CD Reviews | CTD (Briefly Noted) | JFL (Dip Your Ears) | DVD Reviews


Topping the Rostrum

Iván FischerAs can be read here and in an article by Tim Page here, the NSO board has appointed Iván Fischer, founder of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, as the Principal Guest Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra for the 2006/07, 07/08, and 08/09 season. That means between a fortnight and three weeks of Fischer in Washington per annum - and this is excellent news! Iván Fischer, Adam Fischer's little brother, is a splendid conductor. If the orchestra liked him the last two times he was here, it is also a splendid choice. We may look forward to exquisite performances of Bartók, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, Dvořák, and much, much more.

A principal guest conductorship may or may not lead to the position of Music Director, but whether Fischer succeeds Slatkin or not, Washington is very much the richer for his arrival. Ionarts recommends you whet your appetite and get your ears into gear by listening to some of the recordings listed below. You'll understand why 'tis a happy day. (By the way, when looking for recordings, Iván is not to be mistaken with the redoubtable brother, Adam - also a very fine conductor... it was the latter who did the impressive complete Haydn symphonies for Nimbus [now also a complete set on Brilliant] and an equally complete set of Bartók's orchestral works. Both have recorded Blaubart's Burg. To add just a little confusion, Hungaroton recordings will list the younger brother as "István Fischer.")

available at Amazon
S. Rachmaninov, Symphony No. 2, Vocalise, I. Fischer/BFO
available at Amazon
B. Bartók, The Miraculous Mandarin, Rumanian Folk Dances, Hungarian Peasant Songs, I. Fischer/BFO
available at Amazon
J. Brahms, Hungarian Dances, I. Fischer/BFO
available at Amazon
F. Liszt, Hungarian Rhapsodies, I. Fischer/BFO


Princess Alpenrose said...

Very, very interesting! I like what I'm hearing, and his photos make him seem friendly/ compelling. An interesting conductor, for sure.

Can anyone describe the commonalities and/or differences in musical style (or repertoire) between all these various family members?

Garth Trinkl said...

Jens, while I am very much looking forward to Ivan Fischer's Bartók, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, and Dvořák; I'm also keenly interested, as a composer, in what "and much, much more" Ivan Fischer is interested in. Do you have any further insight into his more contemporary musical interests?

Yesterday, I did some research and learned a bit more about Fischer's artistic philosophy -- his creative and humane relation to orchestral players insisting that they perform chamber music, his interest in the world-at-large which won him an establishment Prize from the World Economic Forum in Davos, his dividing a performance of Wagner's Die Walküre over two nights -- but I could find very little on his performance of works by living composers.

I will continue to look forward to Fischer as our new principal guest directors, but will hope that he will not have the conservative influence on Washington's musical life that Yuri Temirkanov had on Baltimore. Instead, I will hope that he will have the progressive impact on Washington's musical life that Rostrapovich -- who knew personally virtually every great European composer -- had over 1977 to 1995.

Garth Trinkl said...


Princess Alpenrose said...

stupid library of congress transliateration again. ("Chaikovsky", anyone?)

so phonetically speaking, it's:
ruh(that's a shwa)-
stra -
prOH - vich

jfl said...

Oh... I will LIVE on the "Rostrapovich" mistake for months, Mr. Trinkl. It's like a belated birthday gift. How many Higdons and Coriglianos do I get in exchange?

P.S. andrea: the transliterations are still better than getting supposedly more accurate phonetic spellings shuffed down one's throat. :)

Re: Temirkanov: No fear. Everyone knows I am *not* a fan of what Temirkanov did to the Zinman Symphony Orchestra... program-wise, at any rate. Fischer is no Slatkin (we'll only *really* how much we had in him when he's gone), but he's no "All-romantic-All-the-time" guy, either. I know he's been rumored to have played Varese once. :)

Princess Alpenrose said...

Maybe the solution is for the rest of you to learn to read Russian? Just kidding, sort of.

The whole “famous people whose native language uses a ‘different’ alphabet” deal (ten points for anyone who knows the name of the Russian alphabet) (not you, Garth and Monika!) gets really hairy when it comes to first names.

Just now I went to which is like the Russian language MSNBC/Yahoo, and typed in Tchaikovsky. Rookie mistake would be to type in Chaikovskii, which is our Library of Congress spelling. Of course, it lists “Pyotr” and “Piotr” which are at least somewhat correct, and sure enough, my personal favorite “Peter”. Peter Tchaikovsky? (Ah, yes. Good ol’ Pete T. did write some nice symphonies and ballet music.)

Then there’s Richard Wagner, and Robert Schumann. My German’s a little rusty, but sometimes I still cringe at the American pronunciation.

And I can’t even begin to comprehend the insulting mess we must make of some of our Israeli, Japanese and Chinese colleagues’ names!

PS I will NOT cry when Temirkanov leaves, Zinman was AWESOME, but we absolutely MUST stop living in the past, gentlemen!

Unless someone can wave his/her magic wand and bring Zinman back (ha), Alsop will take the reins, and that’s a fact.

We’re all just along for the ride …

Garth Trinkl said...

Jens, you win this one. I will only claim that I was typing, repeatedly, Shostakovich over at Sequenza21 while trying quickly also to post here. I owe you a non-alcoholic drink...

Andrea, thanks for siding with me. We could be right, and the rest of the world wrong... And Richard Taruskin does of course, as you know, spell it "Chaikovsky".

Now, Jens, the assignment is to find those composers "and much much more" than just Varese to satisfy me that Ivan Fischer will be a leading edge musical intellectual (as was Rostrooopovich, and not just a "conservative", globalist- Establishment WEF Prize winner.

Also, have you and Charles read about Budapest's new Budapest Festival Orchestra (with art gallery) Concert Hall? I didn't see a review here last Spring (though I might have missed it.)
You also might be interested in the unusual funding scheme used to build the project.

jfl said...

I've grown up with German transliterations of Russian names (and we are closer to them peoples) and I must say that I'll take the English transliteration in 9 out of 10 cases. They are not half bad... although I don't know the LOC's faux-authentic twist on things like Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich. It's certainly a niche-topic of experts' discussion that will leave, uh, say... 99.99932% of this country's population pretty cold. Being one of these non-experts (and finding that correct pronunciation of names has more to do with having some linguistic warmth towards whichever language the name comes from - rather than the transliteration), I certainly can't participate.


Yentz Lowarsson

p.s. Garth: Make it a Shirley Temple with extra lime! Thanks.

Princess Alpenrose said...

Bitte um Entschuldigung, and I hate to differ, but I do think 99.99932% of this country's population chould make at least a sincere and reasonable attempt to pronounce each others' names correctly.

Everyone has a name that represents his/her family, heritage and/or life experiences, nicht wahr?