choir and Modern Art Orchestra
(?  This may be a google translate issue again)


5 thoughts on “An Evening at the Symphony

  1. What a great opportunity you were presented with, and what a great result! The clapping phenomenon is odd. Definitely a learned behavior, I would think. Probably similar to a catholic mass, in which the church-goers always seem to know exactly when to sit, when to stand, when to start reciting phrases.

  2. That sounds like an amazing night! We have a theater in Mezőtúr and the other teachers said they would let me know the next time they go, so I am looking forward to that.

  3. Would you know why? Because the rythim of clapping fits with ‘come back, come back…’ (vissza). Most people don’t say it loud, but they used to. If you do it in a concert (correct..?) the band will play 1-2 more songs.
    (a random guy from 9.c)

  4. That is so interesting! You are lucky to be close to so many personal enrichment opportunities. Thank you for sharing~ Yvette

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