This fine recording of Dvorák's Cello Concerto by Dutch cellist Pieter Wispelwey with Hungarian conductor Iván Fischer leading the Budapest Festival Orchestra is as generous, honest, and compelling as the music itself. Wispelwey has a rich, ringing tone that can ride over orchestral tutti fortes yet still sound fully present in intimate pianissimos. He also has an elegant technique that can accomplish anything the work asks without calling undue attention to itself. These qualities allow him to lean into the work's powerful drama and aching lyricism without dividing his attention. The commanding Fischer leads the rich-toned Budapest Festival Orchestra in an accompaniment as musically interesting and dramatically significant as the solo part.
"However, in contrast to Abbado's boring Berliners, Fischer's orchestra plays better, and he's much better recorded. Just listen to the characterful brass in the coda of the first movement, with a particularly fine first trumpet, or the splendid woodwinds in the trios of the scherzo. (…) for a legitimate alternative viewpoint you will find it difficult to do better than this." ~classicstoday
Mozart’s final opera Die Zauberflöte is also his most famous. The general public is familiar with its array of popular arias, most notably the Queen of the Night’s breathtaking coloratura. Since its premiere in 1791, two months before the composer’s death, the opera’s fairy tale plot, eccentric cast and fantastic scenery have exerted an almost childlike fascination on generations of audiences. The production is infused with an all-pervading sense of playful joy – packed with wonderful effects including flying machines, colourful costumes and magical scene changes…
We've had a "Summer of Love" Così with Ferrando sporting a Che Guevara t-shirt, and one set in "Despina's Diner" by the sea. This one, as staged at the Glyndebourne Festival during the summer of 2006, is comfortingly traditional. Comfortingly? A poor choice of words, because Così is never quite comforting (if you do it right!). Even if the sets and the costumes are strictly according to Hoyle, as they are here, Mozart's dramma giocosa should leave you feeling vaguely unsettled when the final curtain comes down. As conductor Iván Fischer reminds us during one of the bonus features here, almost everyone can be seduced…Raymond Tuttle
Ivan Fischer’s latest Budapest Festival bull’s-eye realizes the full breadth of Liszt’s vision, focusing to near-perfection Faust’s anguish (starting with the Allegro impetuoso at 2'28''), Gretchen’s tender modulations (try from 3'38'' on track 2) and the cynical thematic transformations that keep Mephistopheles alive and kicking. It is, above all, a profoundly authentic – or should I say authentically ‘lived’ – production, consistently animated (lightning shifts from piano to forte and back again are meticulously gauged), vividly recorded (note the tuba’s presence at 3'06'' into track 1) and with heavily scored tutti passages granted maximum impact…
For me, Fischer’s Faust Symphony is a clear front runner – more spontaneous than Rattle’s, more agile than Bernstein’s and better focused than Sinopoli’s.
Reviewed: Gramophone 4/1998
Coupling the Hary Janos Suite with Kodaly ’ s two highly contrasted sets of Hungarian dances, urban and rural, is a time - honoured gambit, but Fischer has had the birght idea of adding some of the composer ’ s children ’ s choruses, and instrumental movements from the seldom - heard Hary Janos Singspiel that was the ultimate source for the perennially popular suite, in order to give a broader picture of Kodaly, both as musician and musical humorist. On the whole it works well: the Singspiel extracts are very slight, but the choruses are highly characteristic – and flawlessly sung by superbly disciplined childrens ’ choirs trained, inevitably, in the ‘ Kodaly Method ’. Nevertheless the three principal orchestral works remain the point for buying the disc, and these are very vivid, exciting interpretations. Fischer comes up against stiff competition in Antal Dorati ’ s classic 1973 recording of Hary and the dance - suites with the Philharmonia Hungarica. Dorati is ‘ straighter ’ in his readings of the pieces than Fischer, and the playing packs a tremendous punch: he also adds the Peacock Variations as coupling, and thus probably still remains the first choice.