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Royal Philharmonic names replacement for Charles Dutoit

December 27, 2017 by norman lebrecht

19 comments.


The RPO has called in Thierry Fischer, music director of the Utah Symphony, to conduct its January US tour.

The short tour is mostly West Coast.


Comments (19)

  1. LP says:

    They haven’t named a replacement for their Jan 26 concert yet though. Interestingly enough this will be the first time they will do the Haydn’s cello concerto and Stravinsky’s Firebird program in this tour (the 2nd time is on Jan 28 with Thierry Fischer conducting.) Looking at the tour dates, both the programs of the last leg of this tour were probably going to be rehearsed somewhere between Jan 21 and Jan 25 and I am now very curious about how it will work out for the Firebird. Is the assumption that Thierry Fischer and the conductor TBA will work together on it ?

  2. Olassus says:

    Norman, the first nine concerts of the 19-day tour are led by Pinchas Zukerman, and the first eight are on the East Coast.

    It is interesting that for the six-concert West Coast part the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra opens its hall twice to the RPO but the orchestra’s only Los Angeles date is at a university (with maestro tba and Gautier Soupçon).

    1. Jaybuyer says:

      Naughty!

    2. C.P. Smith says:

      Re: Royal Phil LA/SoCal date now under Fischer, the major regional appearance on this tour is in Orange County at Segerstrom Hall which has a robust symphonic presenter in the Orange County Philharmonic Society (Vienna/Berlin/various Londons, as well as the major U.S. domestic bands, routinely tour stop here as a companion/alternative payday to Disney Hall in downtown LA). News of Fischer sub-in for California dates in the last 48 hours has been the sound of crickets. Of note, also, as of 5 minutes ago on Fischer’s personal homepage, which is up to date with Utah Symphony gigs into Jan. 2018, both under news and calendar dropdowns he is the Invisible Man as far as acknowledging undertaking these West Coast fill-in chores.

  3. Anton Bruckner says:

    Unless something dramstic occurs with the RPO it will soon become, if it is not already, a mediocre and irrelevant ensemble playing mainstream popular classics.

    1. Morello says:

      What a mediocre and irrelevant comment.

  4. Herr Doktor says:

    Back in 2014, Thierry Fischer was the replacement conductor for the Boston Symphony Orchestra concert to have been led by the recently-departed Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos. The program was Brahms’ 1st piano concerto (Buchbinder), and Nielsen’s 4th symphony. It was a great concert! I was so impressed with Fischer’s work, the BSO’s response, and the fact that the program was not played as if on automatic pilot. It made me want to hear more of Thierry Fischer.

    I had assumed that since he came in to help out he BSO, and that since the performance was top-notch, that we would be hearing more of Fischer in Boston. Alas, he has never been invited back since that cycle of concerts. I wonder why? It certainly was not due to the quality of the music-making that I heard. Did he rub someone the wrong way?

    1. Teary Fisher says:

      Probably has to do with him forcing Ralph Matson out as concert master. Ralph was a student of silverstein and has ties with BSO. Tis a small world after all.

      1. Herr Doktor says:

        I didn’t know that at all. Thanks for sharing that information. It explains everything! And the other thing it explains–the BSO concert I heard was absolutely stunning, but I noticed that no one in the orchestra acknowledged the conductor as typically happens when, say, Bernard Haitink is on the podium. They sat there absolutely still. I couldn’t make sense of it, because their actions were in complete contrast to the performance. I suspected they didn’t like Fischer for some reason, but now I know why.

        From a sample size of 1 concert, it seems to me like Fischer is a world-class talent, and certainly his concert was far better than we hear from many guest conductors in Boston, some of whom are regulars. It’s a shame, because I would love to hear another Thierry Fischer concert in Boston.

        1. Teary Fisher says:

          Also Fischer did a Nielsen cycle with Utah symphony the same season that he conducted with BSO so it’d make sense that it sounded good as he’s already spent a good amount of time on the music. Personally, not a fan as I find his conducting/interpretation to be rather boring and superficial. The audience/board in Utah likes him so I guess that’s what matters.

          1. Herr Doktor says:

            For what it’s worth, there was nothing boring or superficial about the performance of Brahms’ 1st piano concerto. Rudolf Buchbinder was fully “on” that evening, and gave the best live performance these ears have ever heard of about 5-6. Fischer and the BSO matched him measure for measure. It was truly a great performance.

            Maybe I’d feel differently about Fischer after hearing him conduct different works over an extended period of time, not just Brahms and Nielsen. But based on a sample of n=1 in terms of concerts, he’s the real deal.

    2. The Voice from America says:

      I haven’t heard much positive about this conductor — either artistically or on the “HR front.” Speaking personally, the few recordings of Fischer that I’ve heard haven’t left much of an impression, either.

  5. Gregory Walz says:

    Unfortunately, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra appears to have only released one commercial recording recently: Grzegorz Nowak leading the orchestra in some works of Karłowicz.

    Have you been able to attend a live concert with Thierry Fischer as conductor? Perhaps not.

    Since I reside in Salt Lake City, Utah, I have attended the vast majority of the Utah Symphony concerts he (and all guest conductors) have led in Abravanel Hall since his debut in 2007 with Symphonie fantastique. While I do not have all of his commercially released recordings — yet — I would argue that he is a superb conductor live and on record, and consistently obtains excellent playing from the orchestras that he has conducted. Unlike many of today’s conductors, he has actually played in several excellent top-tier professional orchestras for many years before he began conducting. That in itself is of course no guarantee of the makings of an excellent conductor, but it is exceedingly helpful. And, of course, no one conductor, orchestra, or musician can be all things to all people at all times, and especially avid concertgoers, critics, and other musicians.

