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Budapest Palace of the Arts Opens

In Budapest, the Palace of Arts recently opened, featuring four Studer Vista digital consoles in both studio recording and front-of-house mixing applications.

Engineer Barnabas Kiss

In Budapest, the Palace of Arts recently opened, featuring four Studer Vista digital consoles in both studio recording and front-of-house mixing applications.

Opening in time to celebrate the 2005 Budapest Spring Festival, the Palace of Arts covers a ground area of over 32,000 square feet in southern Pest, adjacent to the National Theater. The centerpiece of the Palace is the National Concert Hall, the largest of its kind in Hungary, seating 1,700 with standing room for an additional 200.

The Palace cost more than $170 million to build, and was funded by a private Budapest company, the TriGránit Development Corporation, under a unique PPP (Private-Public-Partnership) financial arrangement whereby TriGránit bears the costs of building the complex and then leases it back to the Hungarian government. Real estate tycoon Sándor Demján from TriGránit has been the driving force behind the Palace of Arts project.

The Concert Hall itself sits in a huge internal structure, floating on steel and rubber springs. There are 66 resonant chambers around its walls and a 40-ton canopy above the podium to ensure that the audience hears the performance perfectly. The American consultancy ARTEC and its director, Russell Johnson, were brought onboard to design the acoustics. Johnson’s CV includes concert halls in Birmingham, Sao Paulo, Philadelphia, Lucerne and Singapore, yet he ranks the Palace extremely high on this distinguished list. “I would not be surprised if, in three years from now, the musicians of Europe may rate this hall in Budapest as the best concert hall in Europe,” he says.

The Concert Hall is a tremendously flexible environment with adjustable side panels and a giant wooden baffle in the ceiling, which can be raised or lowered. The venue is equipped with sophisticated sound reinforcement equipment for non-acoustic performances, typically jazz, including a Studer digital Vista 8 console that swings into operation at front-of-house.

Studer’s Vista consoles dominate the Palace’s technical inventory, reportedly the largest concentration of Vistas in an arts center anywhere in the world. Operational flexibility and versatility, together with an exceptionally user-friendly interface, are given as the reasons that this project chose Studer, according to chief engineer Barnabas Kiss (pictured). Kiss says that, “Every day, different performers and technicians will come through our doors. Our primary criteria for choosing the equipment was that it must be easy to use for the people who’ll be here with us for maybe just one show. Also, for these reasons, we wanted one manufacturer to supply all our console requirements, so that all four mix positions in this building could be the same; not similar, but the same.”

Kiss continues, saying that “this system is so smart that it could have been invented by Hungarians! Five minutes after sitting down in front of this desk for the first time, you can use it like a professional. At our opening ceremony, half of the Vista 8 was being used by the engineer producing a live mix for TV and radio; the other half of the same console was being used by another engineer to make a live recording of the event.”

BaSys Multimedia of Hungary supplied the four Studer digital desks to the Palace. The Concert Hall has a mobile 32-fader Vista 8 located in its control room, which can be moved down to a position in the stalls. A 52-fader Studer Vista 8 has been sited in the adjacent studio for recording sessions. In the 450-seat Festival Theater, a 52-fader Vista 8 digital console is installed at front-of-house, with a 40-fader Vista 7 installed in the adjoining recording studio.

The venue has already hosted Zubin Mehta, Sergei Nakariakov, Pierre Boulez with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Daniel Barenboim, Jukka-Pekka Saraste and Kobayashi Ken-Ichiro. In the upcoming year, the venue plans to host Schiff, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Alanis Morrisette, The Temptations and The Supremes.

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