The Budapest Festival Orchestra—30 years old this year and still led by its ebullient co-founder, Ivan Fischer—is Hungary's leading cultural export and one of the most celebrated orchestras in the world. They got that way not through strict adherence to established performance practice, but by taking a fresh approach to hidebound classics while championing other works long since forgotten. Not to mention, they like to have fun as well.
Case in point: At Avery Fisher Hall last Sunday, the BFO had already launched into Shostakovich's Jazz Suite No. 2 (1950) when Fischer bounded onstage, conducting as he made his way to the podium. (When was the last time you saw that at a "classical" concert?) After the crowd calmed down, we were treated to a mixture of Straussian marches, polkas, and waltzes—a far cry from the Shostakovich of bombastic symphonies and somber string quartets. Perfect way to start a Sunday afternoon.