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Brahms' passion for Hungarian music revisited by the Budapest Festival Orchestra

Iván Fischer is a conductor of imaginative programs and himself a composer. We'll hear him in both capacities this hour, culminating in a performance of Brahms's Fourth Symphony.

Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms

In two concerts in Bonn, Fischer led the Budapest Festival Orchestra during its residency at the Beethovenfest. In a third, he presented his own works, performed with several family members and a small but lively group called the Kobra Ensemble.

Iván Fischer likes to invoke the spirit of the Weimar Republic in his own music, unearthing a culture buried under the ruins of the Nazi dictatorship.

Inspired by Dutch philosopher Baruch de Spinoza, known for his clear thinking and humorous turns of phrase, Fischer penned his "Spinoza Translations," a work that he says is not to be taken terribly seriously.

Iván Fischer. Photo: Felix Broede/Konzerthaus Berlin*

Iván Fischer, also chief conductor at the Konzerthaus in Berlin, is nothing if not versatile

"Brahms crosses boundaries and has an extremely dramatic ending" to his Symphony No. 4, Fischer explained to DW, describing it as "the only symphony by that composer to end in a tragic, foreboding mood."

Thus ends the work, but how does it begin? The opening notes are too simple to qualify as a melody. Musicians have joked about the opening motif, calling it "uninspired." But to Iván Fischer, the four-note theme conjures up a nice image: "You can imagine a leaf being blown by the wind up a little bit, down a little bit, hovering in the air."

After Brahms's Fourth, no one in the Beethoven Hall could have been prepared for what came next: the orchestral musicians stood up, put down their instruments, regrouped and "played" their vocal chords in a choral farewell.

Ivan Fischer:

  • Fanfare for two trumpets, two horns, bass trombone and percussion
  • Spinoza Translations

Nora Fischer, soprano
Kobra Ensemble

Recorded by Deutsche Welle, Bonn (DW) in the Beethoven Hall, Bonn on September 20, 2015

Johannes Brahms:

  • Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, op. 98
  • Evening Serenade

Budapest Festival Orchestra
Iván Fischer, conductor

Recorded by Deutsche Welle, Bonn (DW) in the Beethoven Hall, Bonn on September 19, 2015

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