thu 20/06/2024

Fischer, LPO, Søndergård, RFH review - poised Mozart, lean and hungry Strauss | reviews, news & interviews

Fischer, LPO, Søndergård, RFH review - poised Mozart, lean and hungry Strauss

Fischer, LPO, Søndergård, RFH review - poised Mozart, lean and hungry Strauss

The German violinist launches a lightweight concertos series in high style

Julia Fischer: the purest, mosr effortless-seeming of songlinesUwe Ares

Mozart’s early violin concertos are precociously well-tailored and full of fun ideas, but are they “teenage masterpieces”, as Julia Fischer asserts? That special honour goes to the likes of Mendelssohn’s Octet and the most famous of Schubert’s 1815 songs.

Nor can I imagine pulses quickening at the thought of Fischer presenting all five of the concertos within a short space of time as the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s Artist-in-Residence. Even so, the two we heard last night were given impeccable phrasing, variety of tone and inflection, everything you could wish from the most cultured of great violinists.

It was a tried and tested idea to frame the infant phenomenon from Salzburg with the tone-master of Munich, Richard Strauss, and not in his late Mozartian vein but emerging with full orchestral panache from the spell of Wagner. Thomas Søndergård (pictured below by Martin Burbandt) knows how to pace potential excess and slim down any thickening around the middle.

Thomas SondergardThe opening gambit of Don Juan could always call upon extra body at climaxes from the strings, though the horn section was not on top form and the overall effect was lean and keen rather than opulent. Best was the long-breathed, appropriately unreal oboe solo of Ian Hardwick and the closing sighs of clarinettist Benjamin Mellefont in depicting the one woman for whom the libertine might truly have fallen, as well as the palpitating silence before the final sword-thrust that abruptly ends a brilliant career. Death and Transfiguration had ideal attack and forward movement until the final Wagnerian journey to the stars, which can either sound elevated or a little banal. Without the necessary gauze or float, Søndergård tended towards the latter.

He was a keen and pleasant partner for Fischer in the Mozart concertos, though it was probably too much to ask for the kind of visibly loving concordance I’ll never forget from Isabelle Faust and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe under the later Bernard Haitink in a transformative Prom performance of No. 3 in G major. It’s the most ubiquitous of the five, and I remember losing the will to live when I had to sit through it four times in the late stages of a violin competition. Still, Fischer held the attention with sophisticated nudging of volume and phrases in the outer movements, and the purest, mosr effortless-seeming of songlines in the Adagio.

The complementary second movement in the G major Concerto, No. 4, is less memorable and sustained, but to compensate the opening Allegro is more virtuosic than its counterpart in No. 2,  and the concluding Rondeau quickly switches mood with authentic Mozartian wit, equal to the sleight-of-hand changed of its predecessor.

Fischer’s cadenzas throughout developed the ideas beautifully: partly her own, or someone else’s? Programme notes usually fall short in telling us; the LPO should have found room for an article from Fischer giving her own take on the series. Personality is what we need to bring youthful charm to life, and this violinist has it in spades.

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