Choral works by conductor and composer Iván Fischer

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COMPOSERS: Iván Fischer
LABELS: Channel Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Fischer
WORKS: Eine Deutsch-Jiddische Kantate; Spinoza-Vertalingen; Tsuchigumo; Shudh Sarang-Sextet; Fanfare
PERFORMER: Nora Fischer (soprano), Wim Van Hasselt (trumpet); Kobra Vocal Ensemble; Budapest Festival Orchestra musicians
CATALOGUE NO: CCS 34516  

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Iván Fischer, founder and conductor of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, is certainly a familiar figure, celebrated for his creative thinking as performer and artistic director. But he is also a composer – and to hear this fascinating selection of works is to discover a musical translation, as it were, of that same mercurial personality. In music that is concentrated, lyrical, acerbic and often dazzling, Fischer brings together eclectic influences from Bach to Weill, from Yiddish traditions to the Indian tabla and Japanese Noh theatre. The chamber opera Tsuchigumo, based on a 15th-century example of the latter, is a roller-coaster in six languages involving pastiches of Italian Baroque, French chanson and a Brechtian chorus in Hungarian; its black humour is, in its own way, very Hungarian too. 

Fischer, though, is not only about irony: he can also touch you and make you ponder – as in the Spinoza-Vertalingen (Spinoza Translations) – or even break your heart, as in the tender Yiddish song ‘A Nay Kleyd’ (A New Dress). Eine Deutsch-Jiddische Kantate (‘Die Stimmen der Geister’) has a devastating emotional impact, harking back to the fate of some of his own family during the Second World War. Yet his knowledge and emotions are generally worn lightly and handled with concision and clarity – which makes the music pack a real punch.

In these excellent performances the soprano Nora Fischer (his daughter) is a revelation, both versatile and virtuosic, meshing beautifully with the instrumentalists; they, drawn from the Budapest Festival Orchestra, do Fischer proud with their habitual finesse and flexibility, while he himself proves a deft pianist.

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Jessica Duchen