It is time to look back on the period we are just leaving behind. The acting presidency of the EU council will be handed over in a few days to Poland by Hungary. In the series of articles below we look back onto the most memorable cultural moments of the past six months.
In January, the start of the year, its very first minutes and the start of the acting EU-presidency of Hungary were celebrated by over five thousand people in the Millenáris park of Budapest. Hungary put the issue of cultural diversity high up on its agenda and therefore the motto of the celebrations was ’We are Europe’. The New Year’s Eve concert mainly selected performers from the best Hungarian jazz, pop and folk music groups. The happenings were followed by over five thousand people on giant screens in front of the Teátrum building of the Millenáris and in front of the bulding ’B’ and at various other locations in the park. The programme has been in part broadcasted by the public service TV channels m1 and m2. The Facebook profile page of the Hungarian EU-presidency was also giving detailed updates of the procedures.
The Millenáris cultural complex near Moszkva square (renamed Kálmán Széll square since) remained an important venue of the programmes of the Hungarian EU-presideny also after the New Year’s Party. On January 8 the EU Info Point opened here. The slogan ’Europe is yours!’ says it all about the information bureau, library and meeting point, set up in the ground level of the new headquarters of the Information Bureau of the European Parliament and the Budapest Representation of the European Comission. The celebrations, running long into the night, featured concerts by singer-songwriter Mari Nyeső and world music star Bea Palya, and were concluded by DJ Palotai.
It was not only the chair of the Council of the European Union held for six months by Hungary that put this country in international spotlight: the year also marked the 200th annyversary of the birth of Ferenc Liszt, and the commemorations have been elevated to the rank of Outstanding Annyversary by the world council of UNESCO. Opening the celebrations in the Palace of Arts president of the republic Pál Schmitt quoted a contemporary of Liszt, count Géza Zichy, who said: ’He was Hungarian in his heart, German in his love to music, French in his appearance and as a man of letters, English in his ideals about the aristocracy, and Italian in his love for the visual arts. He was everything, that one could ever be: he was a complete universe.’ In the figure of Liszt Hungary and Europe are united, in his art the better part of the whole of Hungarian culture can be grasped, and as he is regarded their own by a number of EU-member countries, the composer born 200 years ago was the most shining star of the acting EU-presidency of Hungary and a number of hugely successful opening concerts.
On January 7th in Lisbon, on January 11th in Helsinki, January 13th in Madrid, 14th in Berlin, 16th in London, 17th in Paris, between January 19–21 in the Baltic countries, on the 22nd in Vienna, and finally in Brussels on January 25th the works of Liszt have been performed in concerts given by the most famous artists of Hungarian classical music. There would be no point in listing all the pianists and their partners, from Zoltán Kocsis to Iván Fischer, the Honvéd Men’s Choir to the Ferenc Liszt Chamber Orhestra, from Gábor Farkas to Károly Mocsári and Dezső Ránki, all those who have visited many European capitols. State secretary of the Ministry of Human Resources in charge of cultural affairs Géza Szőcs told the press in Paris: ’The openness of Ferenc Liszt, his ability to depict various landscapes and cultures, his never ending quest of new ways of his art provides an example to follow demonstrating how paralell identities can be together in harmony. The most noble way of loving one’s homeland, not through words rather by deeds seems to be in unison in him with the casuality of a citoyen of the world, and the local features in a natural way. This a sort of an example that should especially inspire Hungary, taking the chair of the European Union in the first half of the year, an example that can be admired by the citizens of other countries, all our friends all acroos Europe.’
Of course Hungary was not only spreading the word about herself by ways of music on the occasion of the acting presidency of the EU. Programmes representing the Hungarian culture started already in December 2010 in Brussels, the capitol of most EU institutions. An exhibition of about 50 works of 13 painters called the Hungarian Fauves, displayed in the Town Hall, in one of the most beautiful and most frequently visited sqaures in the whole world opened last November. Also here, in the Justus Lipsius House, where the European Council meetings have been held since 1995, an illustrated carpet over 200 square meters wide has been put up, along with a number of other displays supposed to demonstrate various aspects of Hungarian creative thinking: books, poles inscripted with verse, furniture, lamps, and china made in the Zsolnay manufactury.
In Barcelona The Great Masters of the Secession (Jugendstil) Barcelona–Brussels–Budapest were on show starting on January 23rd, in an open-air exhibition, revealing one of the most interesting aspects of the culture in the countries of the three countries, holding the chair in succession, also called Trio. The main protagonists of the early 20th century style, Antonio Gaudí, Victor Horta and Ödön Lechner proved to all the visitors of the exhibition, that the Hungarian culture has been in tact with Europe.
A couple of days before the beginning of the year in Vienna an exhibition opened by the title River of Culture – Cities along the Danube. Sixteen contemporary painters and video artists were seeking answers to the most important questions about how far the cultures along the river Danube belong together.
Speaking about the Danube one should not forget that on the Danube, on board of the amusement ship A38, harboured on the South Buda bank, a concert series called Polyphony has been taking place. The subtitle of the series explains it all, Unity, Diversity, Music, as it was meant to popularise among young people not only the founding principles of the EU, but also the fact that Hungary has been holding the acting presidency in the EU in the first half of 2011. The basic idea of the series is simple, but very effective: every concert featured a Hungarian band and one from an EU memebr country. The night on January 20th belonged to Bulgaria, represented by the popular band Kottarashky.
All in all the first month of the EU presidency was mostly about Ferenc Liszt and about music, setting the tone of the six-month period literally and also symbolically. It was received very positively. In fact, the year could not have started better.