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Discussion: Brahms: Violin Concerto, Double Concerto - Fischer, Kreizberg

Posts: 59
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Post by Windsurfer April 24, 2007 (1 of 59)
I got this disc during intermission after Ms. Fischer gave an exciting and beautiful performance of the Brahms with the New York Philharmonic last Thurday evening. Avery Fischer Hall is not kind to the sound of strings - we made the mistake of sitting in a remote corner of the hall in a "box seat" in the first tier for Hilary Hahn's Elgar in December of 2004. Didn't repeat that mistake!

We were in row D for Julia. There is a bit more frission I think, when one is that close. You actually get to see the performer at work. She really dug in to the opening chords and we were sitting with our mouths hanging open from there out. Despite the fairly quick pace set by the orchestra, she played with dignity, repose, and with a hugh but beautiful tone in all registers. But where the music demanded it there was power and almost overwhelming excitment!

Driving north the next morning for our Saturday evening concert in Boston, we played the new disc in our car as a CD.

After only a few moments following the violin's entrance, my wife exclaimed with a gasp:

" - This is even better than last night! This slower pace allows her to be even MORE expressive."

Astonishing! I never would have believed I could go from a live concert to a recording - in an automobile yet - and find more pleasure in the recording. I just wouldn't have ever believed it, but that's what happened!

Still if I had the choice of living the concert all over again versus listening to the disc, I surely would attend the concert. As I said, there is a frission that comes from being near the performer that I am not accustomed to in my preferred (for how much longer, I now ask myself?) location in Symphony Hall.

I have now listened to this at home and it is marvelous. That applies to both concertos although I think the cello was a tad overmiked. I don't like hearing respiratory noise from the instrumentalist.

But what glorious music making! One is totally engaged from the outset. Kreizburg and the Netherlands Philharmonic absolutely do justice to this most symphonic of all violin concertos, and Fischer as always, treats us to committed and insightful playing of great stature. What an amazing disc!

Post by seth April 24, 2007 (2 of 59)
Windsurfer said:

I got this disc during intermission after Ms. Fischer gave an exciting and beautiful performance of the Brahms with the New York Philharmonic last Thurday evening. Avery Fischer Hall is not kind to the sound of strings - we made the mistake of sitting in a remote corner of the hall in a "box seat" in the first tier for Hilary Hahn's Elgar in December of 2004. Didn't repeat that mistake!

We were in row D for Julia. There is a bit more frission I think, when one is that close. You actually get to see the performer at work. She really dug in to the opening chords and we were sitting with our mouths hanging open from there out. Despite the fairly quick pace set by the orchestra, she played with dignity, repose, and with a hugh but beautiful tone in all registers. But where the music demanded it there was power and almost overwhelming excitment!

Driving north the next morning for our Saturday evening concert in Boston, we played the new disc in our car as a CD.

After only a few moments following the violin's entrance, my wife exclaimed with a gasp:

" - This is even better than last night! This slower pace allows her to be even MORE expressive."

Astonishing! I never would have believed I could go from a live concert to a recording - in an automobile yet - and find more pleasure in the recording. I just wouldn't have ever believed it, but that's what happened!

Still if I had the choice of living the concert all over again versus listening to the disc, I surely would attend the concert. As I said, there is a frission that comes from being near the performer that I am not accustomed to in my preferred (for how much longer, I now ask myself?) location in Symphony Hall.

I have now listened to this at home and it is marvelous. That applies to both concertos although I think the cello was a tad overmiked. I don't like hearing respiratory noise from the instrumentalist.

But what glorious music making! One is totally engaged from the outset. Kreizburg and the Netherlands Philharmonic absolutely do justice to this most symphonic of all violin concertos, and Fischer as always, treats us to committed and insightful playing of great stature. What an amazing disc!

You're on a first name basis with her?

Post by Windsurfer April 24, 2007 (3 of 59)
seth said:

You're on a first name basis with her?

