Notes and Editorial Reviews
Julia Fischer (vn); Yakov Kreizberg, cond; Monte-Carlo PO
DECCA B0015535 (69:59)
The Lark Ascending
Julia Fischer has assembled four poem-like works in her
collection for Decca, recorded in November 2010 in the Ranier Auditorium in Monte-Carlo with Yakov Kreizberg and the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic. Ottorino Resphighi’s romantic
, with its chant-like melodic turns and atmospheric orchestration, offers Fischer an opportunity to wander through the thickets, and she takes an indulgent walk through its luxurious orchestral textures despite the somewhat abrasive tone of the 1742 Giovanni Battista Guadagnini violin on which she plays the program (the instrument’s steely strength on the G string represents the reverse side of that timbral coin). Performances by Ruggiero Ricci (Reference RR-15) and Takako Nishizaki (Marco Polo 8.220152) appeared on CD in the 1980s. Ricci could warm to poetic writing like this, as he did in his recordings of Eugène Ysaÿe’s solo violin sonatas, and he did so in this work as well. Reference’s engineers placed him near the center of the orchestral sound. Nishizaki and the Singapore Symphony sound comparatively moodier and more atmospheric. Fischer sounds more forward than do either of these earlier soloists, and Decca’s engineers have represented the orchestral sound in greater dimensional depth, but some may feel that Fischer approaches this gentle work too strenuously, straining the tone of her violin in climactic passages.
Josef Suk’s Fantasy in D Minor, a work of considerable duration (almost 25 minutes in Fischer’s performance), projects a more extroverted personality, setting the soloist’s bold statements against a sonorous—at times stentorian—orchestral backdrop, although it interweaves sections of almost nostalgic sensibility. Fischer takes command in the recurrent, technically difficult declamatory moments (even if across-the-string double-stopped passagework occasionally sounds rough-hewn) and alternates piquant playfulness and meditative repose in the quieter moments. In fact, she explores the Fantasy with such obvious sympathy that it seems in large part due to her championship to deserve more frequent hearings (she expresses surprise in the booklet notes that it’s not popular outside the Czech Republic).
With Ernest Chausson’s
, Fischer enters into the program’s more familiar half. She sets out slowly; the opening, in this performance, reflects her recollection in the notes of her childhood impressions of this “saddest piece,” and, although she waxes more animated in the middle section, the pall that settled over the opening measures never seems fully dispelled. In
30:6, I suggested that those who prefer “a less romantic, more analytical reading of Chausson’s
” should consider Isabelle Faust (Harmonia Mundi HMC 901925) “an almost ideal soloist”; in fact, listening to the two performances one after the other may reveal these almost diametrically opposite points of view. Ralph Vaughan Williams’s evocative work
The Lark Ascending
has received more frequent recordings in the last decade or so, from violinists such as Hilary Hahn, Nicola Benedetti, and Nigel Kennedy. In 32:1, reviewing Benedetti’s reading on Deutsche Grammophon 476 619-8, I suggested that Hahn’s lark sings sweetly at 16:21, and Kennedy’s more shrilly and slowly at 17:37, while Benedetti’s at 15:56 sounded static. Fischer’s bird completes its journey in only 14:27, and doesn’t sound static. Kreizberg and the orchestra penetrate its almost Celtic idiom, and the engineers, having balanced Fischer near the center of the orchestral sound rather than far in its forefront, allow the bird to soar flickeringly in the foliage. Fischer’s passagework sounds particularly eloquent—and even hypnotic, with its frequent and almost chant-like repetitions—in this setting.
The engineers have surrounded Kreizberg’s (and, of course, the orchestra’s) timbres with just enough reverberation to keep the temperatures comfortably warm, at the same time not suggesting a soft-focus lens. The orchestral support always seems well integrated into the solo part—an effect that may be due as much to Kreizberg’s and Fischer’s conception of these generally gentle compositions as to the works themselves. It’s a meal of soft textures, and those wishing either spices or crunchy vegetables may find it a bland diet for one sitting. But the performers’ sympathy and devotion to it make it easy to recommend, to general audiences as well as to specialists, and the less familiar compositions by Respighi and Suk should make it even more desirable for many collections.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Josef Suk's captivating Fantasy for violin and orchestra is the main item of interest here. Written the same year as his Asrael Symphony, the Fantasy features Suk's beguiling and easily recognizable harmonic and orchestral style, though the mood is infinitely brighter and more festive than the symphony. The solo writing, in the late-romantic virtuoso tradition of violinist composers such as Wienawski, places exceptional demands on the performer--demands that Julia Fischer meets with impeccable musicianship and palpable zest. She's matched in these qualities by Yakov Kreizberg's stirring accompaniment with the Monte Carlo Philharmonic.
The disc's other relative rarity, Respighi's Poema autunnale, is a work more varied than its title implies, with strikingly rhapsodic passages interspersed among the more meditative ones. Respighi's vivid, colorful orchestration (replete with celesta) makes a fine foil for the fetching solo writing, rendered with aplomb by Fischer.
Fischer proves just as masterful in the more familiar works, offering a tender and impassioned Chausson Poème, and a moving and beautifully played Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending. Kreizberg and orchestra capture the spirit, and conjure the appropriate aural atmosphere for each work.
--Victor Carr Jr, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Autumn Poem by Ottorino Respighi
Julia Fischer (Violin)
Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1920-1925; Rome, Italy
The lark ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1914/1920; England
Featured Sound Samples
The Lark Ascending (Vaughan Williams)
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