"I screamed a high G rather than singing it beautifully. You can see why I may have caught Andriessen's interest." Nora Fischer discusses 'The Only One'
Intermusica caught up with Nora Fischer in the wake of her performances of Louis Andriessen 'The Only One', written specially for her. After giving the world premiere at Los Angeles' Walt Disney Concert Hall and the European premiere at the Berliner Philharmonie, Nora has just given the UK premiere at the BBC Proms. We asked her what it was like to work with the composer and how she brings the piece to life during her performances:
Louis Andriessen is known to be quite specific about the singers he works with. In his long and highly interesting career, he has always handpicked vocalists who could read and sing his complex music, but who at the same time could offer a very different sound palette than the usual classical vocal technique. He prefers them to sound raw, direct, rough and as 'in your face' as can be. It's a special interest we share. The voice can be a beautifully polished diamond, but it is equally beautiful when it conveys emotions in an unpolished way. Some emotions are in fact pretty nasty, and they might require a nasty sound! Kurt Weill had a similar dilemma, which made him work regularly with actors who knew little about technically perfected singing. It was exactly that unpolished quality, with a large emphasis on the textual approach, which made them interesting for him to work with.
How it all began
A few years ago, I sang a small part in Andriessen's opera Theatre of the World, where I used a jazz-like sound for a 'cabaret duet', and then screamed a high G rather than singing it beautifully (as it said 'screaming' in the score). You can see why I may have caught Andriessen's interest. After getting to know each other a bit more, he started to mention how he'd love to write a piece for me. Although a great compliment, I didn't take it seriously because I never imagined it would actually happen. But lo and behold, here we are!
Inner animals, beasts & children...
Andriessen came up with the idea of working with poems by Flemish composer Delphine Lecompte, which spoke heavily to me because of their thematics. The underlying feelings of these poems suggest the need to hide our inner animals, beasts and children, in order to become a well-functioning member of society. As an artist, I feel like I am constantly balancing on this threshold. Those inner beasts and children are the well from which our art springs, and therefore need to be brought to the surface. At the same time, we need to function as acceptable human beings. This continuous game is both sad and amusing, and it is this juxtaposition that is conveyed in the piece very clearly. It might leave you inspired to reconnect with your own wild beasts.
Tea & booze
I regularly visited Andriessen when creating the piece (he lives very close to me in Amsterdam). First we would drink tea with some booze in it and then sing through the new passages that he had finished. As he was getting to know my instrument more and more, we often tweaked things to better suit my voice. As the poems are intensely colourful, we wanted the music and the vocals to meet that standard. Like all of the protagonist's inner voices, the music and the vocals move in all direction from elegant lyrical lines to bursts of screams and frustration. It was extremely inspiring to work with someone of such genius who can translate these multi-layered texts into equally multi-layered music. With each new song I was astonished to see how he had understood what then seemed to be the only possible way of singing those texts. I am so grateful for having had this chance to work so closely with such a master of composition and creativity.
Bringing the piece to life
To enhance the underlying feeling of the piece, we had the idea that I would start the performance dressed like a crazy bird-like child and then gradually transform in to a woman in a black suit. I hid the clothes among the members of the orchestra and hopped through them to pick them up. It was fun to engage the orchestral members in the theatrical element of the piece; both the LA Phil and BBC Symphony Orchestra had a blast with their spontaneous involvement in the staging. After a great premiere at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and the European premiere in the Berliner Philharmonie, we performed at the BBC Proms. Thousands of people engaged in what contemporary music has to offer: that makes me so happy! I am already looking forward to our next performance in Amsterdam on 30 November.
I can't begin to express my gratitude for Louis Andriessen to entrust me with this adventure, and to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Berliner Philharmonie, BBC Proms, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, LA Philharmonic, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Sakari Oramo and Ryan Wigglesworth for giving me the opportunity to give life to this brilliant new piece of music!
Read: Nora gave an exclusive interview in The Guardian about the Prom. Click here to read it in full.
