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The First Quartet-Century Seems The Easiest

New York
Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Centre
11/25/2008 -  & November 28, 29, 2008
Johann Sebastian Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F major, BWV 1046
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219
Robert Schumann: Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Opus 120

Julia Fischer (Violin soloist), Glenn Dicterow (Violin), Liang Wang, Sherry Sylar, Robert Botti (Oboes), Judith LeClair (Bassoon), Philip Myers, R. Allen Spanjer (Horns)
New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Lorin Maazel (Conductor)

Julia Fischer (© C. Kasskara)

At the age of 25, Julia Fischer is reputed to be at the top of her profession, the youngest ever recipient of Gramophone’s “Artist of the Year” (that was two years ago), Germany’s youngest ever Music Professor, a world-wide luminary. Except to this writer, who heard her for the very first time, and won’t soon forget playful, gorgeous, absolutely delightful Mozart concerto.

Ms. Fischer came on a hue and a cry. The hue was the flame-red gown which, next to the drab blacks of the orchestra, was absolutely shattering. The cry was a cry of joy, that first six-bar melody on her Strad, which was soft, luscious and rose organically out of the long introduction. After that, the surprising slow start, violin and woman were one almost faultless body. That first movement had a lift and absolutely befitting the age of the artist. Just as Anne-Sophie Mutter has gone from a lean-voiced violinist to the dynamic more experimental violinist of today, Julia Fischer has a youthful florescent tone which skips around the themes with a playful, sometimes high-spirited vivacity.

That was not true for the adagio, which began with serenely enough. But when Mozart sudden departs from the major key to a series of minor modulations, Ms. Fischer paused, and her violin took up the sadness with a few tragic strokes. The violinist, in a recent interview, said she wanted to emphasize the “operatic” feeling of the concerto, but this didn’t come about until the last movement, which was played not as opera buffa but a more melancholy comedy, finishing, with the same wistful rising notes that she had started.

The performance was not quite flawless. Every movement has its cadenzas, and something about them didn’t seem quite right. Later I learned that she had composed the cadenzas herself. That is quite a feat, and she technically is right for it, but the mood, if not jarring, was not quite right for the rest of the performances.

Julia Fischer was the cynosure of the evening, for the concert started poorly. Lorin Maazel is playing each of the Brandenburgs this year, and for some reason none of them come out right. At least for this First Brandenburg, he used most of the orchestra, unlike his skeleton crew last week. The balance, though, was, to say the least, awkward unlike you are in love with French horns. Not that his soloists were anything but proficient, but Messrs Myers and Spangier were overwhelming. Nor were the other movements particularly Bach-like, with the viscous replacing the vital.

That could never be said for the Maestro and the Schumann Fourth Symphony. His is a natural feel for the mid-19th Century, and the result was an elegant reading, with a breathless vigorous ending lunge.

Harry Rolnick



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