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 Recording of the Week  Julia Fischer plays Schubert

As regular readers will probably have already discerned, one of my biggest loves is chamber music, but until very recently I’ve never really been able to get on with Schubert’s Violin Sonatas. I have always wondered why this has been the case as I find his other chamber music fantastic, and I couldn’t live without his great String Quintet or any of his later String Quartets. If they were particularly early works I could probably understand it, but they are not and, written in 1816, postdate all ten Violin Sonatas of Beethoven, a composer whom Schubert greatly admired. However, their style is much more Mozartian, with the violin still playing a somewhat subordinate role to that of the piano. In fact they’re written as if Schubert was unaware of Beethoven’s Sonatas but from all the reading I’ve done I simply cannot believe that was the case.

Julia Fischer
Julia Fischer

It seems that they have always been somewhat on the sidelines of the mainstream repertoire. Even when they were first published in 1836 they were called ‘sonatinas’ rather than ‘sonatas’ even though Schubert himself only ever referred to them with the latter. I suspect this was done mainly to make them attractive to the amateur players who were doubtful of their own technical abilities, but it nonetheless also somewhat suggests a belittling of the depth and value of the compositions themselves.

I remember a couple of years ago when Harmonia Mundi released a recording with Andrew Manze (a violinist whom I admire very much) I thought it would be an opportunity to really get to know and love the works, but I found the recording a bit too clinical and was left somewhat cold still wondering whether my problem lay with the recordings I’d heard or the works themselves.

However, in the last couple of weeks I’ve been listening to Julia Fischer’s new recording on Pentatone (out today), and it is really good, offering by far the most convincing performances I’ve heard of these works. When she plays them you hear all the little mysteries and moments of wonder that Schubert wrote. These are beautiful performances, played with a real love and respect for what they contain while not trying to make them into something they’re not. I’ve found myself quite enchanted and I’ve put a link to the whole of the last movement of the G minor Sonata for you to enjoy below.

Finally I should also mention that we are currently running a Julia Fischer special offer where you can buy most of her catalogue of recordings at up to 35% off.

Schubert - Complete Works for Violin and Piano, Volume 1

Julia Fischer (violin) & Martin Helmchen (piano)

Available Formats: MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC