Óbuda Social Circle Celebrates 30 Years of Music and Culture


The Óbuda Social Circle, one of Budapest’s most renowned cultural institutions, celebrates its 30th anniversary. The Budapest Business Journal discussed the circle’s past, present, future, and what makes it unique with Mária Harsányi, who has been its director for ten years.

Mária Harsányi

Asked what has been the house’s most memorable event, the director said there is no self-explanatory answer, as it had hosted numerous programs.  

“We always strived to make programs that fit the house’s milieu, making them unique and of high standard,” she noted. “Continuity and roots are of paramount importance to us.” She added that the Social Circle carries on the traditions of a café turned cultural house, first named after Attila József in 1956, then renamed in honor of Leó Frankel in 1966, alongside the heritage of Judit Merényi’s 20-year tenure as director.

Regarding the musical events of the Social Circle, she said: “The house is the home of a musical family. Our regular acts include the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra, the Budapest String Chamber Orchestra, the Anima Musicae Chamber Orchestra, and the Óbuda Chamber Orchestra, which has been operating for 64 years.”  

Of the programs, she said that every season begins on the World Day of Music and it traditionally ends with the birthday concert of Anima Musicae on June 20. During the summer, guests can attend operas, concerts and theatrical acts in the Circle’s gardens.

On October 1, a book about the institution’s history, also electronically accessible and downloadable from the Circle’s website, has been published.  

Personal Confessions

“It also contains the personal confessions of performers and creative artists,” the director noted, saying that the book contains three studies about the building, alongside its past as a café and cultural house. A CD selection of the past ten years’ musical recordings has also been released.

Asked what makes the house and its programs unique, she answered: “Due to the family atmosphere, for instance.” As an example, she noted: “The chamber orchestras do not only rehearse and prepare for concerts at the Academy of Music here, but they also perform in the house.” However, the family atmosphere entails a lot more. The Circle had a number of unique events recently, like the ZeneZug (Music Corner) Festival.  

“The Budapest Strings utilized the homely corners of the building during the ZeneZug Festival, and there really was music everywhere,” the director recalled.

Why is it worth visiting the Óbuda Social Circle for foreign music lovers? “Music is an international language; 80% of our programs are music events.” said Harsányi. Guests may enjoy not only classical, but “good quality, entertaining” popular light music concerts, as the house has partners like the Budapest Ragtime Band and Blue Danube Concert-Salon Orchestra.

With the Social Circle’s current season well underway, the house can already boast successes such as a Bernstein anniversary evening, which Harsányi enthusiastically described as “very well done”.

The Circle does not only offer musical programs. The director said that it also commemorates artists that it considers its own, such as writer “...Gyula Krúdy, who spent the last three years of his life at the building that now serves as the Hungarian Museum of Trade and Tourism, and frequented the café which was then operating in the building of the Social Circle at the time.” The Circle commemorates both the birth and death of the writer, as well as the recently deceased Péter Esterházy.

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