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Reviews: Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto - Fischer, Kreizberg

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Reviews: 9

Site review by Castor October 26, 2006
Performance:   Sonics:  
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Site review by Polly Nomial February 1, 2007
Performance:   Sonics:  
The text for this review has been moved to the new site. You can read it here:

Review by fafnir December 23, 2006 (15 of 16 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
All too often one had high expectations for a disc only to be disappointed either with the performance, the sound, or sometimes both. In the case of Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, the bar for me was set very high. For 50 years (I can hardly believe it) the Heifetz/Reiner recording has been the standard. This performance has been imprinted in me to an extent that all others seemed second best.

Therefore, I am pleased to say that Heifetz needs to move over; this performance is fantastic and the recording is as good as you can get. If fact, I have little to add to Castor's excellent review. This is a great disc and an essential SACD purchase - easily one of the top ten for 2006 or any other year.

I eagerly await the Brahms and Mozart discs to be released this year.

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Review by Julien March 10, 2007 (9 of 17 found this review helpful)
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Julia Fischer is highly talented, but still can improve a lot in order to really be remembered 100 years from now. She is still not able to artistically express everything she has (to me she is far from her peak), especially her vibrato is out of control as soon as she plays faster or excited. This is the main problem in an already beautifully played second movement for example. (We used to call that type of vibrato the "goat style")

But what disturbs me more is the lack of rhythmical feeling in the third movement, coming from her and the orchestra. Stern and Ormandy (Sony SACD) have it all, like it or not. This is still very young playing, and guessing from what I hear here I wouldn’t like to hear Julia Fischer in tango music for example...

Julia Fischer is at her best in soft and piano, which can be a rare quality nowadays. But she expresses herself a lot with her sound quality and a beautiful vibrato (in the pianos), and not enough on the vertical or rhythmical line (more vertical and varied bow work would be very welcome).

So, based on her true sensibility, my guess is that her playing could really be something in 20 years.

Something to praise anyway is her ability to play with the orchestra. The orchestra itself of course is doing a great job, but she is one of those soloists who listen so well and she makes her playing fit in the whole picture as if it was a chamber music work. I think the fact that she is a good pianist herself and practises all scores on the piano plays a role here.

Now the sound.

Very simple, I will rate the stereo and MC versions the same way, because both have the same problem and the same qualities. Very good job as always with Pentatone anyway, but the sound has this soft quality I don’t find very natural, lacking here the crisp and punch and direct side you find in the Jurowsky Shostakovich 1&6 recording. In stereo, I had the same problem with the Pentatone Nutcracker SACD.

The interesting part is that I understand both this recording and the Jurowsky one were made under the same conditions, same studio, same recording team, and even same orchestra. Different conductor though, and funnily enough, that soft side is very similar to Julia Fischer’s sound and personality. But soft on soft in not my cup of tea, and even though I guess she likes it this way I still believe her beautiful sound would sound even a lot better with the transparency of the Jurowsky recording.

Of course, the good thing with Pentatone is that I still haven't heard a true disappointment among that many recordings from them, which is not the case for most companies (Deutsche Grammophon...). So, still bravo!

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Review by Windsurfer March 12, 2007 (13 of 18 found this review helpful)
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I’ve known this concerto since about 1955. My first recording of it was by Zino Francescatti and the New York Philharmonic on a Columbia LP. Soon to follow were recordings by Stern, Oistrach, Heifetz, Milstein, Perlman, Szeryng, Ferras, and then there were CDs from Mutter, Mullova, Bell, Repin, and Vengerov.

As an interesting aside, I read an interview of Victoria Mullova some time ago where she said she was dropping the Tchiakovsky concerto from her repertoire because it represented too much effort on the part of the violinist for the small musical value she felt the piece represents. Having heard several performances in concert as well as the above recordings I was thinking in agreement with her assessment of the piece and back in December of 2005 when my wife and I had an opportunity to hear Fischer live in New York, playing the Tchaikovsky, I secretly thought to myself – why the Tchaikovsky? Here is an overplayed warhorse that has far less musical value than so many other works that the public never gets to hear. Why not Bartok, Berg, Beethoven, etc...

