Memories in Budapest as Hungarian radio leaves its old home

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Memories in Budapest as Hungarian radio leaves its old home

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Hungarian Radio has just packed its microphones and recorders and left Esterhazy Palace, which was once home to Europe’s oldest radio station and the residence of the president of the country.

Music still resonates throughout the building from the iconic Studio 6 designed in 1935 by the Nobel-prize biophysicist Georg von Bekesy.

He later became a university professor specialising in sound waves and how we hear.

“The acoustics of this studio are very good. The reason for that is the special wooden panels on the wall and the ceiling. The shaping of the panels is very tricky. There are many triangular gaps in the wall. These gaps help to create a clear acoustic ambiance. The studio is ideal either for recording or live concerts with an audience,” explained Tamas Vasary Honorary Music Director of Hungarian Radio

Otto Klemperer was the most famous conductor between 1947 and 1948. The orchestra had been founded four year earlier by Ernst von Dohnanyi. Many Jewish musicians owe their life to the orchestra in the Second World War.

“In the spring of 1945, after the war we had to remove the debris of the building and bodies of horses from the courtyard of the radio station. Everyday life in the station recovered soon so Otto Klemperer came to Budapest in 1947 to lead the orchestra,” s aid Attila Boros, music historian

Architectural styles coexist. It is an aristocratic building but there is puritan simplicity – the mark of communism. The bunker studios were top secret.

Secret police tapped the phone lines of Hungarian radio, a practice that lasted from 1957 until the transition to democracy in the beginning of the 1990s.

Piroska Debrenti worked as a newsreader during the 1956 uprising. She recalled the first day of the revolution on October 23 1956:

“We could hear gunfire and we saw young soldiers in the courtyard of the studio building. We didn’t see weapons on the soldiers. They were due to finish their service two weeks later, but were here to protect the radio station. All of them were shot dead,” she said.

The media scene was about to change with the arrival of television but not before Hungarian radio played an historic role providing commentary from the football match of the century.

Puskas’ Golden Team beat England 6-3 at Wembley – England had not been beaten for over 90 years at home. That night and the magic of the Magyars left an indelible print on English football.

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