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Asher Fisch to take up WASO baton

Asher Fisch
Limelight Magazine

By Melissa Lesnie

The incoming chief says he wants to give Perth's state orchestra its own distinct sound

The West Australian Symphony Orchestra today announced that Asher Fisch has been named successor to chief conductor and artistic advisor Paul Daniel. He will take the reins in the 2014 season when Daniel's contract ends next year.

Currently principal guest conductor of the Seattle Opera, Fisch is set to lead WASO for at least three years, working closely with musicians and administration in Perth for nine weeks each year following a two-week “honeymoon” in 2013. 

The Israel-born maestro is no stranger to WASO, having first conducted the orchestra in 1999. Although he has been a frequent visitor, he really made his impact on Australian audiences as conductor of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s Ring cycle in 2004, the first complete production staged in this country. It was this intensive four-month period that made him realise how much he enjoyed working in Australia.

Fisch insists he sees Perth’s state orchestra as a truly international outfit. “During the time I have worked with WASO I have been particularly impressed with the calibre of the musicians. To me, this orchestra is a wonderful blend of British professionalism, American work ethic and German precision.”

In the 1990s Fisch was protégé and assistant to his countryman Daniel Barenboim in Berlin, training alongside another up-and-comer, Simone Young. Having served as music director of the Israeli Opera and the Vienna Opera, Fisch says he intends to lead WASO in “central European 19th- and early 20th-century music”, the core Romantic canon he grew up with attending the concerts of the Israel Philharmonic.

German opera is clearly a specialty. “I will try to incorporate some of it in our programming,” he says, “especially the music of Wagner, which I think is essential in developing the symphonic style of playing of the late Romantic and early modern-expressionist eras.”

He also promises “some new takes on the old format of the classical concert” and aims to develop with WASO “a style of playing which will be its own – unique and recognisable”. But most importantly, he wants the orchestra to “loosen up, move around while playing, take more risks and avoid playing in what I call the ‘safety zone’.”

Fisch, who has experienced the superb sound of Vienna’s Musikverein from the podium, says he is looking forward to working again in the “wonderful acoustics of the Perth Concert Hall”. And he admits he has a special soft spot for the food in Perth…