New Classical Tracks: Unburdened by Mere Words, this "Poeme" Takes Flight

by Julie Amacher
May 17, 2011

Listen New Classical Tracks - May 18, 2011
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Poeme - Julia Fischer, Orchestre philharmoinque de Monte-Carlo/Yakov Kreizberg (London 15535-02) (Courtesy of London Records)

German violinist Julia Fischer's latest release is a distinct contrast from her Grammy-nominated recording of the Paganini Caprices from last summer. "Poeme" is a collection of impressionistic and poetic works for solo violin and Orchestra. Each piece is associated with a particular violinist, and they all come from the early 20th century.

The recording opens with,"Poema Autunnale," a little-known work by Italian composer Ottorino Resphighi. Fischer was introduced to this work in 1999 after she and conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli made their live recording of Beethoven's only violin concerto. It was Sinopoli who persuaded Julia Fischer to learn this piece, "We were supposed to record it," she recalls, "But the recording fell through and then Sinopoli died very early." More than a decade later, she was finally able to record it with her longtime collaborator, Yakov Kreizberg and the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra. Fischer has dedicated this recording to Kreizberg, who died this past March after a long illness. Respighi completed "Poema Autunnale" in 1925 and dedicated it to violinist Mario Corti. Respighi was a professional string player (violinist and violist), so he wrote beautifully for the violin. Respighi's use of double stops in the solo violin part also creates a spellbinding, sometimes haunting atmosphere. Julia Fischer is intrigued by this work because it's reminiscent of a movie soundtrack, "you can really hear E.T and Harry Potter in this piece," she says.

Joseph Suk's virtuosic "Fantasy," is really more of a mini concerto. This is an early work written before Suk experienced a double tragedy in 1904-05 when he lost his wife, then his father-in-law and mentor, Antonin Dvorak. You can hear Dvorak's influence in the lyrical melodies, and the gorgeous orchestration accented by bold French horns. Julia Fischer's mother is from Slovakia and she studied in Prague, so Julia has known this work since she was a child. Her own youthful energy brings out the carefree spirit of this "Fantasy."

In each of their compositions, Respighi and Suk develop a delicate balance between the soloist and orchestra. That balance is more challenging in the contemplative "Poeme," by the late 19th century French composer Ernest Chausson. It was written at the request of Chausson's friend, the renowned Belgian violinist Eugene Ysaye. This work marked a turning point for Chausson, whose music was often ignored. Ysaye premiered this piece in Paris in 1897 to unending applause. Fischer played this piece numerous times as a teenager. Now, in her late 20's, she brings a renewed sense of mystery to the dark harmonies of the opening section. Chausson calls for acrobatic double stops from the soloist in the first violin cadenza, increasing the emotional impact of this powerful "Poeme."

Julia Fischer won the 1995 Yehudi Menuhin Competition performing, "The Lark Ascending," by Ralph Vaughan Williams, but she has yet to perform it in the concert hall. It's based on a poem by George Meredith. Vaughan Williams wrote it just before the Great War for English violinist Marie Hall, who premiered it in 1921. Julia Fischer's violin flutters and soars above and sometimes in tandem with the orchestra in this gorgeous romance for violin and orchestra.

"Poeme" is an elegant collection of Late Romantic works that have stirred countless souls for more than a century. Fischer and the late Maestro Yakov Kreizberg had a very special artistic relationship. The chemistry between her passionate solo work and his masterful control of the Monte Carlo Philharmonic highlights the often restrained power in these four tender, poetic pieces.