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Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto in D Op.35 (1879) [34:53]
Sérénade mélancolique Op.26 (1875) [9:27]
Valse-Scherzo Op.34 (1877) [7:46]
Souvenir d’un lieu cher Op.42 (1878) [15:54] ¹
Julia Fischer (violin)
Yakov Kreizberg (piano) ¹
Russian National Orchestra/Yakov Kreizberg
rec. DZZ Studio No.5, Moscow, April 2006; MCO Studio 5, Hilversum (Souvenir) April 2006
PENTATONE CLASSICS 5186095 [68:25]

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.

The Sérénade 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.

Jonathan Woolf



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