Review by Windsurfer June 8, 2007 (9 of 9 found this review helpful)
|Brahms, to the manner born?
Actually to say that this is Brahms, "to the manner born" would discredit this magnificent achievement. One should say "This is Brahms as it should always have been played!"
As has been remarked elsewhere, Julia Fischer is an astonishingly gifted young artist. Her gifts extend well beyond the fact that she has flawless technique and perfect intonation. Well beyond even her gloriously rich and unusually powerful sound. What this recording makes plain is that Fischer is also gifted with a profound and lyrical musicianship which as she desires, turns fiery, steely, gutsy, heroic, or portrays heartmeltingly sweet lyricism. All that is here in abundance. But also you will find a lightness of touch that amazes, accompanied as it is by such enormous power in the declamatory chording - and such an urgency of purpose in the faster sections, that one finds one holding one's breath, then gasping at the realization of the arresting magnificence of what she has achieved! What passion and committment, what heart!
This will be a real eye opener for anyone still gender biased against women as interpreters of the Brahms Violin Concerto. No recording or performance I ever heard has conveyed to me, the excitement and power, and the sense of "rightness" that characterizes this one, not Stern, not Heifetz, not Oistrach, not Milstein. As for Hahn, Mutter, and Mullova, all pale beside this. This is truly unparalleled playing of the concerto....yet she makes it all seem so effortless! And all this power and excitement gives way as called for, to rich lyricism, phrases broadly sung, with heartrending beauty. Then you are almost shocked as the violin returns to its exciting and powerful opening of the third movement. Brahms should have heard this! I do wish Brahms could have heard this.
Is anything lacking? Certainly not from Fischer! From the outset, I find Kreizburg's accompaniment ideal if different from what one might expect. Certainly where the orchestra interfaces directly with Fischer, the nature of that interaction displays a desire to match as much as possible the quality of Fischer's singular playing, her tone, her phrasing. In the tuttis however, one frequently encounters a gruffness that is surprising - but a gruffness to my ears that seems appropriate to Brahms. This is not the refined playing of Brahms one is accustomed to. It is a more Beethovenish Brahms, very masculine, hearty and full of power. Listen to the strong basses and the timps in the triple forte passages. Listen to the magnificent horn passages, where the horn answers the violin. The timbres achieved, setting off the preceding violin passage are remarkable.
If you listen to this concerto for the quality of the oboe playing in the introduction to the second movement you will be disappointed. This oboe does not even begin to match the Berlin Philharmonic counterpart on Anne Sophie Mutter's first disc with Herbert Von Karajan, nor does he match the playing of the principal oboe of the New York Philharmonic when Fischer played this with Maazel and the NYP in April.
But I never bought a recording of the Brahms Violin concerto for the quality of the oboe! .... Have you?
What of the double concerto with Mueller-Schott? Well, here we encounter a level of chamber music playing in a concerto that you will have to hear to comprehend. Now the old warhorse seems freshly minted - conceived with lightness and joy. Tone for tone, phrase for phrase, these two friends intertwine and match each other in what for me is a striking rendition of this concerto. It looks to a new standard in a unique conception where the notion of “the longer line” is irrelevant. Think of fireworks illumining the night sky! Then simply settle into accepting a new and revelatory interpretation of this music. The second mvmt sings broadly however, and throughout the entire concerto, I must reiterate, the sounds these two make are nothing if not supremely beautiful.
I have only listened to the multi-channel layer. It put me in a center seat about 7 to 10 rows back in the hall. The sound on this sacd is wonderful! You are there! You are there in a way that could never be possible in mere stereo. This is not the perfect PentaTone recording, there have been better, more lucid in orchestral tuttis. But this one is very very good, well beyond the average SACD, and far beyond any rbcd.
I say: Six stars for the Violin concerto, Five for the Double! 4.5 for the sound. But I feel a little churlish taking off a half star because PentaTone have not exactly matched their own very best here.
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