Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Esteemed Speaker of the House, Director General, Director, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The baker bakes new bread every day, but all the architect can advise his or her clients to do if they don’t like the final result is to plant vines, meaning that every new building is a risk. It is especially so in today’s world when architects no longer want to speak in the formal language of the old, well-established, historical styles. In other words, we’re nervous. We’re nervous throughout. We’re nervous throughout grandiose construction projects. Only the first glance cast at the completed building can bring some reassurance and peace of mind. On the issue of taste, it is difficult to come to a consensus, and it only happens in rare moments. Today we have one such moment. There appears to be a consensus that Mr Fujimoto did an excellent job. Allow me to convey to him the gratitude of the Hungarian people for his work. And not only to the architect, but equally to the main and sub-contractors, to the master tradesmen, the qualified and unqualified workers; in other words, to everyone who made it possible with their work for us to stand here today. Thank you.
Coming in, it also occurred to me that we commissioned a Japanese person to design this building which we intend to use as the house of Hungarian music. Why is it that in a space created by a Japanese mind we Hungarians feel at home? It is perhaps because the distance between the two nations, the two spirits, the Japanese and the Hungarian genius is not as great as we would think based on geography. Let’s just recall the scientific efforts of the 1930s which sought to find kinship between the two peoples. But another possible explanation may be that this building doesn’t want to impose on its environment; instead, it organically blends into, harmoniously mixes with it. And this is easy on the Hungarian eye. This approach is specific not only to Japanese traditions, but equally to the most excellent Hungarian architectural traditions.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Perhaps it was Churchill who said that we shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us. Therefore, let’s speak about ourselves a little. Europe is undergoing hard times. Waves of pandemics and mass migration follow one another, the European energy crisis is here on our necks, the ideological pressure from Brussels is ever increasing, and meanwhile the political, military, economic and cultural – regrettably, also cultural – weight of our continent is continuously diminishing compared with the rest of the world. Elsewhere institutions such as these are being closed down, scaled down and are losing significance due to the pandemic; meanwhile, here in Hungary, this impressive new institution with a powerful cultural radiation stands here in all its glory. Additionally, the House of Hungarian Music is not an institution standing on its own, but one that forms part of an enormous cultural project, so it’s time for us to establish: we Hungarians are in a phase of cultural expansion, crisis or no crisis. According to the latest available data, Hungarian cultural expenditures are pro rata ranked number one in the European Union, it is true though that we are tied in that competition. While in 2010, we were only in the middle of the rankings, a national, constitutional turnaround came about, and we managed to climb back to the top within a decade. There’s no doubt about it: the fact that we’re a nation of culture forms an important part of the self-image of the Hungarian people.
But, Ladies and Gentlemen, neither should we forget how our political opponents behaved regarding the issue of the refurbishment of the Városliget. It is not a mere coincidence that the Mayor of Budapest happened to have something to do elsewhere today of all days. Seeking reprisal is an enormous temptation as seeing this beautiful building, the full house, the number of recognitions it earned, it is as clear as day: we were right. The political workers of the Left defended that which was dilapidated, derelict and unworthy, and opposed that which is beautiful, is of the highest world quality, and elevates the spirit. The temptation is great, but it’s not appropriate for us to engage in political reprisal on the Day of Hungarian Culture. I myself won’t do such a thing. However, a little demon on my shoulder makes me say: let’s not forget about it, we should only postpone it, and instead – to draw an appropriate analogy – let’s beat them in April.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Instead of revenge, let’s sail to more serious waters. Hungarian culture has some privileged venues. One such venue is Városliget. But it has not always been worthy of its old, great glory. For instance, in 1877, this is what the poet János Arany wrote about it: “We’re a perfect match: A worn man, a worn park.” It seems that neither Arany, nor the park was in particularly good shape at the time. But then came the millennium developments: the Museum of Fine Arts, the Arts Hall, Heroes’ Square, the Transport Museum, Vajdahunyad Castle, the House of the Hungarian Millennium. A worn park overnight became the Parnassus of Hungarian culture. However, it was followed by the World War, and more than four decades of communism, and Mount Parnassus again became a worn, derelict park. When we returned to power in 2010, we wanted this park to become a flagship of Hungarian culture again. This is how the Liget Project came about if one may use such terms on the Day of Hungarian Culture. Whatever we call it, this is Europe’s largest cultural project. The new building of the Museum of Ethnography, the already refurbished Museum of Fine Arts, the House of the Hungarian Millennium and the Rose Garden, not far off is the National Centre for Museum Restoration and Warehousing, the Transport Museum will be given a new building, and this is how the exhibition space of the Komárom Star Fortress, too, came about.
It is appropriate that, beyond those who did the work, we should also say thank you to István Tarlós under whose mayorship these projects could start. During his time in office, the metropolitan municipality and the government formed a rewarding partnership whose fruit the people of Budapest will continue to reap for many long decades, and of which the entire Hungarian nation will be proud. Thank you, István.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Hungarian nation never forgets the names of country builders. Such country builders gave us the Chain Bridge, the Parliament or Margaret Bridge. There have always been people who want to hinder things, who are forever negative, who would destroy the country, but no one remembers their names because quite simply the Hungarian nation wipes them from its memory. We should also mention, Dear Friends, that in its present form the Liget Project is a semi-finished undertaking, an unfinished work, a torso. Therefore, we eagerly look forward to Hungarian electors putting an end to this matter in April, so that we can conclude this debate once and for all.
Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, today’s European political debates place European high culture, or more specifically, its mission into a new light. Globalisation versus Christian foundations, Brussels bureaucracy versus national pride, immigration versus family support, gender politics versus the protection of our children. This is not an East-West, but a new West-West conflict. And in consequence – let’s admit it – we are facing a threat of cultural alienation. We would, however, like to keep Europe together. Therefore, we must also do something about cultural alienation. To this end, we must turn to the classical values of high culture. High culture can mediate, and commands respect and attention in this chaos of Babel. If there is a higher purpose, for the attainment of which music, including Hungarian music, is the right medium, then this is the very medium.
Thank you for the opportunity of being here together with you. Thank you for your attention. Hungary is going forward, not backward, as you heard.
Come one, Hungary, Come on, Hungarians!