Here’s a fiddle-fanciers dream line-up or, perhaps, one
kind of fiddle-fancier’s dream line-up. Rather like best-ever
sporting teams culled from the pages of history, there are always
several different ways of compiling a line-up. Peter Fisher
has gone heavily for a phalanx of Kreisleriana, playing nine
pieces by the king of the genre in the twentieth century, and
adding satellite composers. These include the obvious Elgar,
the very obvious Traditional, the crushingly obvious Massenet
and the highly unexpected d’Ambrosio.
Fisher is a neat, subtle, precise player. His mentor was the
Czechoslovakian - to be precise, Slovakian - player Jaroslav
Vaněček who had studied first in Bratislava, and in
Prague and then taught in Dublin and at the Royal College of
Music in London. He died in 2011 at the age of 91, and Fisher
dedicates the disc to his memory.
I’ve read that Vaněček taught in the Russian
tradition, but he himself modelled his own teaching more on
Carl Flesch’s lines. Whatever the influence on his students
may have been, it’s clear that Fisher doesn’t make
a big sound, and generally avoids the heavy-boned Russian approach.
He is a good stylist, paying great attention to shifts, and
his finger position changes are invariably acutely judged. Portamento
is used discreetly, and well. He is also not in thrall to any
other approach, and has his own ideas. For my tastes his Praeludium
and Allegro slows rather too much, but it’s a well
argued performance should you be sympathetic. He can take his
time in the Kreisler pieces; more a matter of rhythm than tempo,
and if his Tambourin Chinois lacks zip, his Marche
Miniature Viennois doesn’t.
He has a fine colleague in Peter Hewitt who vests something
like Sammartini’s Canto Amoroso with a deal of
treble glint and colour and who generally keeps things alive.
The book-style card describes this as Mischa Elman’s work
adding a bracketed Sammartini, but this is surely from the Sonata
in A, Op.1 No.4. Elman certainly recorded it, at least twice.
He played it significantly slower than Fisher, in fact, both
in 1914 (with a brass band style accompaniment) and again, this
time with piano, in 1956 for Decca. He took time to inflect
the music with some dazzlingly effective colours.
Fisher’s Salut d’amour is affectionate and
sugar-free, though his Hubay Hejre Kati lacks something
of Hungarian bravado. He respects Monti’s naughty Czardas
and doesn’t pillage them à la Nigel Kennedy - though
NK’s pillaging is not without its attractions. However
the four d’Ambrosio pieces offer the choicest discographical
rewards in the selection. His confections were recorded by the
elite of the profession - Heifetz, Elman, Sammons and Thibaud
led the way, but the composer himself, a rather salon-ish player,
also recorded them. I’ve often wished a CD were devoted
to his recordings. The pizzicato and legato charms of the Sonnet
Allègre are neatly negotiated, and the once-famous
Op.6 Canzonetta retains its somewhat suave persona. The
Romance is well phrased, and the Serenade is not
over-vibrated - though it does rather lack Thibaud’s sensuality.
If you want to know about the pieces you need to follow the
web link in the CD card, a practice I don’t really like,
but I do like the nice, well produced black and white montage
shots of the composers - and indeed the two performers - on