Brahms: Violin Concerto, Double Concerto - Fischer / Müller-Schott / Kreizberg
PentaTone Classics PTC 5186 592
Classical - Orchestral
Brahms: Violin Concerto in D Op. 77, Double Concerto in A minor Op. 102
Julia Fischer (violin)
Daniel Müller-Schott (cello)
Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra
Yakov Kreizberg (conductor)
It is impossible to perform either Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D or his Double Concerto in A minor without inviting comparison to Joseph Joachim, the great Hungarian virtuoso for whom Brahms composed nearly all of his violin works. For many years, Joachim and Brahms were inseparable companions and mutual sources of inspiration. It was on Joachim’s urging that Brahms composed his Violin Concerto in D, a masterpiece which quickly entered the standard violin repertoire.
Violin Concerto in D was notable at the time for its return to a style of symphonic concerto which could be traced directly to Ludwig van Beethoven. This gives both conductor and orchestra a great deal of leeway for interpretation, especially during the long periods in which the solo violin doesn’t play at all, such as the orchestral introduction and the beginning of the Adagio movement. Russian-born American conductor Yakov Kreizberg is more than up to the task of bringing these moments to life, as is the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, for whom Kreizberg had served as chief conductor since 2003.
The titular role of violin soloist is filled masterfully by German violinist Julia Fischer, who throughout her numerous PENTATONE releases consistently brings a maturity and poise well beyond her years. Her interpretation captures both the lightheartedness and joy with which Brahms composed these works and the seriousness of the tradition from which they come. Fischer’s ability to graciously cede the spotlight to the orchestra and emerge in the foreground at just the right moments lends this particular release a level of interaction which truly sets it apart.
For the Double Concerto in A minor, Fischer is joined by fellow Munich native Daniel Müller-Schott on cello. Brahms composed this work as an olive branch to Joachim after a period in which they refused to speak for several years following Joachim’s contentious divorce. The Double Concerto is rife with musical cues and other references to their friendship, particularly in the interplay between cello and violin, and this spirit is perfectly captured by an exceptionally dynamic performance by Fischer and Müller-Schott.
Review by Graham Williams - April 19, 2007
Within the first few minutes of listening to this version of the Brahms Violin Concerto it becomes clear that this is a very special recording of the work.
Yakov Kreizberg moulds the orchestral introduction of the first movement in a masterly fashion, building the tension superbly right from the start and up to the first commanding entry of the soloist, Julia Fischer. Her rapt statement of the main theme floating on the soft cushion of orchestral tone is quite magical, while she plays the beautiful second subject using a meltingly subtle rubato.
With the next orchestral tutti the excellent quality of the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra’s playing under their Chief Conductor becomes self-evident, and throughout the concerto the balance achieved between soloist and orchestra by the Polyhymnia engineers is well nigh perfect.
As is clear from her previous concerto recordings, there is a wonderful rapport and symbiosis between Fischer and Kreizberg that results in the music making always sounding ‘right’ - never contrived or awkward.
She plays the usual Joachim cadenza with a winning blend of fantasy and technical accomplishment, and moves towards the movement’s close with playing of beguiling tranquillity and lyricism.
The changing moods of the slow movement are again perfectly captured by this partnership, and it is a pleasure to hear the interplay between violin and woodwind at the return of the main theme reproduced with such clarity.
Fischer attacks the finale with tremendous fire and her combination of laser-accurate intonation and breathtaking virtuosity brings this outstanding performance to a thrilling close. It is genuinely hard to believe that a performance of such maturity comes from someone aged just 24.
For the Double Concerto Fischer is joined by Daniel Müller-Schott, an ideal partner as already demonstrated by their outstanding Mendelssohn disc Mendelssohn: Piano Trios - Fischer, Gilad, Müller-Schott.
Pacing of the first movement is ideal with crisp orchestral playing, Kreizberg’s alert accompaniment keeping the music moving forward and avoiding any of the wallowing found in some performances of this work on disc.
The lovely Andante is played with a ripe richness, but textures are always clear, while the interplay between the two well-matched soloists and orchestra, from 3.03 onwards, is quite ravishing.
The finale, Vivace non troppo, opens with a lightness and delicacy that contrasts well with the more emphatic playing of the second theme and completes the second superb performance on this disc.
PentaTone’s recording made in the spacious acoustic of the Yakult Hall in the Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam is state-of the-art, achieving a clarity and warmth lacking in so many Brahms recordings from the past.
This is undoubtedly my SACD of the year and I commend it to all who love these concertos as well as to the many admirers of the charismatic Julia Fischer.
Copyright © 2007 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net
Review by John Broggio - May 8, 2007
As with her illustrious predecessor, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Julia Fischer has recorded both the Brahms concertos at a relatively tender age. Comparisons between the two approaches are fascinating with Karajan easily showing his greater experience in the tutti passages of each work. However from a purely solo point of view Fischer carries all before her in the violin concerto only for Mutter to offer a greater sense of line in the double concerto which, despite some slightly sour intonation, outweighs Fischer’s offering.
Accompanied by her usual conductor, Fischer offers peerless playing of the violin concerto. The intonation has to be heard to be believed and the other aspects of her chamber-music like approach are of equally high stature. Every phrase is freshly minted and glows with a rapt innocence. Whilst she is playing the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra Amsterdam match her approach quite beautifully under the direction of Yakov Kreizberg – the chamber like interjections of the woodwind are very touching. However the orchestral-only passages reveal the difference in calibre between Fischer’s orchestra and the Berliner’s; the oboe soloist in the second movement sounds uninterested compared to Lothar Koch.
The reading of the double concerto, recorded a year earlier, has a very different approach from Fischer. Whether this was inspired by Daniel Müller-Schott is hard to fathom but the soloists are certainly very direct and without a trace of the longer line in the outer movements, alarmingly so in my opinion – the playing is very much less sensitive when compared to their wonderful disc of Mendelssohn. As ever, the playing of Fischer is technically perfect and Müller-Schott matches her phrase for phrase. Fortunately, a year makes a world of difference for Fischer in the violin concerto and whilst there are orchestral deficiencies, the violin concerto can be returned to for Fischer’s contributions.
The recording is the usual high standard but I must reluctantly say that this disc is largely for those who are willing to put aside the “solo” orchestral contribution and revel in Fischer’s wonderful account of the violin concerto. The double concerto is not in the same league.
As for ratings, the sound is consistently worthy of 4.5 stars (the walls don’t quite melt away although the balance is wonderfully natural). The performance of the double concerto is probably only 2 stars. Fischer’s performance in the violin concerto is definitely a full 5 stars but the orchestral contribution (or, more accurately, lack of it) drags it down to 4 stars. Overall, I’d suggest that 3 stars is a fair summary.
Copyright © 2007 John Broggio and HRAudio.net