Now more than halfway through his complete cycle of Mozart's Symphonies, the Hungarian conductor tells us why he was inspired to record them all
In your cycle of Mozart Symphonies with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra you’ve now reached Nos 28-30. How would you describe these works?
These are optimistic symphonies, much more so than the previous three. I don’t know if I could compare them to champagne? As interpreters our job is to make people smile and be happy when they hear these Symphonies. I’ve conducted them for 30 years now and I always find new details.
Why did you embark on a series of Mozart recordings?
From 1987 to 2002 I recorded all the Haydn Symphonies and it was enriching to have this intensity with one composer. I thought the Symphonies would be very similar, but they turned out to be so different. I also learned to study other composers better by studying Haydn in such detail. Mozart came a bit later to me in my life. I want to show why Mozart is different from Haydn, and why the whole 18th century is much more interesting for an interpreter than people think.
How has your view of Mozart changed?
It’s interesting because I’d do Mozart differently with my Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra to with the Danish Chamber Orchestra. With the Viennese I say what they should aim for – which emotions and feelings – but I don’t say louder, softer, make a crescendo, decrescendo. I let them find the solution. In the beginning the Danish Chamber Orchestra didn’t offer anything. But when we worked on the solutions, they were much more radical. It was my Newton experience. For a thousand years people weren’t curious about why an apple falls down but suddenly you realise it has to have a reason. That’s what I experienced conducting Mozart with them.
In earlier CDs you included your own stories for the symphonies in the liner notes – why?
I don’t want to take responsibility as I don’t know the English translations of the stories! I wrote them in German. I always have stories for myself if I conduct something. Not only because I come from the opera world, but I think you have to have an emotional background and know what you want to express. The stories are like dreams – I can feel the logic of the story, but if I tell it, it doesn’t make sense. I tell the orchestra what I want them to feel – if it’s gentle, fiery, sorrowful, happy, relieved or shocked.
Do you have stories for these particular symphonies?
I feel that the first movement of the Symphony No. 29 in A, K201 is like a game between a young girl and boy. It’s like the choreography of the beginning of a relationship – they look at each other, then she looks away. The story can go through the whole symphony, with the girl ending up happy in the last movement.
And as well as Mozart Symphonies, you've also recorded several Mozart operas. Idomeneo is the latest…
Mozart operas are all remarkable. When I heard Idomeneo for the first time I was over 20. To most people of my generation Idomeneo wasn’t known at all. Of course we played the three Da Ponte operas – The Marriage of Figaro, Così fan tutte and Don Giovanni – and that was Mozart. I heard Idomeneo and couldn’t believe it was true. The most beautiful thing in the opera, and also the biggest challenge, is the chorus. And – although I don't want to be unjust to the other moments in the opera – my favourite moment is the chorus at the end of the first half: 'Corriamo, fuggiamo' – 'Let us run, let us flee'.
Interview by Rebecca Franks
Both Adam Fischer's recording of Mozart Symphonies Nos 28-30 (Da Capo 6.220543) and of Idomeneo (Da Capo 6.220586-89) are out now