Nora Fischer performs at the La Jolla Chamber Music Festival
Following the US debut of HUSH at the Mostly Mozart Festival, Nora Fischer travels to California's renowned La Jolla Summerfest to perform David Lang Death Speaks with violinist Tatjana Roos, pianist Timo Andres and Derek Johnson on electric guitar.
This concert is part of a series curated by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang which aims to showcase the most innovative compositional voices of today and unite artists who forge new musical paths from older traditions.
Intermusica at the 125th BBC Proms
The BBC have announced the programme for the 125th BBC Proms, launching eight weeks of music-making of the highest quality, over 80 concerts and a host of world premieres. The festival also marks 150 years since the birth of Proms founder Sir Henry Wood and the 50th anniversary of the moon landings. As ever, Intermusica is well represented at the festival, with 24 artists taking part and our International Touring team bringing two world-class orchestras to the London stage. All concerts will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and several will be televised on BBC Four. See below for full details.
Mark Wigglesworth is joined by Nicola Benedetti and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain on 25 July. Wigglesworth conducts the London premiere of Lera Auerbach Icarus (2011) followed by Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto and Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet Suite. The concert will be televised on BBC Four on 28 July.
Simon Halsey and his numerous choirs feature throughout the Proms. On 29 July, the BBC Proms Youth Choir joins Omer Meir Wellber and the BBC Philharmonic for Haydn The Creation. Halsey then prepares the singers of the London Symphony Chorus and Orfeó Català as they join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO to perform Walton Belshazzar’s Feast on 20 August. The concert will be shown on BBC Four on 23 August. Finally, more than 600 singers will unite for the European premiere of John Luther Adams In the Name of the Earth (2018) on 8 September.
On 2 August, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Thomas Dausgaard perform Sir James MacMillan The Confession of Isobel Gowdie, which premiered at the Proms nearly 30 years ago in 1990. The concert will be televised live on BBC Four. MacMillan is currently celebrating his 60th birthday with a year of special performances – visit jamesmacmillan.co.uk to see the full MacMillan at 60 calendar.
Ben Gernon and the BBC Philharmonic (where he is Principal Guest Conductor) give two performances. On 5 August, Gernon conducts a programme of Malcolm Arnold Peterloo Overture, Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with soloist Alexander Gavrylyuk and excerpts from Tchaikovsky Swan Lake. They repeat the concert the following morning in a Relaxed Prom, in which the concert environment is adapted to better suit audience members with autistic spectrum conditions, sensory, communication or learning difficulties.
On 10 August, Lise Davidsen reunites with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra, with whom she recently recorded her highly anticipated debut album for Decca (out 31 May). She will sing Richard Strauss Op.27 Songs, which also feature on the album.
On 13 August, Martyn Brabbins conducts a special concert with personal significance: it features the world premiere of Pictured Within: Birthday Variations for M. C. B., a new take on Elgar Enigma Variations commissioned by the BBC to mark Brabbins’ 60th birthday. This unique work features a new set of variations by 14 living composers including Intermusica’s Brett Dean, Sally Beamish, Sir Harrison Birtwistle and Dai Fujikura – plus one distinguished mystery composer to write the theme. Brabbins also conducts Elgar’s original Variations as well as Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music and Brahms Song of Destiny, featuring the BBC Singers and English National Opera Chorus. The concert will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Four on 8 September.
Also on the 13 August, Martin James Bartlett performs in a late-night mixtape concert, exploring the fringes of Minimalism and meditative listening. Joined by 12 Ensemble, Tenebrae and director Nigel Short, Bartlett will perform the slow movement from Bach Keyboard Concerto in F minor; Chopin Nocturne in D flat major, Max Richter Vladimir’s Blues and Peteris Vasks Fruits of Silence.
Andreas Haefliger returns to the Proms on 19 August for the world premiere of a new Piano Concerto written especially for him by fellow Swiss musician Dieter Ammann. He is joined for the concert by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Sakari Oramo. This new work is co-commmissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Konzerthaus Wien, Lucerne Festival, Münchner Philharmoniker and Taipei Symphony Orchestra.
