Julia Fischer: Bach Done Well

02.26.09
Academy of St Martin in the Fields
Washington Post

For someone who's traveled the world during the past several years, playing Dvorak, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Glazunov and Shostakovich, 25-year-old violinist Julia Fischer gave a convincing argument at Strathmore on Tuesday, that, in fact, Bach is her main man and that, at the moment, she is Bach's finest purveyor. Fischer led the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields in a stunning program that enclosed Bach's two Violin Concerti between a pair of British bookends: Britten's "Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge" and the Walton Sonata for Strings.

The 22 strings of the academy are used to performing without a conductor, and this was the 10th concert in their current tour with Fischer (celebrating the academy's 50th year and the issuing of their latest smash hit CD of Bach Violin Concerti) so it is not surprising that the ensemble, even in Walton's intricate games of rhythmic tag, was exemplary. What was surprising was that, even this far along in the tour, the musicians still seemed excited by their own musicmaking and by Fischer's musical ideas.

Fischer's approach to Bach is one of supreme confidence in the ability of Bach's music to define itself. She didn't slather lyrical sweetness over the long melodies of the slow movements or overlay harmony-implying arpeggios with subtle rubato effects. With a bow arm to die for, she simply played with utter rhythmic integrity, drew out long phrases in pianissimos that could have been heard for miles and brought the academy artists with her into her musical world as the chamber colleagues that they, indeed, were.