In Crowded Field, Iván Fischer’s Mahler Recordings With Budapest Festival Orchestra Stand Out
Fischer and Budapest Festival Orchestra Will Return to New York in March 2010 for a Remarkable Project
Conductor Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra – currently celebrating their 25th-anniversary season – have made another recording that has people talking: a new release of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony that has quickly established itself as a top recommended version despite fierce competition from other recordings, both classic and more recent. Already a Gramophone “Editor’s Choice” and the recipient of a top “10/10” rating from the review website ClassicsToday, the new recording – issued in the States in April – has now received an enthusiastic review in the New York Times. Critic Steve Smith reports:
“In recent weeks the Staatskapelle Berlin has staked a claim on Mahler with a noteworthy traversal of his symphonies and some of his orchestral songs at Carnegie Hall. The Hungarian conductor Iván Fischer, meanwhile, refuses to mark his territory; having issued potent accounts of Mahler’s Second and Sixth Symphonies with the Budapest Festival Orchestra, he told one interviewer that he has no plans to finish the journey on record. Hearing his new CD of the Fourth Symphony, you can only hope that he changes his mind. In a crowded field his version demands a place of honor… .”
Smith continues, “Part of the credit, naturally, belongs to Mr. Fischer’s fine players, whose work is secure, poised and full of character. The Channel Classics recording team also deserves honor for the warm, vibrant sound. But in the end Mr. Fischer’s efforts are paramount. Every balance, every tempo feels freshly considered and aptly judged; time and again expressive details leap out in sharp focus without distracting unduly. The result is a persuasive account that merits consideration among the very best.” In a similar vein, Classics Today noted the efficacy of Fischer’s guiding hand, noting, “There is no better-conducted recording of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony available than this one.”
Fischer and the BFO have previously recorded two other Mahler symphonies. The first, Mahler’s tragic Symphony No. 6, released in December 2005, was nominated for a Grammy Award and named one of the best CDs of the year by the New Yorker. The second, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, was released in October 2006 and won the prestigious “Editor’s Choice” Gramophone Award. The Washington Post called the disc “one of the best recordings of the ‘Resurrection’ Symphony ever made.”
The Budapest Festival Orchestra’s 25th-anniversary season has been a terrific success, beginning in September with the fourth annual Budapest Mahlerfest. Soon after, a poll of international critics chosen by Gramophone selected the Budapest Festival Orchestra as one of the world’s top ten orchestras. In January 2009, Fischer led the BFO on a triumphant tour of the U.S. that included a return to New York’s Carnegie Hall to open a major festival dedicated to Hungarian culture. Writing for the New York Times, James Oestreich called the Fischer/BFO performance of Brahms’s First Symphony “stirring”; in the Wall Street Journal, Barrymore Scherer found it “a luminous, deeply eloquent performance that [he would] long remember.”
Fischer and the BFO return to New York in March 2010 for a remarkable project that will also feature the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment: a complete cycle of Beethoven’s nine symphonies. Over a four-day span (March 25–28), Fischer will lead the BFO and the celebrated period-instrument ensemble in four concerts that will give listeners the unique chance to make a side-by-side comparison of how Beethoven sounds on the instruments of his time versus those of our own. “Beethoven Then and Now: The Complete Symphonies” will take place at New York’s Lincoln Center, with performances in both Avery Fisher Hall and Alice Tully Hall.
Fischer is currently in the first year of his two-season tenure as Principal Conductor of Washington ’s National Symphony Orchestra. In June, Fischer will take the NSO on tour to Asia, where they will perform in China and South Korea . The tour marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China and the United States , as well as the 50th anniversary of the NSO’s first international tour. That mammoth 1959 tour – twelve weeks, 15,000 miles, and 68 concerts in 19 countries throughout Latin America – was undertaken as part of President Eisenhower’s Program for Cultural Presentations, a U.S. State Department project, for the purpose of building goodwill throughout the region.