Not a week seems to go by without another Julia
Fischer release from PentaTone. With this one she returns to
the scene of her first discographic triumph with this label,
her triptych of Russian concertos – Khachaturian, Prokofiev
and Glazunov – and gives us an all-Tchaikovsky collection. The
world is not short of recordings of the concerto, from Elman
and Heifetz to the latest wunderkind but it’s not a work I much
associate with German players. Certainly Kulenkampff’s 1930s
slant on it was highly original but of well-known modern players
only Hoelscher, Tetzlaff, Franz Peter Zimmermann and Mutter
(twice) have essayed it on disc and none of them with any great
success. I should add that PentaTone are in competition with
themselves. The Tetzlaff recording is also available on this
label with the same orchestra as this one, though conducted
by Kent Nagano – it’s coupled with Lugansky’s performance of
the composer’s Piano Concerto No.1.
So here’s Fischer
in a disc presumably intended gradually entirely to supplant
the Tetzlaff. The orchestra and conductor are clearly congenial
colleagues and disc-mates. The performance is attractive but
to me flawed with little moments of self-consciousness. I’d
hoped for more when she began. She has a fine, core tone, capable
of variety of colours. And she certainly avoids Joshua Bell’s
cloyingly manicured intimacy in his second recording with Tilson
Thomas, one I thoroughly disliked. But problems start at 4:11
with some very mannered slowing down and hushed phrasing. One
wouldn’t want to characterise this as over perfumed playing
nor indeed feminine – where does that leave Bell? – but the
headily rubato-laden phrasing throughout the first movement
begins to sound increasingly like indulgence. It doesn’t sound,
to me at least, like a cohesive response to the music – Elman
after all was a past master of rubato here but he knew the thing
from the inside. From 15:00 she fines down her tone to a whisper
as the orchestra’s rather lethargic sounding winds join her.
Yakov Kreizberg’s conducting here is oddly run-of-the-mill.
The second movement improves precisely because there’s not enough
room for leeway. And the variable wind playing – too much overdone
or underdone at important points – improves still more for the
finale. Unfortunately here I find the metrical displacements
just as aggravating as in the first movement.
mélancolique is rather airy and a touch perfunctory, though
here the forces seem keen to advance folkloric claims for this
opus. Judged against Kogan this all sounds generic and under-inflected.
The Souvenir d’un lieu cher sees the conductor at the
piano stool. The playing is chaste and withdrawn and attractive
– if that’s how you like your Tchaikovsky. I prefer the tone
colours of a Kogan or an Oistrakh but I accept that this is
not Fischer’s way.
I auditioned this
SACD on an ordinary set-up but I wasn’t aware, as I sometimes
am, of any considerable advance in perspective. Not a bad disc
but as Klemperer might have continued, not a good one either.