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BRAHMS: Violin Con. & Con. for Violin & Cello – Julia Fischer & others – PentaTone

Classic Yakov Kreizberg performances of Brahms from 2007 feature the truly-gifted Julia Fischer.

BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77; Concerto in a minor for Violin, Cello and Orchestra, Op. 102 – Julia Fischer, violin/ Daniel Mueller-Schott, cello/ Netherlands Philharmonic Orch./ Yakov Kreizberg – PentaTone multichannel SACD PTC 5186 592, 72:59  (4/24/07) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

I am uncertain as to how this 2007 recording of the two great Brahms string concertos came my way at this late date, but the relatively young Julia Fischer (b. 1983) performs with a grand combination of velocity and lyric ardor.  I had not known of cellist Daniel Mueller-Schott, but his playing on the “Ex Shapiro” Matteo Goffriller instrument from Venice, 1727 convinces me that he well suits the 1887 Double Concerto.  So far as that late work is concerned, it made for a reconciliation piece between Brahms and Joseph Joachim, who had parted way in the course of Joachim’s divorce proceedings with mezzo-soprano Amalie Schneeweiss. The fact that Brahms incorporated motifs from Joachim’s favorite Viotti Concerto No. 22 in a minor, as well as Joachim’s patented F-A-E or F-E-A signature for “free but lonely” insured their renewed meeting of minds. Conductor Kreizberg (1959-2011) imparts a fine momentum to the opening movement, and he does so without sacrificing the long periods of lingering dialogue that his two soloists engage in periodically. Fischer, it seems to me, consistently seeks out the tender aspects of the scores she champions, and she communicates passion without over-wrought sentimentality. Both concerto finales find their tenor in gypsy music, and Kreizberg elicits as much response form the Netherlands ensemble as required to support the often blazing fusion of violin and cello at the forefront of the sonic image.

For me, the first movement of the Brahms Violin Concerto took some minutes to warm, especially its 90-measure introduction prior to the solo entry. But once Kreizberg and Fischer establish a fixed tempo, the music began to fulfill its epic pageantry. The symphonic status of the work has had even more inflated readings from Karajan and Jochum, but this collaboration maintains intimacy as well grandeur. Fischer own instrument, her Giovanni Battista Guadagnini (1742), often beguiles by the sheer luster of the tone. No less effective, the lovely oboe solo of the Adagio stands out, and we wonder that Hans von Bulow and Pablo de Sarasate could rail against its arioso, even if the violin solo had to wait for the spotlight. The affect of the performance remains optimistic, inward, and lyrically poised. I would still recommend that collectors of this precious concerto seek out the Berl Senofsky/Rudolf Moralt collaboration for a slightly more edgy interpretation that still harbors intimacy as its priority.  The sound quality of this Pentatone disc – the balance engineering courtesy of Jean-Marie Geijsen – remains seductively compelling.

—Gary Lemco

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