André Fischer

André in his capacity as conductor of the Zürcher Konzertchor (ZKC)
André in his capacity as conductor of the Zürcher Konzertchor (ZKC)

André was a pupil at the Kantonsschule in Bülach when we first met in 1980. He joined my composition class and took part in the two concerts we had. The first concert contained a work using 12-tone technique with contributions from all the class. This, unbeknown to me, caused great consternation among the other music teachers, who apparently didn’t regard it as music at all.

The second concert, at the end of 1981 and just before our return to NZ, was a more ambitious work Christophorus. It was a Christmas cantata, scored for children’s choir, baritone and wind orchestra. The work was much too difficult for most of the pupils and so it finished up being composed by just André and myself. The school was enormously helpful: they not only put their wind players and youth choir at our disposal they also found the baritone soloist and arranged for an audience from the surrounding primary schools. André conducted his sections and I mine and the whole project was remarkably successful.

Back in NZ I heard occasionally from him by mail, that he had been granted special tuition in composition by Hans Ulrich Lehmann, the then director of the Zurich conservatory at which institution he later studied (with Gerald Bennett as his music theory teacher). When we returned to Switzerland he was near the end of his studies which he followed up with further studies in the USA.

In 1990 he was back in Switzerland and among other activities was conductor of two wind bands, one in Thalwil and the other in Effretikon. He commissioned a work from me for the latter group: Gargantua which he brought to a very fine performance. Later (1993) we combined forces for a concert in the Zürcher Stadthaus at which he composed a work using Brigitte's texts and Fiona as soloist: Hortensische Gesänge. On the same concert were the two versions of my WHALE (for choir and tape – conducted by Heini Roth) and for trombone and tape with Philip on trombone.

One of the most exciting concerts he did of a work of mine was a performance of scenes from my chamber opera Hauptsache, man geht zusammen hin (Libretto Jürg Schubiger).

For my retirement from the Zurich Conservatory, André organised a program which included a new work of his in my honour, a setting of Michael Harlow's Texts for Composition. It was called A Perfect Circle and was was beautifully sung by André himself (baritone) and Susanne Petersen (soprano), accompanied by the pianist Marino Bernasconi and made excellent use of the witty texts. On the same program was WHALE (Philip) and Flötenspieler and Fledermäuse Dominique Hunziker. Later André came to me with a new project: a course on musical form for students which we worked on together for several months. About this time too, he drew my attention to a new project organised by the librarian of the conservatory for composers to make settings of texts by Robert Walser. This we did indepenently, mine being: Scheint denn die Sonne heut’ nicht?.

As I write we are planning a work for orchestra Schubert 1828 to be performed next year on the same program as Schubert's Mass in E major.