Recording of the Week Julia Fischer and the Gramophone Awards
I went down to Dorchester Hotel for the Gramophone Awards this week. It was my first time at the annual ceremony that is regarded as the Oscars of the classical music world (I’ve never felt able to justify the £2000 a table fee before, but I was invited this year so was more than happy to oblige!). It was a very enjoyable day, particularly because it gave me a rare opportunity to meet up with some of the record label bosses and managers I spend most of my working week talking to on the phone or trading emails with.
Presented on the day were the 15 category winners, an overall record of the year and various artist and special awards. You can see all the winners on our awards page, but to briefly summarise I suppose the two biggest winners were Nelson Friere for his disc of Brahms Piano Concertos which was named Record of the Year, and Julia Fischer who was named Artist of the Year. I was particularly pleased to see the latter as I remember being very disappointed not to see any of her discs in the Concerto category when the short-lists were announced a few months ago.
I’m not going to bore you now with a Julia Fischer biography (hugely impressive though it is) - if you want that you can read it on the website - but I will tell you why I think she is so great and why I was so pleased to see her win this award.
It goes almost without saying that to be one of the very top few violinists in the world you have to have a phenomenal technique, a fabulous sound and a huge range of tonal and dynamic extremes. She has all these in abundance, playing the quietist pianissimos with remarkable delicacy, while spinning off virtuoso passages that sparkle with a real sense of fantasy. Where I think she is unique is in her ability to differentiate emotion from sentimentality. It may sound an obvious thing but, particularly in romantic music, I find far too many top musicians get these two things confused. She plays with a directness (born out of deep musical understanding) which builds up far more emotion and feeling than that achieved by performers who linger at ends of phrases or do exaggerated swells on dissonances.
If you don’t have any of her discs in your collection I’d probably start with either the Tchaikovsky or the Brahms, and as we’ve got most of her catalogue down at £10.99 at the moment it is an ideal time to stock up. You can browse all her catalogue here.