Oh, I am on a first name basis with many great artists: Vadim, Maxim, Hélène, Hilary, Yevgeny, Itzhak, Bernard, Jimmy, Al, Sasha, Pieter.... all in my dreams! Hope I've not offended anyone with my informal prose.

Post by flyingdutchman May 9, 2007 (4 of 59)
The orchestra is what drags this down. Fischer sounds buried in the background.

Post by fafnir May 10, 2007 (5 of 59)
Listening to this recording has been, to me, an exercise in frustration with several elements in conflict. Because of these contradictory elements, writing a review and assigning scores would be impossible for me.

First the really good news: Ms Fischer is a fantastic soloist in the VC. I don't know of any violist active today who could give a better performance both interpretively and technically. Doubtless her performance will change over the years, but have a record of it now is wonderful. Does she knock other violists such as Heifetz and Oistrakh out of the box in this score. No, but she might some day very soon.

Next the rest of the really good news: None

The really bad news: Having two excellent soloists and a good conductor did not result in an excellent performance of the DC. Perhaps I have been spoiled by being introduced at an early age to the Zino F/Fournier/Walter recording on vinyl and having the Perlman/Ma on RBCD. Particularly in the first and third movements, the performance sounds as if it needs a few more rehearsals or a lot more experience - not technically, but interpretively. IMHO is just sounds lame.

More bad news: Polyhymnia did not score a home run with the sound. It is not bad, but certainly not of the quality achieved in Moscow in the Tchaikovsky. It sounds slightly constricted, a quality I have noticed in other recordings made by Polyhymnia in this venue. I compared it to the fifty year old Heifetz/Reiner Brahms VC, and there is not fifty years difference in the recording quality. In fact, as much as I hate to say it, I prefer the sound of the Heifetz. It sounds more burnished and beautiful.

So so news: The orchestra offers solid, but unremarkable support. Maybe it would have made a better impression if the sound were PentaTone's absolute best.

Recommended for the VC.

Post by Julien July 27, 2007 (6 of 59)
I caught myself writing about this recording on another thread, so here is the copy (with a few modifications):


Actually the recent Brahms double concerto release from Pentatone (Fischer-Muller-Schott) is very interesting to me, because it has been criticized by some as not being the best by Pentatone, and I would say it is just because it is such a good recording, so close to the imperfections of a live performance that we so-called audiophiles (supposed to want live music from our speakers) cannot take that much. The microphones are far, which means not much of close details but incredible hall sound experience. It is one of the rare times that in a stereo recording I hear truly the inertia from the attacks in the violin sections of the orchestra, that is a normal thing we are not used to in a recording, because there always are some closer mikes in the mixing to give the strings some more "punch". In other words it could be the closest to live recording there is out there!
Listen to the balance between the soloists and the orchestra at the beginning (I suspect they augmented the volume of the soloists after the second entrance), it is just right if you speak of a concert. They sound small compared to the orchestra and far away, like in a concert. But I've never heard that in a recording, at least stereo.

I, like many musicians, also like a recording to give me what live doesn't. But as a hi-fi freak that is way past the masturbation like close-miking pleasures, I would maybe give this recording 5.5 stars.

To be honest, I think Pentatone has made the choice of using even less mixing that usual, and it is so close to reality that I personally enjoy the recording more and more.

The performances are beautiful, but those of two brilliant young people that play magnificently but had not much to say. They don't "speak" with their instruments the way the greats do (Windsurfer don't kill me...), but if we could hear the art of the Heifetz', Sterns and others in such a recording and in multichannel, it would be a different experience.

