Julia Fischer

Written by: Colin Anderson

Julia Fischer makes her LSO debut on 24 April in Bartók’s Second Concerto…

Julia Fischer has been playing the violin most of her life. She won the Menuhin Competition aged 12, in 1995 (“I was convinced I was the worst player”), and is now establishing a superb reputation as a sensitive and searching musician. “My mother’s a pianist and I wanted to play the piano as well, but as my elder brother also played the piano, she thought it would be nice to have another instrument in the family. I agreed to try out the violin and stayed with it. What’s important is that I spent every minute I have with music.”

Julia’s influences include David Oistrakh and Yehudi Menuhin. “I had lessons with Menuhin; he was also the teacher of my teacher. I always adored Oistrakh’s recordings. It’s the beauty of his sound, which was ideal, and his honesty; it was never to show off, he was a servant to the music. I admired that.” With her tribute to Oistrakh, Julia announces her own admirable characteristics, last heard in London in a memorable account of Elgar’s Concerto. Julia’s philosophy is that “it’s always about the music and not the player; all my teachers have had the same attitude. Then working with other musicians, liking one but not another: I very quickly found out the difference is that some care about making a big impression and others care about what the composer wanted. My priority is what the composer wanted rather than the audience admiring my performance.”

Now exclusive to PentaTone, Julia has recorded three Russian concertos (Khachaturian, Glazunov and Prokofiev) on 5186 059 with Yakov Kreizberg conducting, and Bach’s unaccompanied Sonatas and Partitas (5186 072), which I describe to her as sounding like a religious experience. “When I play Bach it is a different thing to a concerto. When I play, and especially while recording, I play just for myself. It was a coincidence that there were some microphones. I wasn’t thinking of it being recorded and everyone can buy it; so it was a kind of religious experience.” The famous 15-minute Chaconne that closes the D minor Partita is “one take; if there is wrong note I won’t kill myself for it!”

Julia’s largesse in this music seems at odds with others’ opinions. “All my teachers fought with me over my too quick tempi. I wanted to achieve everything immediately.” Her compelling poise in Bach’s ageless music suggests otherwise. As for recording for PentaTone, Julia “had offers from big companies but none appealed. You don’t have to record. Yakov spoke to the people at PentaTone and to me and put us together. PentaTone more or less gave me carte blanche as to what I record and the musicians I work with are my choice; all these things were so important to me. I record to experience something and to help my playing and music-making. For the concerto CD, Yakov and I really talked about the pieces; I learnt so much by that.”

On Sunday the 24th Julia plays Bartók’s Concerto No.2 with the LSO. “It’s completely new; I learnt the piece a couple of years ago but I haven’t played it yet. Bartók is a composer I avoided for a long while. When I was 17 or 18 my teacher persuaded me and I fell in love with the first theme, completely, and I didn’t really understand the rest of the piece. I was a little in panic when I found out I had to play it in London. I heard Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra and I was blown away; this is really great music, so I’m in seventh heaven that I now have time with this wonderful composer. I bought some recordings of the concerto; Yehudi Menuhin’s was the one that appealed most, which doesn’t mean I have the same approach, but I see his freedom and fantasy.” Emmanuel Krivine conducts the Barbican concert: “he’s very open to ideas and he makes something of them.” Julia plans more Bartók, then Shostakovich and Stravinsky, “then I will jump into the 21st-century!”

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