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The West Australian Symphony Orchestra has announced an extension of their highly praised musical partnership with Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Asher Fisch for a further four years. The Israeli-born maestro will now helm the orchestra through to at least 2023.
“I am delighted to have extended my contract with WASO,” said Fisch, who has just launched an impressive 2018 season including a slew of classical blockbusters led by concert performances of Tristan and Isolde. “I am enjoying our musical journey immensely, and we have achieved a great deal, but I have my sights on new challenges in 2018 and beyond, and I have great confidence in what we can achieve together in the years to come.”
Fisch, whose association with Australian music making goes back to 1999 when he first conducted WASO, scored a major success with his ten Helpmann Award-winning Adelaide Ring Cycle of 2004. He signed on at WASO for an initial three-year term in 2014 and so successful was the partnership that as early as 2015 it was upped to a total of six years. His tenure is now set to run to at least ten years, a sure mark of artistic success and a testament to the obvious bond that he has formed with the orchestra, a relationship described previously by Limelight as “a match made in heaven”.
“Asher’s leadership has utterly transformed our Orchestra, eliciting remarkable and thrilling performances that have received critical acclaim both nationally and internationally,” said WASO Chairman Janet Holmes à Court announcing the extension. “From the outset Asher has been focused on the long game, developing specific facets of the Orchestra through his selection of repertoire. His programming of a Beethoven Festival in 2014, Brahms Festival in 2015, and current Wagner Festival are all part of this strategy. I’m thrilled that he can now extend his vision for WASO until 2023 and continue evolving this remarkable relationship.”
WASO CEO Craig Whitehead echoed those remarks, adding that he considers the 2014 appointment of Fisch to be the most important artistic decision in the company’s 90 year history. “He is in demand by the leading opera houses and concert halls across the US, Europe and Asia, but remains intensely committed to the West Australian Symphony Orchestra,” Whitehead continued. “This blossoming relationship has yielded exceptional results, including the Orchestra’s first international tour in 10 years, and I look forward to many more years of extraordinary music-making under his leadership.”
Born in Israel, Fisch started out as a pianist, beginning his conducting career after landing the job as Daniel Barenboim’s assistant and kappellmeister at the Berlin Staatsoper in the 1990s. He has since worked at major opera houses like the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, La Scala and Covent Garden. Former posts include Principal Guest Conductor of the Seattle Opera (2007-2013), Music Director of the New Israeli Opera (1998-2008), and Music Director at the Wiener Volksoper (1995-2000). A close association with the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich where he now lives saw him conducting a remarkable five productions in the 2015-16 season.
An in demand guest conductor, he works regularly with the leading symphony orchestras in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York and Philadelphia, while in Europe he has appeared with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Munich Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus and the Orchestre National de France. Recent seasons have also seen him conducting the Sydney and Melbourne Symphony Orchestras.
Asked by Limelight a few weeks ago where he sees the orchestra heading in the next year or so, Fisch was typically full of ideas. “I've been wanting for a long time to break the overture, concerto, symphony thing,” he said. “If I do eight programmes a year, I think four of them should be symphonic, instrumental, but four of them should be of a completely different ilk… Also, the orchestra needs to play opera written by great composers. I've always said, if an orchestra doesn't play Wagner and Strauss operas, it’s not fully tuned… We have also had a tremendous lack of big vocal works. I've not done Missa Solemnis here, I've not done Britten’s War Requiem, the Berlioz Requiem – and I’ve not done Elijah. All these masterworks I think will sell very well, but they cost more and you need the chorus to be top level. So that's where I'm pushing.”