Sicklist: Ivan Fischer undergoes eye surgery

Sicklist: Ivan Fischer undergoes eye surgery


norman lebrecht

August 03, 2018

The conductor posts:

Dear friends,

First of all, I want to thank everybody who sent me kind wishes and thoughtful messages in this difficult period. For all other friends, I summarize briefly what has happened to me in the last few weeks, and what caused my absence.

After two minor operations in June in Berlin, I hoped that the retina in my right eye would be repaired. However, on the 12th of July the retina detached completely, and I lost eyesight of one eye. I had to interrupt the brief family holiday, and fly home immediately. Next morning I was operated in Budapest, but unfortunately the retina detached again and a second operation was necessary on the 20th of July. This one was successful. My right eye is filled now with silicone oil, and I had to lie with a head position on my side continuously until today. After a medical control this morning I was assured that the retina is finally in a good state. I am gradually allowed to reduce keeping my head in the prescribed position. Because the retina was badly damaged, the silicone oil needs to stay in my eye for at least six months, during which my eyesight will be slightly blurred. After this period, a new operation will be necessary to remove this substance.

Sadly, I had to miss the Verbier festival this summer, which I deeply regret. But I hope to recover for the festival tour of the Budapest Festival Orchestra in the second half of August. I want to express my gratitude to Dr. Gábor Vogt for his successful therapy, and his whole team for doing their best, even after hours when an urgent surgery was necessary.

I want to advise all my friends to take maximum care of their eyes. Please, whenever you see light flashes, go to an eye doctor immediately. Speed is extremely important!


  • João Felipe Gremski says:

    I wish you a fast recovery, maestro!

  • Been Here Before says:

    Dear Maestro Fischer, please accept my wishes for a quick and thorough recovery. I have been following your work for some time and look forward to attending my first performance of your concert at the Proms in the second part of August.

    The program looks very interesting – Enescu, Bartok and Mahler, and particularly well suited to you and the Budapest Festival Orchestra. Your Central European background will undoubtedly produce a strong and convincing performance of these intriguing works.

    Once again, please accept my best wishes for a prompt recovery and please take a good care of your eyes.

    • Brian says:

      Sounds like a lovely programme. You have something to look forward to!

      I consider Iván Fischer one of the finest Mahler conductors of our time. One of the most enthralling concerts I have ever heard – and I certainly attend too many – was Mahler’s First with the Budapest Festival Orchestra at the Beethovenfest in Bonn a good few years ago. Despite the terrible acoustics of the Beethovenhalle, this was a night to remember. I was there with an elderly friend, who has since died, and who made a point of thanking each musician individually who passed our car after the concert, as we stood there smoking a well-deserved cigarette… He had tears in his eyes, as did I.

      Thank you for so many glorious concerts, Mr Fischer, and please get well soon. I look forward to hearing – and seeing! – the two Bartók programmes in Hamburg and Paris next March.

      • Been Here Before says:

        Thank you for sharing your memories Brian!

        I have no doubt of the profound emotional impact of Maestro Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra at the concert you attended – Central and Eastern European musicians are known for the depth of their expression and involvement, particularly in the works originating from their milieu, such as Bartok and Mahler.

        As I said, I can’t wait for the performance of Enescu’s Prelude a l’Unison, Bartok’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 at the Royal Albert Hall. May Maestro Fischer recover quickly as to be able to continue to share his terrific musical insight with the rest of us!

  • Caravaggio says:

    A complete and speedy recovery!

  • Guillermo García Calvo says:

    Jobbulást kívánok, kedves Maestro!

  • Karajon says:

    Good to hear, that something works well in Hungary.

  • Rob says:

    Thanks for the advice. Had no idea about the symptoms.

    Cheers mate.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Must have been quite a shock and torture. I wish him well.

  • Edward Adrian CLARK says:

    Having gone through a similar experience of a detached retina last year, Maestro Fischer has my fullest sympathy, especially as I was lucky in having a successful reattachment of the retina within days. In common with other music-lovers, I am hoping he will be able to lead his Budapest colleagues in the two forthcoming Prom concerts which I shall certainly attend as he and the orchestra are one of the regular favourites of all us “Prommers”.

    • John Borstlap says:

      I wonder whether such complaint has anything to do with over-exertion of the eyes by intensily reading scores without regular breaks, as conductors are often used to do.

      • Adrian Clark says:

        I am not sure if the ophthalmic experts can state with any certainty what causes a retina to become detached. In my own case, “it just happened” and was certainly not to do with any excessive eye straining. Certain activities may be more likely to be the cause than others and score-reading could be one.

      • Nick2 says:

        I think there must surely be many different reasons. Mine was caused partly by a combination of having to wear spectacles since the age of 8 – apparently this pulls the edges of the retina – and partly a result of a fall with a slight jarring to the head. It took about 3 weeks before I started seeing bright crescent flashes at the extreme left the left eye. A visit to the opthalmologist resulted in a quick diagnosis.

        My problem was that I had to fly a week later at the start of a tour with a major artist and I was told this would be too dangerous without an operation as it could further detach the retina. Immediate laser treatment was painful (the newer lasers result in no pain, thankfully). Sadly it did not work and so two days later I was in hospital for kryosurgery. This did work although fir a couple of days it left my eye looking as though it had been pummelled by a boxer!

        I send my best wishes to Maestro Fischer for a full and complete recovery. I hope also it may remind readers that having retina checks should be essential as we get older.