Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Prom 25: Dutch Courage

I hadn’t intended to listen at all seriously to Prom 25, but put down my book within a few bars of the opening of the Brahms Violin Concerto. I am not keen on violinists who rise to prize-winning stardom and vociferous publicity before they reach puberty, but Julia Fischer must be in her mid-twenties now, and played the Brahms with elegant stylishness, and a superb sweet and rounded tone. I thought her phrasing was perfectly judged and the cadenza delightful.

And that was after a Dvorak 6 from the Netherlands Philharmonic under Yakov Kreizberg that was well-paced, technically very well-played, but not stong on interpretation, and one, while probably enjoyable in the hall, as these performances often are, was never going to count as one of my great long-lived Prom concert memories.

In a way, it was just that, by juxtaposition, that made Fischer’s performance particularly striking. Competent and obviously enthusiastic, a very well-drilled ensemble as the NPO obviously is in these pieces, nonetheless, Kreizberg produces a somewhat gruff impression, which threw Fischer’s violin strongly into the limelight against a rather industrial sounding accompaniment, so in lieu of hearing her with a world-class orchestra, I’ll reserve judgement on her interpretational abilities.

(The first piece was one of those things I always like at the Proms; something I'd never hear of otherwise and that does take a bit of courage to propose for a programme. Patriotic fun for the Dutch orchestra, but a sub-Straussian curiosity really is all the Wagenaar ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ Overture is. An overture to all the snortings, sneezings and trumpetings that probably emanated from M de Bergerac’s famous nose on occasion. Still, if anyone ever asks, I can at least say “Ah, yes. The Wagenaar Overture. I’ve heard that . . .” and now I can even pronounce the name properly. Do you think anyone will? I’m getting older; I can’t wait forever.)

There does seem to be an awful lot of young prize-winning violinists about these days, enough to form an entire orchestra section. If not two or three. Can we really support that many soloists? Shouldn't more youngsters be encouraged to take up other instruments? Who was the last 13 year old tuba player to get a dozen prizes?

(R3 Relay)

Among others, Fischer won an award from Gramophone.

Prom 25: Wagenaar; Dvorak Symphony No 6; Brahms Violin Concerto.

No comments: