As orchestras and conductors have been demonstrating for more than a century, you don't have to be Bohemian to play Dvorák. All you need is profound musicality, a deep love of life, and an overwhelming urge to communicate. These are all qualities that Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra demonstrate in full in this 2000 Channel Classics recording of the composer's Eighth and Ninth symphonies. In these performances, one hears not only edge-of-the-chair excitement from the Hungarian musicians, one hears joy, happiness, and good old-fashioned fun. Listen to the rollicking horn trills in the Eighth's Finale, the thundering timpani in the Ninth's Scherzo; the interplay between winds, strings, and brass in the coda of the Eighth's Scherzo; the lush string tone in the Ninth's Largo; the headlong rush of the Eighth's opening Allegro con brio; or the awesome power of the Ninth's closing Allegro con fuoco.
Performances of the music of Richard Wagner will for many be associated with Ivбn Fischer's elder brother Adam who has conducted complete Ring cycles at Bayreuth & in Budapest. Those, however, who follow the concert schedules of Ivбn Fischer & his phenomenally hard working Budapest Festival Orchestra will know that they have performed the Wagner programme featured on this SACD – or variations on it - to great acclaim in many of the major European cities over the past couple of years.
Fans of Gustav Mahler's joyous Symphony No. 4 in G major will relish this buoyant performance by Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra, featuring soprano Miah Persson, for it is wholly in keeping with the light tone and merry spirit of the score and is as delightful as any other recording on the market.
Fischer’s performance of the Sixth is quite similar to Abbado’s recent live recording for DG. Textures are generally light and transparent, with a swift opening march that, by the same token, never sounds unduly rushed or trivialized. The andante comes second, not the best option in my view, but Fischer has the intelligence to treat it as a true andante, and not as an adagio (which is a more legitimate possibility when it’s placed third). 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. The emphasis on fleetness never compromises expressivity, as happens in Berlin.
This is Ivan Fischer’s second Mahler symphony for Channel Classics with the Budapest Festival Orchestra, his first being the Sixth recorded in February 2005. His opening to this Resurrection symphony, its hero’s Funeral Rites, is disciplined with touches of brusqueness in the brass. But as this is supposed to ask ‘Why did you live?’ I’m very aware of Fischer’s empathy for the visionary aspects of the movement, as if to answer ‘To experience all that’s lovely’.