Concerto in D minor for two violins, strings and continuo, BWV1043
Concerto in A minor for violin, strings and continuo, BWV1041
Concerto in E for violin, strings and continuo, BWV1042
Concerto in C minor for oboe, violin, strings and continuo, BWV1060
Julia Fischer (violin)
Alexander Sitkovetsky (violin) & Andrey Rubtsov (oboe)
Academy of St Martin in the Fields
Recorded 2-4 June 2008 in St Paul’s, Deptford, London
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: February 2009
CD No: DECCA 478 0650
Duration: 59 minutes
There’s a vim and vigour to these performances that sacrifice neither poise nor good ensemble; furthermore, the ‘on the move’ approach to the allegro movements does not become wearing or spill over into the slow ones, all of which are deeply expressive. The playing style is modern, the tones not devoid of vibrato, the expression not shy of soul-bearing. Nor is there any extravagance. Nothing middle-of-the-road, either. There is certainly a ‘historically informed’ leaning here, but, most of all, this is music-making that is absorbed, observant and natural, an appreciation of what you can’t (shouldn’t) do with this music (anymore) yet no restriction on making it heartfelt or taming its bold strides.
This is Julia Fischer’s first recording for Decca (having already built-up a fine discography for PentaTone). In choosing Bach she presents music by Western music’s founding father with a judicious blend of electricity and eloquence. The Academy of St Martin in the Fields offers vivid and focussed support – there is real fraternity with the violinist – the bass line being especially telling, and the harpsichord well captured, too; and if the sound itself can glare a little and be over-projected, then the performances themselves also have a vibrant communication that tends to deflect the listener away from the fact that it’s the acoustic itself that is somewhat bright (and not helped by the relative closeness of the performers).
The sublime slow movements of the two-violin concerto and the one for violin and oboe are very affectingly turned – and have time to breathe – while Fischer’s partners, Alexander Sitkovetsky and Andrey Rubtsov, are not only her equals in terms of musicianship but also complementary in approach. It’s good also that distinction is made between Andante and Adagio – thus the former at the centre of BWV1041 and the latter that is the core of BWV1042 (and which is particularly moving here) are distinguishable for their respective markings.
As for Fischer herself – already established as one of the finest violinists of her generation – she once again puts the music first while imbuing it with discernible personality and infinite observation. These are sure-footed, virtuoso and searching performances – very much for our age (without slavishly following an earlier Romantic one or approximating anything Bach himself might have known) and, yes, with something of Fischer’s beloved Yehudi Menuhin present. There’s also a daring that reminds of another hero of hers, Glenn Gould. In short, nothing from the museum or lecture-room is to be found here.