June 13, 2009 at 7:07 PM
She looked different from her photos, older, more mature, her dark blue velvet gown with a pale knitted jacket revealing a full figure as she came onstage at Davies Hall last Sunday night. Although Julia Fischer had performed with the San Francisco Symphony a few times in recent years, this was my first time seeing her, an experience I’ve been looking forward to. Her evening’s performance would be good, commencing with Schubert’s Sonata in A-minor for Violin and Piano, with virtuoso Yefim Bronfman on the piano.
She played wonderfully, just as I’d hoped. What appealed to me was that she didn’t look or sound like a carbon copy of someone else. Her interpretation seemed polished, yet fresh. She had an openness about her, as if inviting the audience in the experience with her. Her face from time to time would tilt up, catch the lights, her surroundings, her expression thoughtful, even grave at times. How pretty she looked, her brown curls cascading down her back, both young girl and mature violinist at moments like that.
Following intermission was“Die Forelle,” Schubert’s Quintet in A-major for Piano and Strings. Not only was this a crowd pleaser, it seemed to be a musician-pleaser as well. Cellist Peter Wyrick, who directly faced the audience, bore a wide grin that was infectious, both to musicians and audience alike. He and Julia would periodically exchange wide smiles; their connection and the joy of performing this piece was palpable.
A bit of inadvertent comic drama slipped in when Julia’s sheet music kept catching a circulating breeze and closing on her while she was playing. She continued on gracefully until she could re-open the page during a pause, but moments later it would repeat its inexorable creep toward closing. The fourth time was terribly funny - it was one of the middle movements of the quintet, one of those Schubertian passage that bursts forth in a brief, frenzied minor key, calling to mind the music for one of those pre-talkie films when the villain is tying the heroine to the train tracks. Julia angled her violin so that the scroll could do combat with the flapping page, which appeared to be winning the battle. For one crazy moment, it felt as if the dramatic music were being dictated by the drama, and not the other way around.
Through it all, Julia kept her aplomb and professionalism. The audience ate it up. In truth, we love witnessing an unexpected circumstance and are thrilled to watch the performer rise above it. And she did, the quintet becoming that much more buoyant and sparkling—just what you’d hope for Die Forelle. We all leapt to our feet when the final movement had finished, praising not just the music, but the unintentional entertainment, the good humor and sense of ensemble the group demonstrated.
Another entertaining facet of the evening was when the musicians were given flowers from members of the audience, gorgeous bouquets of tangerine-colored roses, and the baffled look on the curmudgeonly Yefim Bronfman’s face when he too was handed a bouquet. Then, more comically yet, he was given a pair of socks that appeared to look like trout, which prompted him to sit down, right then, amid much laughter, and ponder them. Another pair of socks was passed up, this time a little pair of knitted infant’s booties for Julia, which confirmed a suspicion that had taken hold in my mind. She had a mature, fuller figure because she was pregnant! (Confirmed later by an interview with Joshua Kosman at www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi What a beautiful sight to see: a performing musician who is also carrying a child. Only seeing a pregnant dancer perform gets better than that. It’s like the height of artistry and creativity (both literally and figuratively) to me.
My admiration for her is now complete. What a privilege to have watched this wonderful performance and this beautiful, graceful violin master in action.
© 2009 Terez Rose
Terez, Thanks for writing this up! I went to this concert as well. I totally agree with everything you said! The communication between Julia and the cellist reminded me of Jacqueline du Pre and her Trout crew, you can see they really enjoy the music!
Glad you enjoyed your concert. Schubert is always wonderful to hear.
>I went to this concert as well. I totally agree with everything you said!
That's so cool! Did you catch on about the booties and her being pregnant? She's so slender normally, and yet I would have never voiced the assumption she was pregnant w/o the booties hint, and then confirming it with Joshua Kosman's article. Any other observations you have to add about the concert? It was such a pleasant evening for me - also leaving Davies Hall at 9pm and having it still be light and warm outside.
Anne - I particularly enjoyed the sonata she played, and I'm a big fan of Schubert's Piano Quintet in C-major. Actually, I like it more than Die Forelle. (Hate the English translation; it just doesn't produce the right mental image.)
