Utah Symphony director gives final bow after 14 years

Jun 4, 2023, 10:10 PM | Updated: Jun 5, 2023, 5:52 am

SALT LAKE CITY — After 14 years at the helm of the Utah Symphony, Maestro Thierry Fischer has conducted his final concerts as music director.

Maestro Thierry Fischer chose Gustav Mahler’s 3rd — a dynamic, majestic piece for his final concerts as music director of the Utah Symphony. It was a tribute to the orchestra’s founder, Maurice Abravanel, who recorded all of Mahler’s works with this orchestra.

“We play in his hall every day, so there was this little connection with him that I wanted to honor for me and for the community,” Fischer said.

Each movement of the Mahler, he says, underscores the creation.

“It starts with the first movement, the forces of the earth, there is no soul, no human being, nobody’s breathing. And you have certain moment, like, a giant trying to move big rocks with a trombone solo. And it’s a massive movement, quite brutal, aesthetically brutal, but very strong. And then the second moment is the apparition of flowers. And it’s so beautiful. It’s very poetic. The third moment is of little birds, just out of the egg, like, he knows the head moving like this. It’s so beautiful,” Fischer said.

Thierry Fischer speaking about the final piece he will be conducting to KSL’s Arts Specialist Carole Mikita (KSL TV)

“The fourth moment is the appearance of the human souls, with this very poignant text by nature, some by our wonderful legends in the modern world. And then, soon as the humans appear, the little angels arrived to protect them with the Children’s Choir and the women’s choir of the Tabernacle Choir we were very happy to have for this last concert. And then the sixth movement is an immense, slow movement because to symbolize what we all were aiming for, or have been aiming or want, everything is open, about peace, inner serenity, love in all aspects, love of the environment, of the people, of ourselves… which is an inspiration forever. So I thought this little history of old things appearing good symbolizes in a very poetic way, what we did collectively our best to achieve with this wonderful organization,” the maestro continued.

American orchestras are different from those in Europe. The maestro says he learned that this premiere arts organization belongs to the community, the state.

“The orchestra really belongs to the people who live here… So it developed in me, this extremely fascinating approach, to motivate the people who were interested to support our vision in a way that they can feel, and more than feel, but yet being part of what we decided to achieve altogether,” Fischer said. “And that was really fascinating for me because I discovered extremely interesting people… But above everything, what I will remember of that approach is all the people who shared our vision.”

And Maestro Fischer also honored the Abravanel vision of taking the orchestra into the schools. With his adopt-a-school program, he spent time answering the students’ questions.

“We talked about music, about choices, about the doubts of the future, their fears, their hopes, and it was amazing,” he expressed.

Thierry Fischer in Haiti conducting the local musicians.

Maestro Fischer and his musicians toured Utah, performing concerts under the stars in the southern part of the state. He and his wife and children have a home base in Switzerland, but he says they fell in love with Utah.

“We spent holidays here, summer holiday, winter holiday, we’ve done all the possible parks, all the possible canyons, hiking, cycling, all the possible ski resorts. We felt, I can really say, completely at home in Utah for 14 years,” he said.

He is proud of what he and the players accomplished, their recordings, traveling to Haiti in 2017 and coming away with a feeling of oneness with musicians there and yet realizing the struggle it was for them to find instruments and time to rehearse.

Returning with the orchestra to Carnegie Hall in 2016 for the first time in 40 years to a triumphant standing ovation. And now, Thierry Fischer is leaving Utah.

“First of all, it is incredibly simple. It was not difficult at all. I’ve been influenced by leaders who have known when is the time to leave. And I think this is the definition of leadership, what is important is the impact and is not what I’ve done. What matters is what I leave,” he said.

And as his baton comes down for the final time as music director of the Utah Symphony.

“We made it, and then we will all remember it forever.”

Fischer will return as a guest conductor for the Utah Symphony in 2025. He will serve as music director for several years for an orchestra in Spain. An international search is on for a new music director for the Utah Symphony.

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Utah Symphony director gives final bow after 14 years