On his first solo recital disc for Chandos, Philip Edward Fisher performs piano works by members of the so-called ‘Mighty Handful’, a group of five Russian composers – César Cui, Alexander Borodin, Mily Balakirev, Modest Mussorgsky, and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov – who in the 1860s banded together in an attempt to create a truly national school of Russian music, free of the perceived stifling influences of Italian opera, German lieder, and other western European forms.
The Mighty Handful were all self-trained amateurs. Borodin combined composing with a career in chemistry; Rimsky-Korsakov was a naval officer; and Mussorgsky had been in the Guards, then in the civil service, before taking up music. They tried to incorporate in their music what they heard in village songs, in Cossack dances, in church chants, and the tolling of church bells; in short, the music of the Mighty Handful was brimming with sounds that echoed Russian life. From the more traditional, Chopin-esque Nocturne by Cui through to the technical innovations and strong Caucasus folk elements of Balakirev’s Islamey, the works here all show the composers’ strong connections with the past and the compositional innovations that would come to influence the likes of Prokofiev and Stravinsky, and help change the course of Russian music for years to come.
A graduate of the Royal Academy of Music and The Juilliard School, the pianist Philip Edward Fisher is widely recognised as a unique performer of refined style and exceptional versatility. He has performed across Europe, Africa, and North America where he made his New York debut at Alice Tully Hall in 2002, performing Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto, and has also appeared at the Merkin Concert Hall and the Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center.
At home he has given performances at the Purcell Room, Wigmore Hall, Barbican Centre, and Royal Festival Hall in London, Usher Hall in Edinburgh, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, and Symphony Hall in Birmingham. He has appeared as a soloist with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra, Toledo Symphony Orchestra, and Juilliard Symphony Orchestra, and worked with performers such as exclusive Chandos artist bassoonist Karen Geoghegan, the tenor Robert White, pianist Sara Buechner, and violinists Elmar Oliveira, Philippe Graffin, and Augustin Hadelich. In 2001, Philip Edward Fisher received the Julius Isserlis Award from The Royal Philharmonic Society in London.