I saw her do Bach with Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and was very impressed. glad you enjoyed it.
>I saw her do Bach with Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.
Ooh, nice! Details, please?
Thanks for this excellent review- I too was at the concert, as well as JuFi's other SFO performances, and I concurr with your verdicts- she is indeed brilliant, and she is indeed pregnant. With any other mother to be, friends would wonder, boy or girl, but here the question is, violinist or pianist? Perhaps the "both" gene will be passed down.
Regarding Bronfman's sartorial humor - he was actually about to put on the socks, and one can't help thinking it was a response to a whole evening of mishaps that also included someone slamming a door and half the audience applauding at a faux finale climax in the middle of the last movement - he had actually begun his SFO appearances the previous Wednesday with a similar moment of jest. MTT, introducing Schubert's rondos, spoke of the inappropriateness of a concert hall and formally attired musicians playing such homely music, at which point Bronfman whipped off his bow tie and unbottoned his shirt.
During the Berg chamber concerto, on the Friday night, when Julia's music also caught the breeze, a gallant MTT jumped off his podium to hold it in place for her. MTT is quite the jumper.
David, I just laughed and laughed at your comments. It's so much fun to get this feedback from others who saw the concert, as one can only remember their own experience in brief flashes. (I mean, were those tangerine flowers roses or something else? Were those really trout socks he was given?) What fun to read your comments, and hear about the events of earlier evenings of their week in SF. Oh, and this?
>...and half the audience applauding at a faux finale climax in the middle of the last movement.
That was indeed hilarious. It takes a lot to fool a savvy concert audience like Davies Hall attracts and yet, dang, so many people were applauding. I blame Yefim Bronfman, who sort of threw himself back at the last chord in an "it's done!" fashion. I loved the self-deprecating chuckle that came up all around me as the musicians kept playing afterwards. Sort of a "whoops, they fooled me, and dang, they did it well."
>With any other mother to be, friends would wonder, boy or girl, but here the question is, violinist or pianist? Perhaps the "both" gene will be passed down.
And regarding this - I wonder how many people realize just how talented she is, and that she's debuted in 2008 as a pianist soloist in the same concert she performed as a violinist, playing the Grieg Piano Concerto. (Story here: www.signandsight.com/features/1636.html). Wow - she is so impressive.)
Yes, the faux ending! I seriously thought the violist turned and gave the audience a dirty look! It was also hilarious how Julia was trying to fix the music with her scroll!! Overall, I really really enjoyed the concert! I
I sat in the 4th row, so I can see her very closely. She looked very different from her picture, she dressed alot more conservatively than her CD cover, and I thought to myself, hmm... did she gain weight... now I have an answer.
Terez Rose, the best review I ever read!
if you like you may want to see a few photos of Julia's "Double Concerto" on New Year's Day in Frankfurt we had posted on Julia's Fanclub website
This unique concert has meanwhile been broadcast by the french TV station ARTE.
Aw, thanks, Hansjürgen. What a pleasure to hear/read. And yes, I will check out that website - thanks for the link!
PM - we definitely had the same thoughts! : )
A lovely review, and I can't think of a kinder way to bring this news to everyone. Thank you!
Laurie - thanks right back atcha for all your wonderful journalism at this site. And hey, have you interviewed Julia yet? I'm sure I'm not the only one who would enjoy reading an interview with her.
Hansjürgen - is there any way of getting to the site you referenced without signing up as a member?
Terez, that was a wonderful and fun review. It sounds like there is a large contingent of v.commies in the SF area, and all who attended the concert loved it. Thanks for clarifying something that had me puzzled. I saw an ad for a recital by Julia Fischer, pianist. I didn't buy a ticket because I thought Julia Fischer was a violinist, one I'd love to hear.
> Thanks for clarifying something that had me puzzled. I saw an ad for a recital by Julia Fischer, pianist. I didn't buy a ticket because I thought Julia Fischer was a violinist, one I'd love to hear.
