Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Broadcast by Radio 3 on April 27 at 7.30 p.m.

Julia Fischer has been playing Elgar’s Violin Concerto for quite a while, as her seasoned yet fresh playing here made clear. LPO conductor emeritus Vladimir Jurowski set a stately tempo for the opening movement, emotions embedded rather than overt – exactly the veiled and intimate atmosphere that suited Fischer to enter into: sweetly romantic (shapely heartfelt phrasing) with spurts of ardour, not least the adrenaline rush that concluded the first movement, which had been flexible and violin-orchestra interactive, the latter sensitivity taken into the Andante with poignancy. Fischer was on top of the technical challenges throughout and also sported the athleticism needed for many measures of the Finale, as well as integrating contrasts into a whole, culminating in a contemplative and bittersweet ‘accompanied cadenza’ and a fiery/majestic culmination. This insightful and individual account (forty-eight minutes – hardly “the best part of an hour” cited by the R3 announcer: not even Haendel/Boult,, or Kennedy/Rattle are that expansive).

For an encore, Fischer and Jurowski (piano, needed for the Enescu) played a touching ‘Lullaby’ (from a multi-movement cycle) by Valentin Silvestrov, who recently escaped his native Ukraine for Berlin.

Following twenty minutes of silence for me, otherwise it was the in context overkill of Stravinsky’s Petrushka in its piano-transcription version, George Enescu’s Second Symphony (1914, just a few years after the Elgar), a three-movement, here fifty-three-minute piece of energy, colour, complexity and folksy leanings – altogether individual and unpredictable, if with some correspondences to Korngold – thrilling in the first movement with its heightened expression, wonderfully idyllic in the slow movement (exquisite detail), and a militaristic-tinged Finale that bounds to a jubilant coda. This thoroughly prepared, heroically played performance certainly leaves a big impression.