Conductor Iván Fischer begins his 2009-10 season with the fifth annual Budapest MahlerFest (Sep 9 – 13), leading the Budapest Festival Orchestra (of which he is Music Director) in performances of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony, Hans Krása’s Brundibár, a children’s opera in two acts, and the world premiere of Giovanni Sollima’s Folk Tales for cello and orchestra, commissioned by Fischer for the festival. In the 26th season since its founding by Fischer, the orchestra will tour Europe, perform several programs at home in Budapest (including Mozart’s Don Giovanni), and join the Orchestra of the Enlightenment in New York for a complete cycle of Beethoven’s nine symphonies. In the second season of his tenure as Principal Conductor of Washington ’s National Symphony Orchestra, Fischer will lead the orchestra in six programs, including the opening-night concert on September 26 featuring pianist Evgeny Kissin and gypsy violinist József Lendvay, Jr. as soloists. Other highlights for Fischer include two new recordings with the BFO on Channel Classics and guest conducting appearances with the Berlin Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra.
Among the many highlights of the Budapest Festival Orchestra’s 26th season will be a cycle of Beethoven symphonies in New York in spring 2010. This remarkable event at Lincoln Center will also put the orchestra in the spotlight alongside one of the world’s leading period-instrument ensembles, the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment (OAE). Performances of the complete Beethoven symphonies with world-class conductors and orchestras are always highly-anticipated events, and in recent decades, interpretations of Beethoven – more than any other composer – have been a lightening-rod for the period-instrument versus modern-instrument performance debate. With “Beethoven Then and Now”, four concerts on consecutive days at Lincoln Center, concertgoers will have a unique opportunity to experience a third approach to Beethoven performance by Ivan Fischer, who will merge the different sounds and instruments of these two internationally-acclaimed orchestras into one cohesive interpretation.
Fischer and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment open “Beethoven: Then and Now” in Alice Tully Hall with Symphony No. 2 and No. 3 (“Eroica”) on March 25; and Symphonies Nos. 1, 8 and 5 on March 26. Next, Fischer leads the Budapest Festival Orchestra in Symphonies Nos. 4 and 7 in Alice Tully Hall on March 27. Finally, on March 28, Fischer and the BFO move to Avery Fisher Hall for the last concert in the series, pairing Symphony No. 6 (“Pastoral”) with the great Symphony No. 9. American soprano Lisa Milne, American mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor, Finnish tenor Jorma Silvasti and Iceland ’s Kristinn Sigmundsson, bass, are the vocal soloists. A panel discussion, “On Interpreting Beethoven”, will precede the final “Beethoven Then and Now” concert. Moderated by Ara Guzelimian, Dean of the Julliard School , the panel will address the issues of interpretation, composer intention, historical accuracy and “authenticity”.
Fischer has enjoyed a long and productive association with the OAE and is a Principal Artist of the orchestra. Ten years ago, he was one of five conductors who led the ensemble in a complete Beethoven symphony cycle at London ’s Royal Festival Hall. His conducting of Beethoven’s Fifth drew comparisons to Furtwängler; The Independent, one paper noting the similarity to the legendary conductor, commented: “Fischer released a torrent of orchestral excitement.”
Fischer and the BFO are one of the great success stories of the orchestral world. From the beginning in 1983, Fischer’s vision was to transform musical life in his native country and to make the new orchestra a star on the international stage. Working with the crème-de-la-crème of his country’s musicians, Fischer’s intensive rehearsal methods and his emphasis on chamber music playing are just two key elements that have kept the orchestra focused on the art of interpretation and the singular joy of music-making. Innovating programming, “Cocoa Concerts” for children, and other audience development initiatives have shown Fischer to be a uniquely inspired – and inspiring – music director. Critically acclaimed at home and on tour, the Budapest Festival Orchestra was selected by an international panel of critics assembled by Gramophone as one of the world’s Top 10 orchestras, an extraordinary achievement for any ensemble, but even more noteworthy for such a young orchestra. This season, Fischer and the orchestra will release two new recordings on Channel Classics: a performance of Brahms’s Symphony No. 1, paired with his “Haydn Variations,” which is set for US release in October, and a recording of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7, due in winter 2010.