Imagine going to a concert where she performed a violin concerto in the first half and a piano concerto in the second half. Boy, I would SO be there!
Terez, signing in on this Yahoo forum is not a problem, and its free of charge. This JF fanclub exists since 2005, was originally founded in Paris and so far has 105 members worldwide.
I 've had the pleasure to attend Julia's New Year's concert in the Alte Oper Frankfurt January1, 2008, and it was heartwarming to see her hug the concertmaster of the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie (German Youth Orchestra) Elena Graf, who is her student!
three days later Julia Fischer repeated this type of Double Concert in St.Petersburg, this time playing the Glasunov Vc. instead of the Saint-Saens #3, and the Grieg piano concerto after the intermission. I've seen a download of it, provided by Julia's father to me.
As you can imagine, the real challenge of such a project is preparation months ahead, and finding suitable rehearsal instruments while on tour which Julia mentioned in several interviews. Interestingly it was in this context -search for a piano- that she crossed pathways, in New York, with Yefim Bronfman, with the resulting collaboration in SF...
Hansjürgen - very, very interesting! Like I said to Pauline, I would just love to see her perform both as a violinist and a pianist. What an amazing artist!
Lucky you got to hear her-- she cancelled a lot of concerts on this tour, including her performance with the Philly Orchestra. The substitute soloist for us, Isabelle Faust, was a treat to hear, though.
Well, after she returned from Russia, she confessed "I will never do it again" - but months later I learnt that she got second thoughts in favour of a similar project, this time with Mozart's d minor concerto (KV 466). The occasion? Yakov Kreizberg's 50th birthday, sometime in 2010. He was the one who rekindled this idea in her... that's how artists are.
Anyway, we'll have to wait and see what she can do in the months to come. For sure many concerts will have to be canelled in the upcoming concert season.
This week three concerts were scheduled in Tokyo, 2 with the NHK Orchestra and one recital.
Vadim Repin takes over to play the Symphonie Espagnole by Lalo. Julia will definitely play the Mendelssohn Concerto in Luxembourg and Weilburg-Germany (July 9 to 12) with the LuxPO, and I'm very much looking forward to meet her there!
>Lucky you got to hear her-- she cancelled a lot of concerts on this tour, including her performance with the Philly Orchestra. The substitute soloist for us, Isabelle Faust, was a treat to hear, though.
You know, I Googled her to get the scoop on a possible pregnancy and saw a thread at another discussion forum about that very performance. That's pregnancy for you. You are such a slave to your body and the little creature growing inside you. I feel doubly lucky to have seen her perform.
>This week three concerts were scheduled in Tokyo, 2 with the NHK Orchestra and one recital.
Oh, what stress on her body. My goodness, I wish her all the best, and I'll bet she does wonderfully.
Oh, and Hansjürgen just mentioned on a discussion thread that today is Julia's birthday. Happy birthday to you, Julia!
Terez, where did you sit, and how did you like it?
Pauline - I was in premier orchestra for this performance, the spot I prefer for recitals. About the 10th row, center. I loved it. (I upgraded my first tier ticket by $9 to get it.) It's amazing the way Davies Hall is built. I felt like I was in a 200 seat recital hall from that perspective. But when I sit in my usual first tier seat, which is halfway up and gives me a broad view of the whole concert hall, premier orchestra seems like a dull spot to sit in. I really do like first tier for general full-orchestra performances. It will be interesting to see what I think of second tier next year.
here at last there is an "official" review reg. the "Trout"-concert in SF you had attended, I simply copy the link here:
Oh, that review was so much fun to read - it's like reliving my own experience from a different angle. I love the way everyone who's commented on that performance has much the same things to say about it all. Thanks very much for posting the link, Hansjürgen. I enjoyed! (And enjoyed learning a few more details/thoughts about the performance.)
as always, you are welcome!
perhaps you had a chance to read the various reviews in the SF Chronicle and the Examiner, you can do so online by inserting Julia Fischer in their Search windows... also, I keep posting any official news and violin related items that may be of interest (like the Bruxelles competition) in Julia Fischer's fanclub website, so if you like to register and sign in, please feel free to do so.
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