Tchaikovsky, Violin Concerto, Sérénade mélancolique, Valse-Scherzo, Souvenir d’un lieu cher, Julia Fischer, Russian National Orchestra, Yakov Kreizberg (released on November 21, 2006)
Tchaikovsky is not a composer I seek out for regular listening. His music is technically challenging (often the benchmark in virtuoso competitions), melodically prodigious, harmonically lush in an arch-Romantic way, and colorfully descriptive (the primary model for film composers). Perhaps because of over-exposure, it sometimes bores me to tears and often leaves me feeling ambivalent. Fischer's technique is ferocious, heard in spades live and in recordings, and the fire in her playing on this disc is unquenchable, especially in the concerto's third movement (Finale: Allegro vivacissimo). However, what really stands out after repeated listening is the subtlety of her soft playing, as in the eerily ethereal cadenza to the first movement (Allegro moderato), and the admirable taste in how she crafts each movement with daring strength and spidery grace. Yakov Kreizberg, Fischer's preferred conductor for her recordings, leads the Russian National Orchestra in a fine performance behind Fischer, captured in excellent sound.
To make this disc even more attractive, Fischer and Kreizberg recorded two other major Tchaikovsky works for violin with orchestra. The Sérénade mélancolique, op. 26, is a gloomy performance, rich with shadows and occasional glimmers of light. Balancing it is the worldly Valse-Scherzo, op. 34, a lesser-known work that Tchaikovsky composed just before beginning the concerto: indeed, we might think of it as fitting into the slot of the missing dance movement in the concerto. Tchaikovsky rejected the concerto's original slow movement, in favor of the Canzonetta in the final score. He reused the material from the rejected Andante as the first movement (Méditation) of a work for violin and piano he called Souvenir d’un lieu cher. This performance, with Yakov Kreizberg off the podium and at the piano, rounds out a very fine achievement, enough to make even a Tchaikovsky skeptic like me sit up and listen.
PentaTone Classics PTC 5186 095
Julia Fischer will perform the Khachaturian violin concerto in Washington, in a set of concerts with the National Symphony Orchestra, March 15 to 17. In other American appearances this year, Julia Fischer will play the Mendelssohn concerto with Yakov Kreizberg conducting the Cincinnati Symphony (February 9 and 10), the Beethoven concerto with the Pittsburgh Symphony (March 9 to 11), the Tchaikovsky concerto with the Minnesota Orchestra and Yakov Kreizberg (March 22 to 24), and the Brahms concerto with the New York Philharmonic (April 18 and 19). Is that schedule for real? Ionarts does travel, you know.