Another month, another
Julia Fischer. Her last, an all-Tchaikovsky
disc, seems to have received almost
unanimous acclaim so that my own sour
note of dissent (see review)
must have seemed critical aberration.
I’m afraid that I shall to reprise my
own comments with regard to her Brahms
Concerto and my objections remain constant;
insufficient metrical control with allied
agogic exaggerations and questionable
reliance on too complex a series of
It’s as well to get
these concerns aired now and to ally
them with her Tchaikovsky. In both cases
the gravest areas of concern fall in
the long first movements where opportunities
to indulge such mannerisms are at their
most enticing. I willingly concede she
is a fine player with a sweet, core
tone and beguilingly sensitive instincts.
But something is going to have to change
with regard to her feeling for architectural
cogency. Much of this is attributable
to a lack of rhythmic control.
Kreizberg, whose accompaniments
for Fischer have been all too complaisant
of her instincts for the precious and
rhapsodic, is at it again here. The
inherent instability of the first movement
is absolute when musicians act thus;
the queasily sentimentalised moments,
the push and pull of the rubato, the
vertiginous dynamics, all create a sense
of instability and architectural weakness.
When the nuts and bolts are compromised
things seldom recover, however attractive
one’s tone or however sensitive is the
interplay with woodwind principals.
Try one point after the cadenza; how
beautifully, indeed refulgently sweet
and lyric is Fischer’s phrasing - and
how little it matters because so unfocused
has she been to the basic pulse of the
music making. It’s nothing to do with
timings; it’s everything to do with
phraseology and tempo relationships.
The slow movement is
better – indeed often fine. But unnecessary
diminuendi draw attention to themselves
a little too archly and that impedes
the naturalness of the music making.
Given their essentially bracing tempo
the finale should perhaps sound more
characterful and vibrant than it actually
does. A certain rawness of tone wouldn’t
go amiss but Fischer is here wedded
to constant purity of tone, which imparts
a rather limited vitality to her playing.
Coupled with the concerto
is the Double Concerto where Fischer
is joined by Daniel Müller-Schott.
In the main the performance explores
the concerto’s lighter side, its more
affectionate moments of felicity. The
opening movement sees the cellist, whom
I suppose to be reserving his tone,
responding powerfully and yet with sensitivity
toward his violinist colleague. I don’t
know how they sound together on stage
but I think it’s likely that her tone
doesn’t project as powerfully as his
and this would cause ensemble imbalances.
Still on disc we can forget these concerns.
The slow movement is lyric, and graciously
weighted toward chamber intimacies;
there are especially finely judged ensembles
with the clarinet principal. And the
finale has a certain skittish bravura
that will appeal to those who fight
shy of the concerto’s sometimes more
leaden aggression in other hands. In
the end though there’s a lack of heft
in the tutti passages and a rather circumscribed
tonal palette that means that its appeal
would be somewhat limited – a deft performance,
certainly, but not one that really probes
The evidence of Fischer’s
Tchaikovsky and Brahms seems to me clear;
far greater concentration on the rhythmic
nature of the concerto fabric is needed
for truly effective performances.