Singers Sofia Fomina, Marta Fontanals-Simmons and Thomas Atkins appear in Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s production of Mozart The Magic Flute on 27 August. Fomina stars in the concert staging as Pamina while Fontanals-Simmons sings Second Lady and Atkins takes the roles of Second Priest and First Man in Armour.
Richard Egarr returns to the Proms on 30 August to conduct the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (with whom he has a long association) Handel Jeptha, part of a cycle celebrating the composer’s works. The cast features Tim Mead as Hamor and Cody Quattlebaum as Zebul.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner completes his epic five-season Berlioz series on 2 September, conducting a performance of his opera Benvenuto Cellini with his Monteverdi Choir and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique.
On 10 September, Intermusica brings the Czech Philharmonic and Semyon Bychkov to the Proms. The concert features Smetana The Bartered Bride, the Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin and Shostakovich Symphony No.8.
Nicholas Collon and his Aurora Orchestra return to the Proms on 12 September presenting another eagerly anticipated major symphony from memory. This year they present Berlioz Symphonie fantastique in an immersive theatrical staging. Collon and the orchestra will give a repeat performance in a late-night Prom that same evening and BBC Four will record the first performance for broadcast on 13 September.
As the festival draws to a close, Intermusica’s International Touring team brings a second orchestra to London: on 13 September, Andrew Manze returns with his NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover for Beethoven Night, in which Manze conducts extracts from Fidelio and Symphony No.5, as well as music by Handel and Bach.
Nora Fischer gives world premiere of Louis Andriessen's The only one with the Los Angeles Philharmonic
Nora Fischer joins Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall on 2 May 2019 to give the world premiere of Louis Andriessen The only one. The concert also marks Fischer’s debut with the orchestra.
The only one was commissioned by Los Angeles Philharmonic Chief Operating Officer Chad Smith, who gave Andriessen total freedom to compose a piece for the orchestra’s centenary celebration. The resulting piece moves consciously away from the more formal symphonic orchestration, comprising bass and electric guitar; reduced strings; harp and celesta. Following a predominantly classical path, it flirts with notions of light and pop music, all as Fischer sings the lyrics drawn from the poetry of Delphine Lecompte and Rozalie Hirs. Written specifically with Fischer in mind, Andriessen notes that “the depth of her versatility has strongly influenced the musical language of the piece.”
Fischer also gives the UK premiere of The only one on 8 September at the BBC Proms, this time performing the work with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Sakari Oramo.
Nora Fischer tours HUSH across the Netherlands with Marnix Dorrestein
Nora Fischer begins the new season with a tour of the Netherlands performing her debut album HUSH. Together with guitarist Marnix Dorrestein, Fischer begins the tour at Amsterdam's On The Roof on 7 September and then visits the country's renowned concert venues including Theaters Tilburg and Muziekgebouw Eindhoven to Stadsschouwberg Nijmegen and De Doelen, as well as the more unique Art Night Nijmegen; Utrecht International Literature Festival; Sounds of Music Groningen, and the Schiermonnikoog International Chamber Music Festival.
HUSH was born from a longstanding dream of Fischer’s – to reimagine, rework and redefine early music songs. Growing up in the baroque tradition, she has frequently performed the music of Monteverdi, Dowland and Purcell, and deeply values their music. With HUSH, Fischer works alongside celebrated pop guitarist Marnix Dorrestein to create stripped back versions of these songs that will resonate with current and future generations – simple, timeless and intensely beautiful. Sometimes groovy and soulful, sometimes silent and soul piercing, HUSH is approached with the creativity of songwriters in the 21st century.
