The Hungarian maestro — who has achieved international renown as the founder and director of the Budapest Festival Orchestra — made his debut with the National Symphony Orchestra in 1997. He returned as guest conductor in 2001, and his appointment as Principal Guest Conductor was announced in October 2005. Of his initial concerts in that capacity (Nov. 30 through Dec. 2, 2006), The Washington Post wrote, "Here was musicmaking of seeming rightness, unflagging vigor and uncharacteristic clarity," and The Baltimore Sun added, "The NSO is in for a productive, inspiring time with the Hungarian conductor."
"The chemistry onstage with Maestro Fischer and the members of the National Symphony is clearly evident in the excellent music they are making, and we are pleased to be able to continue and expand this relationship," said NSO chairman Ann Jordan in a statement released today by management. "His artistry will greatly enhance the next few seasons, while we continue the search for our sixth music director."
"Making music with the National Symphony Orchestra always gives me great pleasure," responded Fischer in the same statement. "This orchestra has an excellent collective spirit and a special care for quality so I was pleased with the prospect of intensifying our work together."
During the 2008-9 season — formerly the third year of his contract as Principal Guest Conductor — Maestro Fischer will spend eight weeks with the NSO, including five weeks on the Orchestra's classical subscription series. The following season he will spend seven weeks with the NSO, six of which will be on the subscription season. In addition, during those two years, he will lead the American Residencies and any other potential tours; he will also advise the Orchestra on overall artistic issues.
Among the major successes of Fischer's last visit to the National Symphony was a pair a children's programs. "Ivšn Fischer: Plays Well With Children" ran the Post's headline. He will continue to host similar performances, as schedules permit, during the term of his contract.
Fischer's three weeks with the NSO next season will include an all-Beethoven program (November 1-3) and an unusual presentation of Cezch music: excerpts from Smetana's Mš vlast interspersed with Dvoršk's Moravian Duets in orchestrations by Mr. Fischer (November 8-10). His third week (April 3-5) will bring to Washington a work for which he is especially noted, Mahler's Symphony No. 2 ("Resurrection"). His Budapest Festival Orchestra recording of this work was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance.
The National Symphony's fifth music director, Leonard Slatkin, will step down at the end of the 2007-8 season. Maestro Fischer's term as Principal Conductor runs through the 2009-10 season; during that time the music director search will be ongoing.