Over the past few years, German violinist Julia Fischer, now 23 years old, has emerged as one of the best violinists performing today, certainly among the 20-somethings. We have had the chance to hear her play live only once, when she gave an extraordinary reading of the Beethoven violin concerto with the Baltimore Symphony last spring (Jens got to hear it twice). On recordings, she has also been impressive, with a series of discs on PentaTone Classics, of which we have reviewed her fine CD of the complete Bach works for solo violin. Her recording of Russian violin concertos won the 2005 ECHO classical award. The American release of her Tchaikovsky violin concerto, already available in Europe (see French review quoted here), is scheduled for November 28.
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Mozart, Violin Concertos 1/2/5, Julia Fischer, Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, Yakov Kreizberg (released on October 31, 2006)
For her latest recording, she collaborates again with conductor Yakov Kreizberg and his Netherlands Chamber Orchestra. This disc is essentially the second volume of a complete set of the Mozart concerti violin, to go along with her 2005 CD of the third and fourth concerti, with the same forces. As such, it competes with another full set of the Mozart concerti released this year, by Anne-Sophie Mutter (reviewed by Jens). For the second installment, Fischer has combined the last of the five, K. 219, with the two minor concerti, nos. 1 and 2 (K. 207 and 211). Just as on the 2005 disc, she has composed her own cadenzas and added her own ornamentation (in the booklet, she shares credit for their composition with Yakov Kreizberg).
It was a particularly rich and interesting program offered Sunday morning by Julia Fischer and Jonathan Gilad. Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata, in spite of the unusual nature of this piece, neither sonata nor concerto, is a true duet of artists, that reveals not only the musicians' virtuosity but also their sense of dramatic construction. The young German violinist, who has just celebrated her 23rd birthday, is in my opinion one of the most interesting performers of her generation. The beauty of her ample and melodious sound, the evenness of attack, the technical facility are mind-blowing (époustouflantes). Recordings have shown her to have stunning maturity in interpretations of Bach and Mozart. Today, she has done it again with Pentatone's release of the Tchaikovsky concerto, which shows the same qualities that she displayed on the stage Sunday. [...]
Jonathan Gilad, who has youth in common with Julia Fischer -- he is only 25 -- is a pianist with a delicate touch. Discovered by Daniel Barenboim, he already has broad experience and the capacity for listening necessary in these sonatas, where he is unable even to pull the covers over himself. The duo that he forms with the violinist is of a marvelous homogeneity, as proven in an encore performance of a movement from Mozart's Sonata in E. An exceptional concert in this cycle, organized on Sunday mornings at the Châtelet by Janine Roze.
On a purely technical level, Julia Fischer is on par with the more experienced Anne-Sophie Mutter. However, this recording provides what Jens found lacking in Mutter's performances, in which technical flair seemed "blatant and gratuitous virtuosity in a work that has natural beauty to offer" (as Jens described Mutter's reading of no. 4). Fischer's playing is guileless, which is certainly not to say unsensitive or square. The first two concerti -- probably from early 1775 -- reflect the teenage Mozart's experience of traveling in Italy with his father (the last time for Lucio Silla in 1772) and hearing the virtuosic compositional style of Italian violin virtuosi. Kreizberg and Fischer quite rightly chose to match the Baroque qualities of these concertos by performing them with harpsichord (played capably, if almost inaudibly, by Pieter-Jan Belder). Although she had the curiously frustrating opportunity to play Mozart's own violin at the Salzburg Festival this past summer, Julia Fischer's regular instrument these days is of Italian origin, made by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini in 1750.
Mendelssohn, Piano Trios, D. Müller-Schott, J. Gilad (2006)
Bach, Partitas/Sonatas (2005)
Mozart, Violin Concertos 3/4, NCO, Y. Kreizberg (2005)
Russian Violin Concertos: Khachaturian, Glazunov, Prokofiev (2004)
In fact, all of the Mozart concerti are relatively young compositions (although what that really means for a composer who died in his mid-30s, I don't know). The final three concerti were completed as a group in the last few months of 1775. Mozart wrote one more piece featuring solo violin in 1776, the Haffner Serenade (K. 250) and some single movements, probably as alternates for other violinists who wanted to play his previous concerti (the K. 261 slow movement and K. 269 rondo are on Fischer's first Mozart disc). He subsequently turned to writing piano concerti for himself to play. No. 5 is the most extraordinary of the Mozart violin concerti, performed here with the third movement as a truly jovial menuet. (It also happens to be one of the concerti, along with no. 4, whose autograph score is here in Washington, in the collections of the Library of Congress.) That mysterious alla turca middle section in the third movement, complete with folkish drones and janissary col legno strikes, is so odd yet lovely. The Nederlands Kamerorkest provides excellent sound behind Fischer, with strong and graceful playing from all sections. Beautifully recorded, too, this disc is likely to please any and all ears.
PentaTone Classics PTC 5186 094
Julia Fischer will perform the Khachaturian violin concerto in Washington, in a set of concerts with the National Symphony Orchestra, March 15 to 17, 2007. In other American appearances next year, Julia Fischer will play the Mendelssohn violin concerto with Yakov Kreizberg conducting the Cincinnati Symphony (February 9 and 10, 2007), the Beethoven violin concerto with the Pittsburgh Symphony (March 9 to 11, 2007), and the Brahms violin concerto with the New York Philharmonic (April 18 and 19, 2007). Ionarts will travel.
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