Watch Fischer and Dorrestein perform their arrangement of ‘Intorno All’Idol Mio’ by Antonio Cesti here:
Nora Fischer performs Osvaldo Golijov's Ayre at the Concertgebouw with Asko|Schönberg
Nora Fischer joins Asko|Schönberg at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw on 21 April 2018 to perform Osvaldo Golijov Ayre. Ayre is an ode to various styles of folk music ranging from Sephardic tunes to Eastern European music and Christian Arab traditions, and demanding many different styles of singing and music making from the singer.
The following week, Fischer travels to the United States to perform Morris Kliphuis The Secret Diary of Nora Plain with the Ragazze Quartet and percussionist Remco Menting at National Sawdust in Brooklyn on 29 April.
The Secret Diary of Nora Plain – darting between the borders of pop, jazz and classical – tells the story of the young Nora Plain, trying to live as an individual in the increasingly monitored society of today. Through her diary entrances, we hear her struggles with the watching eyes all around her that try to penetrate her personal space more and more.
Intermusica at the Barbican Centre's 2018/19 classical season
The Barbican Centre revealed its classical music season for 2018/19 on 23 January 2018, and as ever there are many Intermusica artists performing over the season. Highlights include Daniil Trifonov's London Symphony Orchestra Artist Portrait, the visit of Sir Antonio Pappano and the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia to perform Mahler Symphony No.6 and Sir John Eliot Gardiner's return to the LSO. See below for full details.
Daniil Trifonov is the subject of the LSO's Artist Portrait next season. The Portrait begins in February 2019 when he performs Ravel Piano Concerto with the orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle, and continues in June with a performance of Beethoven Piano Concerto No.5 and a solo recital of works by Beethoven and Prokofiev. It culminates on 16 June with a performance of Shostakovich Concerto No.1 for piano, trumpet and strings.
On 29 September 2018, Ben Gernon conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Holst The Planets, presented by scientist and broadcaster Professor Brian Cox.
Sir James MacMillan's All the Hills and Vales Along receives its world premiere from the London Symphony Orchestra and Simon Halsey's London Symphony Chorus on 4 November and forms part of the Barbican Centre's series of events commemorating the First World War. Earlier that day, the piece is the focus of an LSO Discovery Day, during which members of the public can attend a morning LSO rehearsal of the MacMillan premiere followed by chamber music and a discussion about creative responses to World War I.
Martyn Brabbins is also involved in the First World War anniversary, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere of Cheryl Frances-Hood's Last Man Standing, part of a programme that also includes Bax November Woods and Vaughan Williams Symphony No.4.
Marin Alsop returns to the Barbican on 4 December to continue the Bernstein at 100 celebrations with a concert performance of the composer's Candide. Leonardo Capalbo stars in the title role.
Leonidas Kavakos makes two appearances at the Barbican during the 2018/19 season. In September he joins Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax in bringing their critically acclaimed Brahms Piano Trios to the Barbican Hall. In December, he renews his relationship with Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO when he performs Brahms Violin Concerto.
James Ehnes returns to the Barbican on 18 January 2019, performing Beethoven Violin Concerto with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Mary Bevan joins John Butt and the BBC Symphony Orchestra to perform Bach's B minor Mass on 2 February, singing with her sister Sophie Bevan, tenor Samuel Boden and bass-baritone Edward Grint.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner continues his fruitful collaboration with the London Symphony Orchestra in February, conducting two concerts of works by Weber, Mendelssohn and Schumann. Gardiner is joined by soloists Isabelle Faust, Kristian Bezuidenhout and Piotr Anderszewski.
Lahav Shani joins the LSO in February, alongside pianist Simon Trpčeski, for a concert of Weill, Rachmaninov and Stravinsky.
Nora Fischer joins the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Joana Carneiro in concert on 11 May, performing as soprano soloist in the UK premiere of Golijov Oceana.
Intermusica brings the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia to the Barbican on 25 May for a concert with their Music Director, Sir Antonio Pappano.
Kian Soltani performs at LSO St Luke's in June, as part of the ECHO Rising Stars tour, for which he was nominated by the Wiener Konzerthaus and Wiener Musikverein.