Hungarian maestro to raise baton again in Budapest

BUDAPEST, Jun 20, 2000 -- (Reuters) Hungarian maestro Ivan Fischer said on Monday he was ending his conducting boycott after the city relinquished control of the Budapest Festival Orchestra.

"It is a completely new situation and of course I will come back," Fischer, who had said in March he would no longer conduct the orchestra's performances in Budapest, told Reuters.

"I have to stand by my people, and now it is up to the Hungarian public to look after this orchestra," he said by telephone.

Fischer, reached while travelling in Amsterdam, spoke after Mayor Gabor Demszky and representatives of the Budapest Festival Orchestra Foundation signed an agreement turning over full control of the orchestra to the foundation.

Complaining that the city had reneged on promises in 1992 to provide adequate funding, the 49-year-old Fischer announced in March he would no longer conduct the ensemble in Budapest, but would appear with it on tour and to make recordings.

Fischer's decision left a huge void in the musical world of the Hungarian capital and threatened to hurt the growth of cultural tourism in Budapest, renowned for its high quality concerts at relatively low prices.

The deal signed by Demszky and the foundation guarantees city funding for the orchestra of Ft 200 million ($740,200) a year and Ft 40 million from the national government, with shortfalls to be made up by private, mainly corporate, sponsors.

The city surrendered all administrative control.

The Soros Foundation of American-Hungarian financier George Soros is giving a onetime $100,000 grant to cover existing contracts for the orchestra for this year, pending a transition to a freelance payment system in the future, officials said.

Officials said the new legal structure turning over complete control of a prestigious orchestra to a private foundation was unique for Eastern Europe and was modeled on U.S. practices.

"This is completely new, it's revolutionary - the orchestra will now be entirely run by the foundation and this is new in the whole region," said Tamas Korner, the orchestra foundation's executive director.

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