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17.7.10

More of Julia Fischer's Schubert

available at Amazon
Schubert, Complete Works for
Violin and Piano, Vol. 2,
J. Fischer, M. Helmchen

(released on April 27, 2010)
PentaTone PTC 5186 348 | 67'04"

Online scores:
D. 574 (op. posth. 162) | D. 934 (op. posth. 159) | D. 940 (op. 103)
The first volume of Schubert's works for violin and piano from Julia Fischer and Martin Helmchen struck my ears as lovely but not essential listening, ranking below the Schubert disc by Andrew Manze and Richard Egarr on historical instruments. This is not for lack of regard for Julia Fischer, whose cancellation of an April 3 concert this past spring was a bitter disappointment, although Joseph Lin should be applauded for stepping in to play the same program of three of the Bach solo violin works. The problem was certainly not Martin Helmchen either, who is shaping up to be one of my favorite Schubert players. While I would still favor Manze/Egarr over the first volume of Fischer/Helmchen (only if there is room for only one of them on your shelf -- why not have both if you can?), this second volume has enough to recommend itself as a companion to either of those discs. If paired with Manze/Egarr, you would end up with two performances of the last violin sonata (D. 574, A major) and no Rondo brillant (only on Fischer's Vol. 1). What you get with Fischer's Vol. 2, however, is the C major fantasia (D. 934, op. posth. 159), a delightful piece in a restrained, mysterious performance. The theme of the Andantino movement recalls harmonic progression of Schubert's Rückert song Sei mir gegrüßt (vi, V/vi shifting chromatically back to V), and the variations introduce some startling rhythmic effects, not least the almost tango-like syncopations in the pianist's left hand of the second variation. There is one other unusual point about this CD, which ends with the lagniappe of the F minor fantasy for piano, four hands -- featuring Helmchen with none other than Julia Fischer (not sure who is primo and who secondo). She has studied the piano as well as the violin, but this was the first time she has made a recording as a pianist. The result is not as good as Evgeny Kissin and James Levine's live performance of this gorgeous work, but as a curiosity well worth a listen.

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