Notes and Editorial Reviews
Lillian Fuchs (1903–1991) was considered the “first lady of the viola,” and enjoyed a very successful career as a performer, composer, and teacher. Her students at Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music became the elite players of the viola in the US and her influence is still very much alive, 14 years after her death. The Bach suites that she recorded in the beginning of the 1950s were received with unanimous praise by her contemporaries, but since then they have disappeared from the market, and have become collectors’ items. So I was piqued to find out what the fuss was all about.
Yes, it is a dated performance in many senses. Fuchs plays with the kind of unrelenting legato that we would bash in any aspiring musician of
today. Her interpretation is overly Romantic, phrases long, and breaths almost non-existent. Yet, I could not stop listening, and after the first CD ended, I was still curious to hear more. Why was that? Part of the reason is the lush, flexible sound produced by the artist, the interesting inflections, the unerring sense of direction, the overall technical achievement. Notable also is the very spare use of vibrato, pointing to a more “modern” conception (that is, one which is closer to our notions about authentic-performance practices) than was the norm at the time. But the main reason is that intangible charisma, the star quality that makes us follow every mood change, every nuance in dynamics, every twist in the musical plot.
...I was left with the sensation of having shared a unique moment, of the kind that transcends fashion or trends, and that can rightfully be called a legendary performance.
Laura Rónai, FANFARE
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