One of the most prominent Hungarian conductors of his generation, Ivan Fischer has established a reputation in both Hungarian and Baroque music. His interpretations of works by Liszt, Bartók, and Kodály have achieved international acclaim, and his readings of Hungarian-inspired works, like the Brahms Hungarian Dances (in Fischer's own orchestration), have also received high praise. Yet Fischer's choice of repertory is fairly broad, taking in works by Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Dvorák, Wagner, Debussy, Rachmaninov, Ravel, and many others out of the Hungarian sphere. In the Baroque realm Fischer has garnered international plaudits for his J.S. Bach interpretations: the 2006 Budapest Festival performances of the Mass in B minor (BWV 232) and March 2008 concerts with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw of the St. Matthew Passion were both unqualified successes. Fischer has conducted some of the world's leading orchestras and led many opera performances at major venues, like the Vienna State Opera, where his Mozart productions have received much acclaim. Fischer has made numerous recordings over the years for various labels, including Hungaraton, Philips, Decca, Warner Classics, Sony, and many others.
Ivan Fischer was born in Budapest, Hungary, on January 20, 1951. His brother, Adam, is also a renowned conductor. In his youth Ivan studied piano, violin, and cello, though when he enrolled at the Bela Bartók Conservatory in Budapest, it was for study of the cello and conducting. Fischer took further lessons in conducting, first in Vienna with Hans Swarowsky (1971-1974), then in Salzburg with Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1975), who instructed him in Baroque music interpretation.
After Fischer's first prize in conducting at the 1976 Rupert Foundation Competition in London, he appeared regularly in England conducting major orchestras, including the London and BBC Symphony Orchestras. He also made his debut in 1976 at the Zurich Opera. 1983 was another pivotal year for Fischer: he both made his American debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and founded the Budapest Festival Orchestra, an ensemble for which he still serves as music director.
From 1988 Fischer served six seasons as guest conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. In 1995 he signed on to an exclusive contract with the Philips label, but then began recording for Channel Classics in 2004. From 2000-2003 Fischer was music director of the National Opera of Lyon. In the fall of 2008 he took the podium as music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, serving through the 2009-2010 season.