Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Meet the conductor



WASO's new principal conductor (starting 2014) is in town and his concert on the weekend caused a sensation. Asher Fisch was introduced to the media at a banquet lunch today and the Perth Concert Hall was brimming with excitement.


"I could hear the difference in the orchestra from the first note in the cello section," declared Evan Kennea manager of artistic planning.

CEO Craig Whitehead enthused over Fisch's reputation for Romantic repertoire.

The orchestral players credited him with being a clear communicator and comparisons were made with Simone Young because of his fastidious rehearsal technique and vision for a specific sound and shape.

The ultimate compliment came from a wind player: "At the tea breaks everyone is smiling, there is no moaning - everyone is happy!"

And the feeling appears to be mutual. Fisch described WASO as a diamond. "And if you are someone who likes to polish diamonds - the diamonds in the UK and US are polished to death (there are some in Italy but they are very rough!) - if you hear about a diamond in Perth that is of great value, then you go there."

The Israeli conductor first conducted WASO 14 years ago and says any weaknesses have disappeared as players retired and replacements raised the bar.

"I hear no weaknesses, it is all a very high level. I want to create a profile for this orchestra where people will hear their sound and know this is WASO."

Slowly the enthusiasm began to rub off on me and my concerns about his lack of symphonic experience (see Fisch out of water?) began to fade. Fisch doesn't seem to be under any illusions; he described his arrival at WASO as 'graduating' to a symphonic position after many years as an opera conductor. His 'apprenticeship'  credentials are impressive (he has 85 operas in his repertoire and has done stints with Israeli Opera, Vienna Opera, Seattle Opera) and as a protégé of Daniel Barenboim he is brimming with ideas.

Fisch also seems to have a depth to him that the orchestral players are relishing after the effervescent but one-dimensional Paul Daniel.

However his repertoire is unashamedly 19th century. The 2014 season is packed full of German romantic repertoire: Wagner, Schuman, Schubert and a complete Beethoven symphonic cycle. As far as Fisch is concerned music starts with Haydn.

"I leave anything before that to the Baroque specialists," Fisch says. "And don't ask me to conduct modern music. I have a clear line, I will not conduct Shostakovich or Prokofiev, or Stravinsky."

Shostakovich is modern? Then Schoenberg must be space-age. Fisch's perspective seems limited but his fervour is welcome. In fact he is comfortable with music by his peers and Evan reassures me Fisch is referring to style; the sardonic irony of the 20th century Russian repertoire involves a degree of musical façade which doesn't suit Fisch's approach to communicating musically.

Lets not forget there is a reason the warhorse symphonies are core repertoire. When done with the red-blooded vitality and intellectual candour Fisch promises it could be a sensational year.

 For WASO's full 2014 season brochure go here.

For a  review of Asher's weekend concert go here.


Apologies for the 'selfie' but had to put it in despite the soft focus (poor form for a journalist/photographer Will Yeoman!!).

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