...Then I heard the soloists entry: Just her tone quality in itself was arresting. A tone quality that cast off lights and highlights shimmering “held in midair like stars twinkling in the midnight sky” (words I borrow from a description of her playing - by a professional violinist on

This was something truly extraordinary! The sheer lyricism was jaw dropping but also present was an urgency in the faster sections that no one else – not even Heifetz, who by comparison seems merely rushed, even approaches. In his review of the recording, PolyNomial refers to “lightning fast changes of dynamic and character, all executed at the same time as linking into the longer line of the music that make it so exciting. It is to me a matter of pulse and Fischer and Maazel with the New York Philharmonic maintained that pulse throughout the entire last movement leaving me just about breathless.

I hoped the recording with the Russian National Orchestra would equal that performance I heard in Avery Fisher Hall. I was not disappointed! It actually surpasses, and by a good margin, the live concert.

None of the recordings listed above has given me even remotely so much enjoyment as this present disc from Julia Fischer and PentaTone.

I’ve had this for about 3 months now. I hadn’t previously felt pressed to express my own experience of it in a review, because the very excellent reviews by PolyNomial, Castor, and Fafnir really said everything I thought I needed saying.

However in the light of what I feel is an absurdity recently published here on the subject, further examination of the qualities of Fischer’s performance of the concerto seems reasonable.

Over the last couple months, I’ve listened to the disc several times - also discussed it with friends who have heard it here and in their own homes. Our consensus remains well expressed by the reviews written by Castor and Polynomial and Fafnir.

In summary: This, at least for now, and probably for years to come, is THE recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto to own and enjoy. Others will (one should hope) be different, offering individual felicities not really possible here because of the interpretive choices made. We do not miss them, for when a choice is made to play something fast, one cannot also play it slowly at the same time...and conversely! The enormous satisfaction we derive from listening to this disc tells me that Fischer and Kreizburg made the right intrepretive choices.

I listened this morning to the entire concerto and then to the second movement (4 times) and to the third movement 3 times. The second movement is simply beautifully done – Certainly more beautifully done than on any of the records I listed above. Throughout the movement the violinist conveys a lovely deeply felt lyricism, and, contrary to the opinion expressed in the review immediately above, control of her bow arm and left hand are beyond question.

In the faster sections of the first movement and in the last movement, Both soloist and conductor demonstrate true mastery of their respective trades. Tension builds and is released into flowing lyricism, tension builds and builds until the final chords and you want to burst into applause right in your listening room and as PolyNomial said in his review: the only thing missing is the applause you know belongs at the conclusion of this performance for the ages.

I found no, again - absolutely no evidence here of any "out of control" aspects of any part of her playing - certainly not her vibrato. As for rhythmic felicity perhaps present in Stern's recording; its different. If you prefer Stern go listen to it with all its imprecision of intonation. If as alleged above, this is "youthful playing" we are more than happy with the shear excitment and lyrical beauty this perfectly played performance overwhelmingly conveys. This disc is truly a revelation! Please - don't miss it!

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Review by JJ May 28, 2007 (3 of 7 found this review helpful)
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Pour son sixième SACD, Julia Fischer revient au concerto pour violon russe avec celui de Tchaïkovski. Composée pendant une des périodes les plus difficiles et douloureuses de la vie du musicien, la partition fut créée avec le Wiener Philharmoniker en 1881. La Sérénade Mélancolique Op.26 pour violon et orchestre, en un seul mouvement andante, date de 1875. La Valse-Sherzo Op.34 fut dédiée au violoniste et ami intime du compositeur, Joseph Kotek. Souvenir d'un lieu cher Op.42 pour violon et piano est une œuvre faisant référence à la somptueuse demeure de la baronne von Meck, inspirée par l'architecture du château de Versailles et dans laquelle Tchaïkovski aimait à s'y reposer seul. Julia Fischer retrouve Yakov Kreizberg et l'Orchestre National Russe pour ce qui est certainement un de ses plus beaux enregistrements. Avec une approche d'une réelle originalité, en regard du nombre de versions de ce concerto, la violoniste allemande insuffle à la partition un souffle nouveau dans lequel, hormis une technique toujours aussi éblouissante, une vision intimiste d'une poésie absolue se fait jour. Son archet caresse les cordes de l'instrument avec plus de finesse élégiaque que de poids romantique. « La légèreté » de l'ensemble n'en demeure pas moins d'une force tangible à la fois passionnée et intérieure. Une nouvelle fois, Julia Fischer fait preuve d'une intelligence interprétative rare. Yakov Kreizberg connaît parfaitement sa partenaire et l'entoure d'un accompagnement orchestral idéal. Et lorsqu'il se met au piano pour Souvenir d'un lieu cher, l'osmose est parfaite. Voici donc un disque unique pour notamment, une vision originale d’un Concerto pour violon souvent joué et enregistré mais rarement habité.