Post by Windsurfer July 27, 2007 (7 of 59)
Julien said:

The performances are beautiful, but those of two brilliant young people that play magnificently but had not much to say. They don't "speak" with their instruments the way the greats do (Windsurfer don't kill me...), but if we could hear the art of the Heifetz', Sterns and others in such a recording and in multichannel, it would be a different experience.

my first reaction to that is psssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss. But my more mature and reasoned reaction (I am after all, 67 yrs old now) is "Vivent la différence" or is it "vive la différence. Anyway we can't all react the same way to something and my reaction to the recording is well represented in my overly long review. [/showreviews/4503#4754]

Post by Julien July 28, 2007 (8 of 59)
Oh Windsurfer, nothing I can do to save you from the enchantment!

Post by Windsurfer July 29, 2007 (9 of 59)
Julien said:

Oh Windsurfer, nothing I can do to save you from the enchantment!

You got that right buddy!

BTW I don't quite understand why you hold Stern and Heifetz in such high esteem, especially Heifetz. Heifetz RCA recordings in stereo at least, (I don't know about the older mono ones) are anything but examples of poetry in music. He had a unique tone and was famous for a flawless technique, but my assessment of him (via his recordings) is of a man who was impatient to be done.

I myself would suggest Oistrach and Grumiaux as appropriate models for our young artists such as Hahn and Fischer. Neither of them needs such a model however as far as my experience of them in the recital hall and concert hall is concerned. Listening to Heifetz grind his way through the Brahms like he can't wait to be done is much less satisfactory to me than either Hahn or Fischer, both of whom imbue the music with considerable poetry. I limit myself to discussing them because they are the only ones I have in SACD. I would love for example, to have some of Vadim Repin's work on sacd!

Post by Julien July 29, 2007 (10 of 59)
Windsurfer said:

You got that right buddy!

BTW I don't quite understand why you hold Stern and Heifetz in such high esteem, especially Heifetz. Heifetz RCA recordings in stereo at least, (I don't know about the older mono ones) are anything but examples of poetry in music. He had a unique tone and was famous for a flawless technique, but my assessment of him (via his recordings) is of a man who was impatient to be done.

I myself would suggest Oistrach and Grumiaux as appropriate models for our young artists such as Hahn and Fischer. Neither of them needs such a model however as far as my experience of them in the recital hall and concert hall is concerned. Listening to Heifetz grind his way through the Brahms like he can't wait to be done is much less satisfactory to me than either Hahn or Fischer, both of whom imbue the music with considerable poetry. I limit myself to discussing them because they are the only ones I have in SACD. I would love for example, to have some of Vadim Repin's work on sacd!

I agree with you on Oistrach and Grumiaux, especially for Brahms. Nevertheless I will still always love Stern as a musician, and about Heifetz I used to think the exact same as you, even six months ago! I rediscovered him recently, and more and more I am in full admiration.

I don't understand your admiration for Julia Fischer either! She plays sensibly but guys like Vengerov and Repin, even Isabelle Faust or Anne-Sophie Mutter have much more things to say with a violin (OK you may not like the style of Mutter I believe, which I understand, but on some works she can express a lot more than Fischer).

The other day I had a couple of musician friends home, and still influenced by you I was playing the Fischer Brahms to "show off" my system, and after the second movement they asked me if I we could listen to some less "boring" performance. I then put the Heifetz on, it was a liberation. The difference is that Julia Fischer plays perfectly , but a bit like a student. When she plays I simply cannot forget the score with the bars and every beat, it is exhausting. Everything she plays is very expressive I agree, but she is never free from a score (on this matter Repin is way better). And her excited vibrato is too mechanical, when it is on it doesn't have the variations of expression greats have (Heifetz had the same kind of fast vibrato, but it was not as wide and there were much more slight changes in details).
I'm sure of one thing: conductors must love to play with her, she plays the score so much that she is never unpredictable!

Let's joke a bit. You know what? I think I'm pretentious enough to say that I could "prove" all that to you if we did a little comparison together. Anyway if you know any good violonist (I mean a violonist who has played all those works and can play them at a similar technical level) who would consider her among the all time Greats (privately of course, never believe what famous people say about other famous people in the medias), I would be interested to meet that person.

And now what? I think you and I will both end on a boxing ring about her!

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