The pieces on violinist Julia Fischer's newest album are connected by a guiding, fading light. There's a plush romanticism, an edging toward darkness, that's very appealing indeed. One work, Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending, is an eternal crowdpleaser; and the work that lends its name for the album's title, Ernest Chausson's Poème, is only slightly less well-known. Programmatically speaking, however, the two far rarer selections, Respighi's Poema Autunnale and Josef Suk's Fantasy, are the gems.
Fischer begins with Respighi's rapturously evocative piece. There's barely any time to breathe as the work opens; just a few seconds in, the music is suffused with sun-dappled ecstasies. We sink into luxuriant Romanticism in the Chausson and into the bucolic reverie of The Lark Ascending. But the sometimes overripe melancholy that pervades this recording gives way to a bracing virtuosity in the Suk. While the piece isn't heard very often, Fischer and her colleagues make a very strong case for it:
The spirit that hovers over this album is an elegaic wistfulness — and not just because of the evocative mood Poème casts. This recording was made less than 4 months before its conductor, Yakov Kreizberg, passed away at age 51. (He had been battling a long, unnamed illness.) Fischer and Kreizberg had found each other sympatico, and together they made very fine recordings, including the Tchaikovsky, Glazunov, Khachaturian and Prokofiev violin concertos, the Brahms violin concerto and the double concerto, and the complete Mozart violin concertos. So this present album, sadly, serves as a swan song.
As a technician, Fischer is astounding. You only need hear her crisp articulations and fantastically precise left-hand work to hear proof of that. But within these works she also reaches an emotional inner core that is very moving. Fischer and Kreizberg give these works both luxuriant breadth and elegant line, in vivid performances that will last as mementos of a partnership that ended much too soon.