Jean-Jacques Millo

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Review by threerandot March 14, 2008 (8 of 8 found this review helpful)
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This recording of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto features an electrifying peformance of this famous work. This Pentatone recording appears to be a little closer in sound than some of her previous ones, but this all seems to be to the good side. The Russian National Orchestra are a first rate team of players and provide wonderful accompaniment.

Julia plays with a passionate intensity and warmth of feeling. Throughout this concerto, she plays all of the virtuoso passages effortlessly. The remarkable thing is Julia's confidence belies her age. She plays this music as if her life depends on it and it is hard to believe someone so young can be so accomplished. Her tone is never restricted in the high notes and she plays with a sound that is at times lyrical or at times playful. She also never misses the opportunity to play with great emotion, never lingering too long or too briefly on a given phrase.

Yakov Kreizberg manages to capture the right balance between his soloist and the orchestra and the RNO should be commended for their contribution. Listen to the beautiful winds in the canzonetta, all vividly caught. The somewhat closer microphone placement brings us closer to the orchestra and is beneficial in the lyrical sections.

In the finale, we are taken along for a wild ride with amazing virtuoso playing from Julia and the orchestra. Julia's technique is never sloppy or out of control, but she plays as if she was a "runaway freight train". This a recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto which has all of the confidence and authority one could wish for. A true gem and a performance that is definitely worth adding to your collection.

The mood of this disc changes with the somber and pastoral Serenade Melancolique. Julia plays with a sweet longing and the pizzicatto strings of the RNO are delightful. This a work full of hope and nostalgia and Julia, Yakov Kreizberg and the Russian National Orchestra play with great committment.

Next, the mood lightens with the effervescent Valse - Scherzo. This is a ravishing and charming waltz with spontaneous and wonderful playing. This was originally meant to be the slow movement in the Violin Concerto before it was replaced by the canzonetta. This piece may not have the same emotional significance as the Serenade Melancolique, but it is still worth having in this collection. Julia's playing is very persuasive. Listen to the impressive cadenza near the end.

In an intriguing and satisfying close to this disc, Kreizberg puts down his baton and accompanies Julia from the piano in the Souvenir d’un lieu cher Op. 42. Kreizberg is a sensitive and colorful accompanist and there is an intimate acoustic that puts us close to the solists. In the meditation, the emotions are on the sleeve and immediate. Julia and Yakov enjoy digging into the Scherzo with plenty of lively and rhythmic playing. The Schrezo also has a contrasting middle section full of charm and lyricism. The work closes with the nostalgic Melodie.

With the exceptional performance of the Violin Concerto, the virtuosity and precision of the playing, the excellent recording (although I do wish there was just a little bit more air around the sound) and the additional works presented in this collection, this disc deserves a place in your collection. Highly Recommended.

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Review by BBrekke January 16, 2009 (5 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
I've listened to this in multi-channel with subwoofer and with good headphones. The violin and orchestra are both extremely detailed and clear, probably the clearest I've heard for this kind of music, though the surround doesn't enhance it much. Througout, it is quite clear that the strings on the violin are made of metal, if that tells you anything. The playing is quite Russian sounding, more driving than sentimental. Julia Fishers playing is very precise while still fluid and this some very complex violin music. According to the liner notes Tchaikovsky dedicated it to a violist he knew and asked the violist to play the premier, but he refused because he thought it was too complex. It took two years for him to find a violinist who would do it. You can certainly see why.

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Review by Luukas March 14, 2015 (3 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This album is excellent example of musical relationship between conductor and violinist. Fischer knows these familiar works. Her violin's intonation and clarity is amazing! Especially the beautiful second movement is touching. Pentatone's surround sound is incredible - as always. Wonderful addition to your SACD library!

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