DVORAK: Violin Concerto; BRUCH: Violin Concerto No. 1 – Julia Fischer, v./ Tonhalle-Orchester Zurich/ David Zinman – Decca

by | May 14, 2013 | Classical CD Reviews

DVORAK: Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 53; BRUCH: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26 – Julia Fischer, violin/ Tonhalle-Orchester Zurich/ David Zinman – Decca B0018088-02, 56:29 ***:

Marking violinist Julia Fischer (b. 1983) and her current relationship with the Tonhalle-Orchester under David Zinman, their Spring Tour in fact; this release of two popular violin concertos serves as a kind of calling card for their collaboration. Ms. Fischer also serves as Artist-in-Residence at the Konzerthaus Berlin, where she will likewise collaborate with conductor Ivan Fischer.

Although the performances of both the Dvorak and the Bruch prove attractive and lovingly etched, I am unconvinced the world needed precious readings of these once more. Fischer likes to use dramatic diminuendos and ritards to urge expressivity from the phrases, but such effects hardly strike me as original. Since both concertos utilize their first movements as preparations for their respective slow movement, one could argue a certain kinship between them – and the Mendelssohn – whose architecture unites them even beyond  their beguiling lyricism. Even among the pantheon of exalted violinists who favor the 1879 Dvorak Concerto in A Minor – and not everyone has, like Heifetz and Kreisler – I find myself still gravitating to the artistry of Martzy, Milstein, and Kulenkampff, despite the luscious sound Decca engineers Sebastien Stein and Jean-Marie Geijsen bring to the recording (made 19-20 April 2012). The Tonhalle woodwinds certainly enjoy their color contributions to the Dvorak’s Finale: Allegro giocoso ma non troppo combines both ethnic furiant and dumka forms, the violin, winds, French horn and tympani urging several intricate meters and Slavonic tunes with graceful agility, though Milstein remains my preference in this movement.

Bruch’s 1868 G Minor Concerto has always struck me as derivative and somewhat “academic” compared with the other big concertos, but no less enchanting, since it bursts with glorious melodic tissue. Certainly among the great purveyors of this work have been Heifetz, Oistrakh, Menuhin, and Morini and Bustabo, the last – in her collaboration with Willem Mengelberg – among the most passionate. Again, Zinman brings a decidedly energetic luster to the orchestral part, despite its truncated sonata-form Vorspiel, that evades the recapitulation so he can proceed directly to the heart of the matter, the lovely Adagio. Fischer and Zinman do inject a throaty rasping thrust into the gypsy-style rondo of the Finale: Allegro energico. Fischer plays with such a seamless finesse, we might wish she had expended her lavish gifts on less frequented aspects of the repertory, say the neglected but lyrically rewarding Concerto in D (1927) by Reynaldo Hahn, which the late Henryk Szeryng championed shortly before his death. But Fischer is young yet, and there may be time for the taking of a toast and tea.

—Gary Lemco