Sunday, July 6, 2014

Iván Fischer's Eine Deutsch-Jiddische Kantate

Iván Fischer's Eine Deutsch-Jiddische Kantate for voice, trumpet, and piano (2005), is here performed by the Budapest Festival Orchestra conducted by Fischer, in Bruges, Belgium, on September 30, 2012; Nora Fischer (the conductor's daughter) sings soprano, and Balázs Tóth is on trumpet.

Fischer is an outspoken critic of anti-Semitism, which has had an unfortunate resurgence in his native nation of Hungary. Jessica Duchen of The Jewish Chronicle writes in a 2011 interview with the Hungarian conductor:
Fischer was born into a musical Hungarian-Jewish family in Budapest in 1951; his elder brother, Adam, is also a celebrated conductor, currently music director of the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. The young Ivan's earliest memories include the 1956 uprising, crushed brutally by Soviet forces.
"I was five years old," he recalls, "and I remember that we had to go to the cellar because of the shelling by tanks." He nevertheless remembers childhood in 1950s and '60s Budapest as "fun", and his musical studies progressed rapidly, encompassing piano, violin, cello and composition.

Fischer founded the Budapest Festival Orchestra in 1983 - nurturing it has remained his priority. "My main interest has been to create an orchestra of artists who are emotionally involved and creative," he says. "With some orchestras music-making feels like working.
I think it should feel like playing."

He is planning to cut back on his guest conducting, he adds: "I would like to stop completely in a few years and concentrate on my own orchestra."

Fischer is also a composer, and this is where his fascination with his Jewish roots is most strongly reflected. "I compose sometimes," he says modestly, "usually simple, tonal, vocal works. Many of them have Yiddish texts. This is because I fear that without compositions this language may be forgotten. Others should also compose in Yiddish."

His most celebrated work is Eine Deutsch-Jiddische Kantate (A German-Yiddish Cantata), which has been performed in several European countries and the US, though has yet to be heard in the UK.
The work, which Fischer calls a "collage" contains German and Yiddish texts that "clash," taken from Rainer Maria Rilke, Avrom Sutzkever, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and from a well-known Yiddish lullaby, shown below:
Shlof main feygele
Mach tzu dain eygele
Ai lu lu lu;

Shlof un zai gezund
Shlof geshmak main kind
Ai lu lu lu;

Shlof un cholem zis
Fun der velt genis
Ai lu lu lu.