John Abraham Fisher: Symphonies Nos 1-6. © 2021 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd

CD Spotlight

Performed at the Vauxhall Gardens

Symphonies by eighteenth century British composer John Abraham Fisher, heard by GERALD FENECH

'Michael Halász and his Czech team are in exuberant form and their pleasantly flowing performances bring out all the charm, wit and cheerfulness of this lovely music.'


John Abraham Fisher (1744-1806) was one of many prominent violinists and composers in eighteenth century London. A pupil of Thomas Pinto, Fisher made his solo debut at the King's Theatre on 25 January 1765. He soon built a reputation for himself while establishing an important working relationship with the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, serving as orchestra leader between circa 1768 and 1778. Also, his theatrical compositions enjoyed considerable success. As a performer, Fisher became known for playing with great temperament and technical facility, although his flamboyant style led people to view him as a cheap showman. Fisher graduated with a Doctor of Music from Magdalene College, Oxford, in July 1777, the culmination of which was the premiere of his oratorio Providence.

After 1778, the composer embarked on a more active performing career and undertook a series of concert tours in France, Germany, Russia and Vienna. It was in the Austrian capital that Fisher made the acquaintance of celebrated English singer Nancy Storace. The pair married in March 1784, but the relationship was a horrendous disaster. Fisher would regularly beat his wife, and the marriage came to an end when Emperor Joseph II ordered the composer to leave Austria in the autumn of 1784. Following this personal debacle, details of his career are scarce, but it is thought that he settled in Dublin and supported himself by way of teaching and giving occasional performances. He died in Ireland in 1806, aged sixty-two, on the ushering in of the Romantic era.

Fisher's instrumental works are largely unknown and unexplored today. He wrote at least seven symphonies, six of which were published in London in July 1772. These works were performed at the Vauxhall Gardens with a certain outcome of success, but we do not know exactly when Fisher wrote them and in what order.

Listen — John Abraham Fisher: Con molto spirito (Symphony No 3 in E flat)
(track 7, 0:00-0:53) ℗ 2021 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

All of these pieces are scored for two oboes, two bassoons, two horns and strings, typical of symphonic writing in the mid-eighteenth century, and they clearly show Fisher's awareness of the most up-to-date musical trends in Europe at that time.

Listen — John Abraham Fisher: Adagio molto affetuoso (Symphony No 4 in B flat)
(track 11, 2:56-3:49) ℗ 2021 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

All six symphonies on this recording display a strong understanding of sonata form and a notable awareness of compositional techniques associated with the Mannheim school, including dynamic markings, such as crescendo and diminuendo, and also variations in tonal colour. Elements of contrasting ideas and surprise also strongly typify Fisher's careful concern over every aspect of his compositions.

Listen — John Abraham Fisher: Prestissimo (Symphony No 1 in E)
(track 3, 1:00-1:26) ℗ 2021 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

Michael Halász and his Czech team are in exuberant form and their pleasantly flowing performances bring out all the charm, wit and cheerfulness of this lovely music. A most invaluable addition to the Fisher discography, in excellent sound and annotations. All these recordings are premiere ones, all the more reason to add them to your collection without further delay.

Copyright © 25 March 2021 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta







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