- Adam Fischer
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Just over three decades ago, a group of inquisitive London musicians took a long hard look at that curious institution we call the Orchestra, and decided to start again from scratch. They began by throwing out the rulebook. Put a single conductor in charge? No...
Just over three decades ago, a group of inquisitive London musicians took a long hard look at that curious institution we call the Orchestra, and decided to start again from scratch. They began by throwing out the rulebook. Put a single conductor in charge? No way. Specialise in repertoire of a particular era? Too restricting. Perfect a work and then move on? Too lazy. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment was born.
And as this distinctive ensemble playing on period-specific instruments began to get a foothold, it made a promise to itself. It vowed to keep questioning, adapting and inventing as long as it lived. Those original instruments became just one element of its quest for authenticity. Baroque and Classical music became just one strand of its repertoire. Every time the musical establishment thought it had a handle on what the OAE was all about, the ensemble pulled out another shocker: a Symphonie Fantastique here, some conductor-less Bach there. All the while, the Orchestra’s players called the shots.
At first it felt like a minor miracle. Ideas and talent were plentiful; money wasn’t. Somehow, the OAE survived to a year. Then to two. Then to five. It began to make benchmark recordings and attract the finest conductors. It became the toast of the European touring circuit. It bagged distinguished residencies at the Southbank Centre and Glyndebourne Festival Opera. It began, before long, to thrive.
And then came the real challenge. The ensemble’s musicians were branded eccentric idealists, and that they were determined to remain. In the face of the music industry’s big guns, the OAE kept its head. It got organised but remained experimentalist. It sustained its founding drive but welcomed new talent. It kept on exploring performance formats, rehearsal approaches and musical techniques. It searched for the right repertoire, instruments and approaches with even greater resolve. It kept true to its founding vow.
In some small way, the OAE changed the classical music world too. It challenged those distinguished partner organisations and brought the very best from them, too. Symphony and opera orchestras began to ask it for advice. Existing period instrument groups started to vary their conductors and repertoire. New ones popped up all over Europe and America.
And so the story continues, with ever more momentum and vision. The OAE’s series of nocturnal Night Shift performance have redefined concert parameters. Its new home at London’s Kings Place has fostered further diversity of planning and music-making. Great performances now become recordings on the Orchestra’s in-house CD label. The ensemble has formed the bedrock for some of Glyndebourne’s most ground-breaking recent productions. It travels as much abroad as to the UK regions: New York and Amsterdam court it, Birmingham and Bristol cherish it.
Remarkable people are behind it. Simon Rattle, the young conductor in whom the OAE placed so much of its initial trust, still cleaves to the ensemble. Iván Fischer, the visionary who punted some of his most individual musical ideas on the young orchestra, continues to challenge it. Mark Elder still mines for luminosity, shade and line. Vladimir Jurowski, the podium technician with an insatiable appetite for creative renewal, has drawn from it some of the most revelatory noises of recent years. And, most recently, it’s been a laboratory for John Butt’s most exciting Bach experiments.” All five of them share the title Principal Artist.
Of the instrumentalists, many remain from those brave first days; many have come since. All seem as eager and hungry as ever. They’re offered ever greater respect, but continue only to question themselves. Because still, they pride themselves on sitting ever so slightly outside the box. They wouldn’t want it any other way.
Dynamic initiative and diversity characterise the creative work of the world-renowned conductor Adam Fischer. He is the founder of two international festivals where he has found an artistic home. Under his direction, the Wagner Festival in Budapest has...
Dynamic initiative and diversity characterise the creative work of the world-renowned conductor
He is the founder of two international festivals where he has found an artistic home.
Under his direction, the Wagner Festival in Budapest has established an excellent reputation in the more than ten years of its existence - with opera productions at the Palace of Arts, including Wagner’s Ring cycle as their centrepiece performed on four consecutive days every year.
The Haydn Festival in Eisenstadt was founded in 1987 and has established its reputation as a renowned centre for performing the music of Haydn. At the same time, Adam Fischer founded the Österreichisch-Ungarische Haydn Philharmonie for the festival. In the many years as their Principal Conductor he set new standards for the interpretation of Haydn's music. The recordings of the complete Haydn symphonies which have received numerous awards are a testimony to this achievement. He retains close links with the orchestra as their Honorary Conductor.
Adam Fischer‘s most recent project for the forthcoming seasons is to dedicate himself to the complete works of Gustav Mahler which he will perform in concert and record live on CD together with the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker whose Principal Conductor he has been since 2015.
He is also Artistic Consultant to the Tonhalle concert hall in Düsseldorf where he has initiated a human rights award which will be presented every year at a specially organised human rights concert.
Adam Fischer has a close relationship with the Danish Chamber Orchestra in Copenhagen, whose Principal Conductor he has been since 1998, an artistic partnership which has found its expression especially in a highly acclaimed and award-winning recording of Mozart’s complete symphonic work. This successful collaboration is now being continued with a Beethoven cycle.
At the Wiener Staatsoper, which has been one of his artistic homes since 1973, Adam Fischer has conducted several new productions and as many as 26 different operas. One of the recent highlights was a series of perfomances of Wagner’s Walküre which was enthusiastically received in Tokyo, as part of the Wiener Staatsoper’s guest performance in Japan in 2016.
For his services he was appointed Hononary Member of the Wiener Staatsoper in consultation with the Austrian Minister for Culture in 2017.
With an extremely wide repertoire of German and Italian opera, Adam Fischer has appeared for
more than thirty years at all the leading opera houses worldwide including the MET in New York, the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, Covent Garden in London, the Opéra de Bastille in Paris, Oper Zürich and La Scala in Milan, where he recently conducted a highly acclaimed new production of the Magic Flute, a work with which he made his debut there in 1986.
A guest at the Bayreuth Festival for many years, he was elected Conductor of the Year by the German magazine Opernwelt in 2002 for his performances of Wagner’s Ring cycle.
In the concert hall, Adam Fischer regularly appears on the podium with the Wiener Philharmoniker (2017 Mozartwoche Salzburg and subscription concerts at the Vienna Musikverein), Wiener Symphoniker (this season subscription concerts and “Frühling in Wien” at the Vienna Musikverein) and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (recently in London, New York Carnegie Hall and Budapest), the Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg (Mozart matinees at the Salzburg Festival) and in collaboration with all the leading orchestras worldwide such as the Münchner Philharmoniker, Bamberger Symphoniker, Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, Orchestre de Paris, London Philharmonic, Chicago and Boston Symphony Orchestras, NHK Symphony Orchestra.
After studying composition and conducting in his home town Budapest and in Vienna with the legendary Hans Swarowsky, Adam Fischer first took up engagements as a répétiteur and Kapellmeister which led him to Graz, Helsinki, Karlsruhe and Munich. He was General Music Director in Freiburg (1981-1983), Kassel (1987-1992) and Mannheim (2000-2005) before returning to his native Budapest as Artistic Director of the Budapest Opera (2007-2010).
Two Echo Klassik Awards for the recordings of the complete collection of symphonies by Joseph Haydn (Österreichisch-Ungarische Haydn Philharmonie), an International Classical Music Award in 2015 for a recording of the complete collection of Mozart’s symphonies (Danish Chamber Orchestra) and the Grand Prix du Disque awarded for the recordings of Goldmark’s The Queen of Sheba and Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle document the wide range of his work in his extensive discography.
Adam Fischer is an Honorary Member of the Musikverein für Steiermark in Graz.
He is a recipient of the Order of Dannebrog which was given to him by the Queen of Denmark and has been awarded the honorary title of professor by the Austrian Federal President.