    Granted, I would argue — alone the lines that Herr Doktor hints at — that attending one concert by a conductor and orchestra is generally too limited of exposure to judge the current arc of a conductor’s artistry, as well as that of the orchestra, but it can provide some insights.

    You could check out the Bergen Philharmonic’s performance of Mozart’s Requiem this last October online and see and hear for yourself; here is the link, which should still be active:

    bergenphillive.no/video-konserter/2017/10/mozart-requiem/

    The Utah Symphony’s Mahler symphony cycle (2014-2016) with Thierry Fischer was superb, with the Second, Third, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth being especially notable. No.1 and No. 8 were preserved for commercial release — No.8 this last November on the Reference Recordings record label — and an Alexander Nevsky and Lieutenant Kijé will be released on that label in 2018. And this season Hyperion Records has been and will be present (Tim Handley) to record a cycle of Saint-Saëns five symphonies and some other orchestral works.

    A recent link on Mr. Fischer’s Facebook page has a brief excerpt of the Utah Symphony being led in a Saint-Saëns rarity: 3 Symphonic Pictures after La Foi. The Utah Symphony is a superb orchestra; it also plays for four productions at Utah Opera each season.

    1. Herr Doktor says:

      I suspect that there’s a truth you’re getting at, Mr. Walz, and it is this. As an infrequent attendee of the Utah Symphony, I can tell you that it needed to be shaken up prior to the start of Fischer’s tenure. I regularly visit Utah in the winter-time (and occasionally on business), so I’ve heard the orchestra many times over the years. The last concert I had heard prior to the start of Fischer’s tenure was a performance of Bruckner’s 9th with the great Stanislaw Skrowaczewski conducting. It had all the ingredients for being a memorable concert; what I heard instead was an orchestra that sounded disengaged, without passion, and as if they were just playing another gig, never mind one of the most visceral, emotional pieces of music ever written by anyone. I was really shocked that Skrow could have let them get away with what I heard, even at his advanced age–he certainly knew better! And a few years prior to that concert, I had heard a Utah Symphony performance of Brahms’ 1st symphony which was similarly uninspired and unmemorable.

      I thought to myself after the Bruckner 9, wow, someone needs to shake this group up, because the performance came across like they were a bunch of zombies with instruments.

      I’m completely speculating here, but maybe this is also what Thierry Fischer heard and realized needed to be changed. I have not heard him leading the orchestra yet–I’ve yet to align a trip where he’s in town, the orchestra is performing, and there’s a program I want to hear. But that will happen soon. And my suspicion is that the orchestra will sound re-energized and actually engaged, in a way I did not hear in a number of previous concerts before the Fischer tenure began. Yes, orchestra members are not going to love a man who wants to make wholesale changes. But based on what I heard over the years, it was an orchestra desperately in need of being shaken up.

  6. Old Man in the Midwest says:

    Never heard him conduct but I have heard through my spy network that he has pissed off many of the Old Guard in Salt Lake City.

    1. PaulD says:

      I can imagine some people in Salt Lake City weren’t happy with having to listen to an Ives cycle.

      1. Teary Fisher says:

        This was a review by an audience member after a Bartok performance:

        “I love the Utah Symphony and have had a duet pass for two years. They do an excellent job at keeping the classics alive while also reaching out to new audiences like children and even Comic Con fans. But I do feel like they are trying to change Utah’s tastes to be more like the rest of the world. I’ve walked out twice now–once tonight during “The Miracle Mandarin.” I don’t watch excessively violent or sexually explicit movies, so why would I want to listen to it at the symphony? It was a musical assault upon both the ears and the spirit.

        Carmen, which was also performed tonight, is an interesting contrast with The Miracle Mandarin. It too deals with sexual themes, although more suggestive than explicit. But in Carmen the characters actually experience the negative consequences of their immoral actions. In The Miracle Mandarin, it is merely darkness upon darkness in a cacophonous attack upon the senses.

        Most art deals with the struggle between good and evil. That is why it speaks so powerfully to the human spirit–because we all experience that struggle every day. But much of modern music avoids that struggle by completely surrendering to the evil. This surrender does nothing to inspire the human spirit, but rather breeds darkness and despair. And most of the time the music is as unpleasant as it is morally depraved.

        It is disappointing that Thierry Fischer’s idea of “refreshing the programming” involves attacking our senses with so much violence. Clearly the world of orchestral music has taken a turn for the worse since WWII, but not everything contemporary must be dark and cacophonous. Please seek out music that is inspiring and uplifting and share more of that with the world! There is enough of darkness already.

        Since symphonies don’t have an equivalent to the Motion Picture Association of America’s rating system, I am going to have to start researching the program in advance to avoid an audio assault like what I experienced tonight. Usually they tack the terrible stuff on to either the beginning or the end of the program, so I just need to know when to either take off early or show up late.

        Most of the time, however, the Utah Symphony feeds my soul in a way that nothing else can. It’s just too bad that often the dish is served with a side of poison.”

        ” We couldn’t agree with you more. We haven’t been thrilled with the programs in Ogden this year and the Miracle Mandarin was one of the worst. So screechy it was hard to listen to. Definitely an assault on the ears.”

        1. Jaybuyer says:

          So that’s what they call it in Utah – ‘The Miracle Mandarin’?
          If you give it another chance, you might find it one of the most exciting orchestral pieces of the last 100 years. After all, we have forgiven ‘The Rite of Spring’ for assaulting our ears.

    2. Herr Doktor says:

      Were the Utah Symphony playing at the caliber of the Vienna Philharmonic, then it would be wrong to piss off the Old Guard of the orchestra. But I suspect that the Old Guard is the problem that Thierry Fischer is trying to fix. One thing’s for sure: the Utah Symphony was in need of real fixing. Their performances that I heard had about as much engagement, passion, and personality as Ryan Seacrest.


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