Are there any requests from the floor?

Tonight's Prom will feature music chosen by the audience on the spot. Its conductor, Ivá* Fischer, tells Jessica Duchen about an invigorating leap into the unknown

With a flying rabbit, a new role for the bell of the tuba, audience voting and wall-to-wall surprise, the Budapest Festival Orchestra's late-night Prom tonight promises to be unlike any the Royal Albert Hall audience has experienced. The BFO and its founder and chief conductor, Ivá* Fischer, will follow their normal concert of Mahler and Liszt with an extraordinary event in which the music will be chosen on the spot, by the audience.

It is a concept that may boggle the imagination of many concert-goers, but in Hungary the BFO has made it a popular feature of its concert series. Fischer suggests that the practice fulfils a purpose beyond simply keeping listeners on their toes.

"The idea came when I witnessed a first rehearsal of a theatre company with actors around a table reading through a play," he says. "It was fascinating because everybody focused on the story, on 'what comes next', without any thoughts of interpretation. I also read about historical occasions, like Schubert's Great C Major Symphony being played through by the orchestra of Vienna and then abandoned, considered unplayable. So I thought that the polished, well-rehearsed product isn't the only musical experience. It is exciting to take part in a first rehearsal, when we simply read through a musical work."

In practice, the event carries implications well beyond that of a glorified rehearsal. Apart from being huge fun, the concert's requirement that everyone take part in choosing the music seems to give every audience member a sense of involvement quite different from merely booking a ticket. Effectively, this is musical democracy in the making.

It may sound zany but there is a daring and originality to the concept, as well as a sense of risk that could shake up audience and performers alike. Fischer says: "In a normal concert one expects perfection and one is interested in the interpretation. Here we will be happy if we manage to play a work through without major disaster and interpretation is out of the question. There will be a very welcome purity and simplicity in these readings."

Here's how it works. On the way in, everyone attending will be given a list of around 300 pieces. Fischer will introduce the concert from the podium, asking everyone to look at the list and decide on a work, in case they are the lucky person selected to pick one.

Next, seat numbers are stowed in the bell of the tuba and three members of the audience are requested, at random, to go on stage and draw out the lucky winners. The people in those seats then get to choose a piece each.

At the Proms, matters are further complicated. The promenaders, obviously, do not have seats, so now it is time for the flying rabbit. Fischer, we hear, will toss a toy bunny into the arena. The person who catches it will get to make a choice.

Are regular favourites likely to pitch up? Maybe, says Fischer, but maybe not. "In my experience half of the people choose the most well-known works, like Ravel's Bolero," he says. "The other half have personal favourites ranging from Haydn to Bartók."

Now the entire audience votes on which one of the several chosen works the orchestra will play – the piece attracting the biggest show of hands wins. While the BFO's librarian dashes off to find the correct orchestral parts, members of the orchestra will entertain us with Hungarian folk and Gypsy pieces. Then, finally, the chosen piece will materialise... depending on the length of the works chosen, all this will happen several times.

It sounds almost impossibly elaborate, especially for an orchestra on tour, but the BFO is no ordinary orchestra. It is an international favourite, not just for its high standards but for the irrepressible spirit with which it approaches music-making. Fischer's nomination for this year's Gramophone Artist of the Year award is the latest in a string of accolades that have recognised him as one of our best-loved conductors; he infuses performance with ideals that reach parts other maestros and orchestras usually do not.

Fischer founded the BFO in 1983 with those ideals in mind. The orchestra declares simply that it "belongs to the music lovers in Budapest and all over the world." When they play, you feel the love.

"An orchestra musician is an artist, not an employee, and artists must be given the chance to take initiatives and to be creative," says Fischer in his mission statement. "Only an orchestra of true artists – making music as a highly disciplined team – is able to realise the dreams of the composers and pass on an uplifting experience to the audience, touching all listeners deep in their heart. This is our aim for which the Budapest Festival Orchestra has been created."

Fischer insists that in devising his Audience Choice events he is not setting out to create a new concert experience.

"Oh, it is certainly not my desire to invent new concert forms," he says. "We have first rehearsals with the orchestra all the time and we love them. Now we simply invite the audience to take part in that experience."

But for the audience, there cannot help but be a difference. Imagine going to the cinema, knowing in detail the story of the film you are about to see. Many audience members know "the story" when they go to concerts, and when surprises are mostly limited to the interpretation of a familiar work, the threshold between enjoyment and autopilot can often shrink. There is an extra thrill in turning up not knowing what we will hear – but there is an even stronger one, perhaps, in knowing that the orchestra doesn't know what it will play. Won't it end up as one big mess? Not with these musicians, it won't.

The Budapest Festival Orchestra and Ivá* Fischer perform at the BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London SW7 (0845 401 5040) tonight (main concert 7pm, Audience Choice Prom 10pm)

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker