Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto - Fischer, Kreizberg

Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto - Fischer, Kreizberg

PentaTone Classics  PTC 5186610

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D Op. 35, Sérénade mélancolique Op. 26, Valse-Scherzo Op. 34, Souvenir d’un lieu cher Op. 42

Julia Fischer (violin)
Russian National Orchestra
Yakov Kreizberg (conductor)

The entirety of Tchaikovsky’s repertoire for solo violin, including his only concerto for the instrument, was written during a period of remarkable turbulence between 1875 and 1878. His recent marriage to Antonia Milyukova had plunged the composer into nearly-suicidal depression, and for a brief time his preferred method of expression became an instrument he had generally shunned early in his career.

The most notable product of this anguish was Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D, a work that swings widely between extremes as wide as Russian gypsy music and Western European-influenced Romanticism. At the time it was deemed unplayable, and even virtuoso violinist Leopold Auer turned down the offer to premier the piece because of its technical difficulty. Of course times have changed, and PENTATONE artist Julia Fischer began playing the piece at the age of 14. This release marks the 4th collaboration between Fischer and Russian conductor Yakov Kreizberg, and their 2nd to feature the Russian National Orchestra. Together they have recorded four of Tchaikovsky’s greatest works from this period, which amount to some of the most expressive and difficult music written for the violin.

Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D provides the backbone for the album, but there are plenty fireworks in Valse – Scherzo, another supposedly unplayable piece that has since attracted considerable interest from violinists. In contrast, Sérénade mélancolique conveys “melancholic passion, hopeless yearning and bitter thoughts of death,” according to Tchaikovsky biographer Richard Stein. For Souvenir d’un lieu cher, the final composition on the album, Kreizberg takes a seat at the piano to join Fischer in an intimate duet brimming with nostalgia.

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DSD recording
Reviews (2)

Review by Graham Williams - October 26, 2006

Julia Fischer’s eagerly awaited SACD of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto triumphantly justifies PentaTone’s decision to record it in spite of their already having two recommendable versions of this work by Christian Tetzlaff and Arthur Grumiaux in their catalogue.

As in her award-winning recording of Russian Violin Concertos Russian Violin Concertos - Fischer, Kreizberg, she is accompanied by Yakov Kreizberg, this time in dual role as conductor and pianist. As is clear from their earlier recordings together the Fischer / Kreizberg partnership is something special, and throughout this disc one gets a sense of them working together in complete accord.

From the soloist’s rapt entry at the start of the work to the wonderful sweep of the first tutti (note the thrilling trumpets) this is a spell binding performance and one that stresses the lyrical beauty of the score. Julia Fischer brings out all the beauties of the solo part, often using a subtle rubato that, while never impeding the forward momentum of the music, allows every phrase to tell.
The cadenza is a miracle of both precision and imaginative fantasy, and here the recording demonstrates how perfectly it has captured both the positioning of the soloist within the spacious acoustic and the sweetness of her tone.

The sorrowful Canzonetta, taken a fraction slower than is often the case, is played with much light and shade and there is a magical interplay between soloist and woodwind in the central section (from 3.50 onwards). It makes the same passage in the Tetzlaff / Nagano version sound positively mundane.

The Finale opens with tremendous attack from the orchestra and soloist – listen to those pizzicatos (0.24)! Fischer does not gallop away, as some do, to make the movement into just a virtuoso vehicle, but she certainly observes the Vivacissimo marking, and Kreizberg allows the woodwind to phrase the lovely second subject with an elegance and grace that is matched by the soloist. The very fast ending is quite breathtaking and would, I am sure, bring any concert audience to its feet.

The nostalgic ‘Sérénade Mélancholique’ allows us to appreciate Julia Fischer’s ability to sustain a long melodic line. It is one of Tchaikovsky’s least known and performed works, so it is wonderful to have it in such a deeply felt performance as this. It contrasts well with the delightful ‘Valse - Scherzo’, again another rarity that is played with great virtuosity and a terrific sense of fun making light of its formidable difficulties.

Finally, Yakov Kreizberg leaves the conductor’s podium to accompany Julia Fischer most sympathetically in the three movement ‘Souvenir d’un lieu cher’. The intimacy and sadness of Meditation is captured by the performance, although I would have preferred a slightly less close balance, allowing more air round the two instruments, and perhaps a less anonymous sounding acoustic signature than that of MCO Studio 5, Hilverum in which these three pieces were recorded.
The Scherzo is played with amazing quicksilver virtuosity, while the final Melodie has both simplicity and a winning charm that brings this superb SACD to its conclusion.

It need hardly be said that PentaTone’s recording, engineered by Erdo Groot and Jean-Marie Geijsen is of the highest quality, matching these most musical of performances and capturing them in glorious sound.

A top recommendation and an essential purchase!

Copyright © 2006 Graham Williams and


Sonics (Multichannel):

stars stars

Review by John Broggio - February 2, 2007

This latest Julia Fischer and Yakov Kreizberg recording is made with the Russian National Orchestra instead of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra that was employed for their Mozart concerto cycle (the Sinfonia Concertante is still awaited but promised).

Like all of Fischer's recordings to date, all feature the same characteristics: superlative technique, rock solid intonation and a wide range of tone colour which is allied to a sensitive and engaging musical imagination. Unlike the other recent releases of the concerto on SACD (Tchaikovsky, Korngold: Violin Concerto - Mutter, Previn and Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto - Bell / Tilson Thomas) this is somewhat more urgent in the first movement. Coming in a full 1'30 ahead of Bell, there is no haste nor lack of clarity but a more overtly Romantic approach than either Mutter or Bell allow themselves: when the music is more introverted, a calmer and soulful approach is adopted but when the music calls for the musicians to let rip, the notes almost explode from the speakers!

The slow movement is a genuine Canzonetta - no syrup is in evidence and yet the heartfelt expression from the superb woodwinds and Fischer would be enough to melt anyone's aversion to Tchaikovsky. The care which Kreizberg moulds the opening is wonderful, normally the woodwind dialogue between themselves and the soloist is played down but not here. The strings slink in and take over from the woodwind in a manner that Karajan would have approved of for the smoothness but Abbado would also approve from the pointing of the phrases - really quite marvellous.

The finale is, as one would expect from these musicians other recordings, tremendously exciting. It is not that the tempo adopted is especially quick (although it's not slow). Instead it is the lightning changes of dynamic and character, all executed at the same time as linking into the longer line of the music that make it so exciting. Unlike Mutter's recording, there is no hold up into the second subject and Fischer/Kreizberg make a quicker return to the core tempo than many others. It must also be said that the orchestral contribution is the most exciting I have heard since Abbado & the BPO for Vengerov - no mean feat! One feels as the final chord dies away, cheated that there is no roar of applause that there surely would have been had this been a concert performance - that it was not speaks volumes about the electricity that these artists generate.

The rest of the programme is no less enjoyable. For the substantial "encores", we are served up with the Sérénade mélancolique Op.26, the Valse-Scherzo Op.34 and the delightful tryptich Souvenir d'un lieu cher Op.42 (Bell offers Op.42/1 only on his disc which is a shame as there was more than enough room to fit the other two parts on). The first two are concertante works for violin and orchestra which are beautifully rendered with virtuosity of the highest order in both: the Sérénade is self-effacing, the Valse-Scherzo needs a more outward display. We get both from Fischer and the wonderful RNO. Kreizberg then sets down his baton for the piano and proves to be just as sensitive a pianist as he is a conductor.

The sound is the finest that Pentatone have yet achieved from the DZZ Studio 5 in Moscow (the Souvenir was recorded in Hilversum no less successfully) with a wonderful sense of presence for all instruments together with a clarity and staging that only a great MCH recording can bring.


Copyright © 2007 John Broggio and


Sonics (Multichannel):

stars stars
Comments (1)

Comment by threerandot - July 7, 2016 (1 of 1)

Review by threerandot March 14, 2008
Performance: 5
Sonics: 4 1/2

This recording of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto features an electrifying peformance of this famous work. This Pentatone recording appears to be a little closer in sound than some of her previous ones, but this all seems to be to the good side. The Russian National Orchestra are a first rate team of players and provide wonderful accompaniment.

Julia plays with a passionate intensity and warmth of feeling. Throughout this concerto, she plays all of the virtuoso passages effortlessly. The remarkable thing is Julia's confidence belies her age. She plays this music as if her life depends on it and it is hard to believe someone so young can be so accomplished. Her tone is never restricted in the high notes and she plays with a sound that is at times lyrical or at times playful. She also never misses the opportunity to play with great emotion, never lingering too long or too briefly on a given phrase.

Yakov Kreizberg manages to capture the right balance between his soloist and the orchestra and the RNO should be commended for their contribution. Listen to the beautiful winds in the canzonetta, all vividly caught. The somewhat closer microphone placement brings us closer to the orchestra and is beneficial in the lyrical sections.

In the finale, we are taken along for a wild ride with amazing virtuoso playing from Julia and the orchestra. Julia's technique is never sloppy or out of control, but she plays as if she was a "runaway freight train". This a recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto which has all of the confidence and authority one could wish for. A true gem and a performance that is definitely worth adding to your collection.

The mood of this disc changes with the somber and pastoral Serenade Melancolique. Julia plays with a sweet longing and the pizzicatto strings of the RNO are delightful. This a work full of hope and nostalgia and Julia, Yakov Kreizberg and the Russian National Orchestra play with great committment.

Next, the mood lightens with the effervescent Valse - Scherzo. This is a ravishing and charming waltz with spontaneous and wonderful playing. This was originally meant to be the slow movement in the Violin Concerto before it was replaced by the canzonetta. This piece may not have the same emotional significance as the Serenade Melancolique, but it is still worth having in this collection. Julia's playing is very persuasive. Listen to the impressive cadenza near the end.

In an intriguing and satisfying close to this disc, Kreizberg puts down his baton and accompanies Julia from the piano in the Souvenir d’un lieu cher Op. 42. Kreizberg is a sensitive and colorful accompanist and there is an intimate acoustic that puts us close to the solists. In the meditation, the emotions are on the sleeve and immediate. Julia and Yakov enjoy digging into the Scherzo with plenty of lively and rhythmic playing. The Schrezo also has a contrasting middle section full of charm and lyricism. The work closes with the nostalgic Melodie.

With the exceptional performance of the Violin Concerto, the virtuosity and precision of the playing, the excellent recording (although I do wish there was just a little bit more air around the sound) and the additional works presented in this collection, this disc deserves a place in your collection. Highly Recommended.

(This review refers to the Multi-channel portion of this disc)


Previously released on PTC 5186 095