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Saint-Saens: Violin Concerto No 3; Grieg: Piano Concerto / Julia Fischer

Release Date: 09/07/2010 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 001465909  
Composer:  Camille Saint-SaënsEdvard Grieg
Performer:  Julia Fischer
Conductor:  Matthias Pintscher
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Junge Deutsche Philharmonie
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 37 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This DVD features Julia Fischer performing Saint-Saens' Violin Concerto no. 3 as well as Grieg's Piano Concerto on the same concert. Filmed live on New Year's Day 2008, this concert marked the professional debut of Julia Fischer as a concert pianist. In his review of this concert Arno Widmann of the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper described the atmosphere in the concert hall: "The excitement of the audience was palpable. After all, everyone was aware that only two extremes were possible: either this would turn out to be the total disgrace of one of the greatest living violinists; or it would mark the triumphant birth of a new pianist. From the beginning of the Adagio of the Grieg piano concerto, everyone present knew they were Read more witnessing the overwhelming triumph of Julia Fischer."

Production Engineer: Ralf Happel
Recording Engineer: Christian Feldgen
Assistant Engineers: Julia Havenstein, Michael Nitschke
Sound Editing: Caroline Siegers
Sound Mix & Audio Producer: Peter Hecker

Menus: English
Picture Format: 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Region Code: 0 (worldwide)
DVD Format: NTSC
Duration: 62 mins (concert); 35 mins (interview)
Sound: 1 LPCM Stereo, 2 DTS 5.1 Surround (concert)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Chinese (interview)

R E V I E W:


SAINT-SAËNS Violin Concerto No. 3. GRIEG Piano Concerto Julia Fischer (vn, pn); Matthias Pintscher, cond; Junge Deutsche P DECCA 074 3344 (DVD: 61:02 Text and Translation)

& Julia Fischer—Two Musical Worlds (47:50)

Cory Cerovsek, prodigious violinist, pianist, and mathematician, would play a violin concerto and a piano concerto on the same program (he didn’t, so far as I know, solve equations while doing so). Julia Fischer, by way of comparison, has only two arrows in her quiver. And in her program from January 2008 with the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie she lets them both fly, playing Saint-Saëns’s Third Violin Concerto and following with Grieg’s Piano Concerto after the intermission. Heifetz, Kreisler, and Grumiaux also played both instruments—reportedly well in the first two instances (recordings exist of both, but not playing repertoire) and demonstrably in recordings in the third (Grumiaux accompanied his own playing of violin sonatas by Mozart and Brahms). Did Grumiaux’s versatility raise him to a higher level in our estimation than Heifetz or Kreisler? Does Fischer’s?

In Saint-Saëns’s concerto, Fischer strops a sharp edge on the technical passages—occasionally, perhaps, to the point of brittleness—an impression reinforced by the cleanliness of the recorded sound (of both soloist and orchestra); almost clinical playing by the ensemble; the somewhat edgy tone of Fischer’s violin, tightly wound rather than bright in the middle registers and somewhat hoarse rather than lush on the G string; and her rapid, rather narrow vibrato. Fischer does vary the speed of that vibrato, slowing it down in the central movement, and even, here and there, stopping altogether, although she doesn’t seem to be striving for (or achieving) an effect so eldritch as Anne-Sophie Mutter’s in Beethoven’s works. In the second movement, she keeps the passages moving, without stopping to smell the flowers (and not offering them for her listeners’ olfactory pleasure, either). Listeners who admire Grumiaux’s warmth and Milstein’s nobility in this Andantino may reflect that while its atmosphere has been likened to that of a boat floating amid the reflected sunshine of a lake, Fischer’s reading recalls more vividly a motorboat in the same setting. Just before the harmonics that bring the movement to a close, Fischer winds down her vibrato to a virtual standstill (although she vibrates on the final harmonics themselves).

Fischer seems to throw the bow onto the strings and tosses her body backward, creating a very different visual impression than those of, say, Heifetz, Milstein, and Oistrakh (you could add the next generation, Menuhin and Ricci). Her playing seems most expressive in moments like the third movement’s chorale (of which the orchestra also gives a dynamically nuanced account). The recorded sound (offering DTS and LPCM 48 kH as choices) places her slightly forward.

Although Fischer looks a bit stiff at the keyboard, she establishes her command as soloist in the first movement’s opening measures. And she warms to the second theme’s expressivity—lingering perhaps more lovingly here than at any point in the violin concerto. She’s sonorous in the cadenza, but on the whole, perhaps, less flamboyant—and even a bit less dramatic—as a pianist than as a violinist. In the second movement, neither she nor the orchestra generate a particularly rich atmosphere, although she communicates the rhythmic vitality of the finale’s first thematic statement.

Those who wonder whether her piano playing has a sense of largeness and suppleness or merely seems clean and antiseptic might benefit from taking a further leap and comparing the violin playing to the piano playing: One sheds light on the other. Would a pianist at this level who hadn’t achieved a reputation as a violinist have been offered the opportunity to record Grieg’s Concerto? Jack Benny played the violin, and his celebrity (coupled of course with his generosity in raising money for struggling orchestras) led to bookings. But nobody, least of all he himself, pretended that he was playing well. It was a stunt.

In the interview, Fischer remarks—perhaps tellingly—that when she wants to play for pleasure, she plays the piano, which she began practicing again in earnest several years ago. She explains the choice of repertoire and remarks on the differences in playing the two instruments (the piano, she maintains, demands greater strength but leads to less flexibility). She worries aloud about “wrecking” her hands. She also notes the different way in which the violin and piano interact with the orchestra. Then she begins to ponder imponderables like spirituality, education, home, and future. Clips show her teaching the last measures of Kreisler’s Praeludium and Allegro and Saint-Saëns’s Havanaise.

A demonstration of sublime inspiration or a stunt? In the course of the interview, Fischer suggests that her talent isn’t unnatural but a natural product of work and experience. So much, I guess, for sublime inspiration. Recommended most strongly to those who find this kind of versatility fascinating and appealing; recommended less strongly—though still recommended—to those who find it merely tolerable.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin no 3 in B minor, Op. 61 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Julia Fischer (Violin)
Conductor:  Matthias Pintscher
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Junge Deutsche Philharmonie
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880; France 
Concerto for Piano in A minor, Op. 16 by Edvard Grieg
Performer:  Julia Fischer (Piano)
Conductor:  Matthias Pintscher
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Junge Deutsche Philharmonie
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1868/1907; Norway 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Julia Fischer plays Saint-Saens and Grieg July 30, 2013 By Alex Hansa (Yandina, Queensland) See All My Reviews "What an outstanding musician Julia Fischer is to be able to master two such technically difficult pieces of music on two different instruments. And a master of both. The DVD production showed the passion of her playing and that of the young orchestras. I also enjoyed the interviews - a bit lengthy however and I was struggling with my German a bit." Report Abuse
 Mesmorizing May 26, 2013 By John Crosthwaite (Pinawa, MB) See All My Reviews "Julia Fischer has long been my favourite violin virtuoso, but I was little more than flabbergasted and at the same time mesmorized that she has the same virtuosity on the piano. This DVD is a rare pleasure of being a delight to watch and listen to from start to finish. No one could go wrong by purchasing it." Report Abuse
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