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IVÁN FISCHER has been Music Director of the Budapest Festival Orchestra since he founded the celebrated ensemble in 1983. He is Principal Guest Conductor of Washington’s National Symphony Orchestra, and in April 2007 the NSO named him Principal Conductor, a 2-year appointment beginning in the 2008/09 season. Born in Budapest in 1951, Fischer is one in a long line of important conductors sprung from the rich musical ground of Hungary, along with Fritz Reiner, George Szell, Eugene Ormandy, István Kertesz, Georg Solti, and several members of his own family. He first achieved public acclaim outside his native land, but returned to participate in the cultural renaissance that began in Hungary in the 1980s and caught fire with the fall of the Iron Curtain.
The partnership of Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra has been one of the great success stories in classical music over the past 25 years. Fischer developed intense rehearsal methods for the musicians, emphasizing chamber music and creative work for each orchestra member. Soon after the orchestra’s founding, Fischer and the BFO were touring internationally, and a series of acclaimed recordings for Philips Classics further showcased their remarkable chemistry. The orchestra has appeared in Athens, Cologne, Frankfurt, London, Los Angeles, Lucerne, New York, Paris, Salzburg, Vienna, and numerous venues in Japan and China. The extraordinary achievements of the BFO have contributed to Iván Fischer’s reputation as one of the world’s most visionary and inspiring orchestra leaders. His innovative youth concerts with the orchestra are enormously popular at home and will be a prominent feature of his tenure in Washington.
Iván Fischer opened his 2007/08 season with his Budapest Festival Orchestra in the third annual Budapest Mahlerfest, which included the Hungarian premiere of Viktor Ullmann’s Kaiser von Atlantis, composed in Terezin – before taking the orchestra on tour to China and Korea. Fischer led two weeks of programs with the National Symphony Orchestra in November, including a special children’s concert. After making his debut with the Vienna Philharmonic during Salzburg’s January Mozartwoche, he conducted music by Béla Bartók and his contemporaries in two February concerts with the Budapest Festival Orchestra at New York’s Lincoln Center. Two weeks with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, featuring performances of Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion, are followed by a week each with the National Symphony Orchestra – where he conducts Mahler’s epic “Resurrection” Symphony – and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In late April he leads the Budapest Festival Orchestra in a European tour and he devotes much of May to England’s Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, whose programs will focus on “The Eve of Revolution: Paris” with works by Haydn, Mozart, and Rameau.
A frequent guest conductor of major orchestras, Fischer made his U.S. conducting debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1983. He has led the Berlin Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Orchestre de Paris, the Munich Philharmonic, the Dresden Staatskapelle, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischer Rundfunks, and the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester. He conducted Mozart’s Così fan tutte at the 2006 Glyndebourne Festival and in concert (semi-staged) at the BBC Proms with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, of which he was named a Principal Artist, along with Simon Rattle and Vladimir Jurowski – the OAE having no principal conductor.
Iván Fischer has a wide-ranging discography, and now records for the Channel Classics label. His most recent release with the Budapest Festival Orchestra is Richard Strauss’ little-known ballet, Josefs Legende, which was named CD of the Month in July 2007 by Gramophone and described by The New Yorker as “electrifying.” His recording of Mahler’s Second Symphony with the BFO for Channel Classics won a 2007 “Editor’s Choice” Gramophone Award. Previous Fischer/BFO releases of Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony, Mahler’s Sixth, and Tchaikovsky’s Fourth have been similarly praised. Fischer’s earlier Bartók recordings with the BFO for Philips Classics have won multiple prizes, including a Gramophone Award for The Miraculous Mandarin. His Glyndebourne performance of Mozart’s Così fan tutte is available on DVD and was nominated for a 2007 Gramophone Award. In the 2007/08 season, Channel Classics is releasing two new recordings: an all-Dvorák release, featuring the Symphonic Variations and the Cello Concerto performed by Peter Wispelwey, and Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony paired with music written at the same time by Rossini, Weber, and the Dutch composer Wilhelm Wilms.
Fischer has led Mozart productions at the Vienna State Opera; he has conducted the major opera companies in Brussels, Budapest, Frankfurt, London, Paris, and Zurich; and he was Music Director of the Opéra National de Lyon from 2000 to 2003.
Fischer studied piano, violin, cello, and composition in Budapest, continuing his education in Vienna where he was in Hans Swarowsky’s conducting class. Fischer also studied cello and early music while he was Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s assistant. His international career was launched when he won the Rupert Foundation Conducting Competition in 1976, at the age of 25. Fischer is a founder of the Hungarian Mahler Society, and the Patron of the British Kodály Academy. He received the Golden Medal Award from the President of the Republic of Hungary, and the Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum for his services to help international cultural relations. In 2005 he was named Chevalier des Arts et Lettres by the French government, and in 2006 he was honored with the Kossuth Prize, Hungary’s most prestigious arts award.