Julia Fischer's Sarasate

April 14, 2014

German violinist Julia Fischer undertakes an unexpected mission in exploring the virtuosic works by Spanish composer Pablo de Sarasate.

Though she's now only on the cusp of her 31st birthday, violinist Julia Fischer is as much a fixture on the concert stage as any soloist playing today. Once considered the young successor to Anne-Sophie Mutter, it's become clear that, yes, the classical music world is big enough for both artists to flourish, each in her own way. In releasing a collection of works by Sarasate, in collaboration with pianist Milana Chernyavska, Fischer continues to forge a path not in succession to others like Mutter, but rather as a response to her own particular interests and the world she sees around her. 


Known as a phenomenally gifted musician, occasionally setting aside her chosen instrument to dazzle audiences with her skill as a pianist (see the two video clips above), Fischer writes in the notes for this new recording that she felt an imperative early in her career to perform the greatest works in the violin repertoire. Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and other Romantic composers seemed to afford her not only a rich musical terrain to explore, but also, not incidentally, a certain defense against accusations of being a "mere" prodigy with technique to burn.

But at a certain point, she says, she began to hear in works like those by Paganini and Sarasate a joyful connection to audiences. Her predecessors like Menuhin and Heifetz saw no problem in the exuberance offered in virtuosic showpieces, a philiosophy continued today by others like Perlman. And no critic would accuse any of those artists of being shallow as a result.

Beyond that, Fischer detects in our current environment an all too easy default to categorization. She writes that she sees no distinction between "serious" and "light" music, bur rather only between good and bad music. (It's perhaps an unintentional nod to Duke Ellington, who famously said that there are only two kinds of music: "good music and the other kind.")

Those among us who judge music as serious or light imperil the effort to bring more audiences to classical music. As Fischer writes, "Perhaps beginning with the great masterpieces of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart is not the only way to introduce people to classical music."

Hear selections from this new recording all week on 99.5 WCRB.


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