The Budapest Festival Orchestra is winding up a three-date tour of concerts in provincial synagogues this week — a tour that included a performance in the newly renovated, more than 200-year-old synagogue in the town of Albertirsa. The tour was part of its continuing series of concerts in synagogues (including synagogues that are neglected) in small towns and villages around the country.
Renovation of the Albertirsa synagogue, funded almost completely by a Norway grant totalling around €930,000, was completed in recent months, transforming it into a “House of Arts” community cultural center.
The new center was dedicated with a ceremony and concert at the end of May — see the video below (it is quite long, with a lot of speeches, but the first part shows the state of building before the renovation):
The synagogue, a simple rectangular building with a peaked roof, was constructed in the early 1800s. Following World War II it was used for agricultural purposes, and almost all its interior fittings were lost. It had remained empty and in deteriorating condition for the past two decades, and became owned by the municipality in 2006: concerts were held there even before renovation commenced.
Transformation of the abandoned synagogue into an arts center was the diploma project of architecture student Balasz Toth, in 2015. He wrote:
The main designing principle was to preserve the building’s original spatial structure and its exterior characteristics while creating a fully functional cultural center. With this preconception the project aims the restoration of the synagogue’s premises to their original state. The main hall becomes a multifunctional event hall. While all the supporting program components, such as the new entrance hall, box office, toilets and dressing rooms, are situated in an extension. The synagogue’s garden is transformed into an urban public space with an area where outdoor cultural events can take place.
In addition to the concert in Albertirsa on Sept. 10, the Budapest Festival Orchestra tour included performances in the synagogue Baja (long restored and used as a library) on Sept. 11 and in Janoshalma (restored in 2000) on Sept. 13.
The orchestra performed in other provincial synagogues earlier this spring and summer, as part of a program that — as we reported — began in 2014, working with the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation (EMIH), which is associated with Chabad.
During the 2014 inaugural tour it gave a performance in the still-dilapidated Albertirsa synagogue — and at the dedication of the renovated building in May, Chabad Rabbi Slomó Köves was one of the speakers, in addition to the mayor and other VIPS.
Last December, as we reported, nearly 3,000 people packed Budapest’s majestic Dohany St. synagogue — the largest synagogue in Europe — for a concert by the BFO and guest artist Daniel Barenboim, held as a fund-raiser to allow the BFO to continue its series of provincial synagogue concerts.