She looked different from her photos, older, more mature, her dark blue velvet gown with a pale knitted jacket revealing a full figure as she came onstage at Davies Hall last Sunday night. Although Julia Fischer had performed with the San Francisco Symphony a few times in recent years, this was my first time seeing her, an experience I’ve been looking forward to. Her evening’s performance would be good, commencing with Schubert’s Sonata in A-minor for Violin and Piano, with virtuoso Yefim Bronfman on the piano.
She played wonderfully, just as I’d hoped. What appealed to me was that she didn’t look or sound like a carbon copy of someone else. Her interpretation seemed polished, yet fresh. She had an openness about her, as if inviting the audience in the experience with her. Her face from time to time would tilt up, catch the lights, her surroundings, her expression thoughtful, even grave at times. How pretty she looked, her brown curls cascading down her back, both young girl and mature violinist at moments like that.
Following intermission was“Die Forelle,” Schubert’s Quintet in A-major for Piano and Strings. Not only was this a crowd pleaser, it seemed to be a musician-pleaser as well. Cellist Peter Wyrick, who directly faced the audience, bore a wide grin that was infectious, both to musicians and audience alike. He and Julia would periodically exchange wide smiles; their connection and the joy of performing this piece was palpable.
A bit of inadvertent comic drama slipped in when Julia’s sheet music kept catching a circulating breeze and closing on her while she was playing. She continued on gracefully until she could re-open the page during a pause, but moments later it would repeat its inexorable creep toward closing. The fourth time was terribly funny - it was one of the middle movements of the quintet, one of those Schubertian passage that bursts forth in a brief, frenzied minor key, calling to mind the music for one of those pre-talkie films when the villain is tying the heroine to the train tracks. Julia angled her violin so that the scroll could do combat with the flapping page, which appeared to be winning the battle. For one crazy moment, it felt as if the dramatic music were being dictated by the drama, and not the other way around.
Through it all, Julia kept her aplomb and professionalism. The audience ate it up. In truth, we love witnessing an unexpected circumstance and are thrilled to watch the performer rise above it. And she did, the quintet becoming that much more buoyant and sparkling—just what you’d hope for Die Forelle. We all leapt to our feet when the final movement had finished, praising not just the music, but the unintentional entertainment, the good humor and sense of ensemble the group demonstrated.
Another entertaining facet of the evening was when the musicians were given flowers from members of the audience, gorgeous bouquets of tangerine-colored roses, and the baffled look on the curmudgeonly Yefim Bronfman’s face when he too was handed a bouquet. Then, more comically yet, he was given a pair of socks that appeared to look like trout, which prompted him to sit down, right then, amid much laughter, and ponder them. Another pair of socks was passed up, this time a little pair of knitted infant’s booties for Julia, which confirmed a suspicion that had taken hold in my mind. She had a mature, fuller figure because she was pregnant! (Confirmed later by an interview with Joshua Kosman at www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi What a beautiful sight to see: a performing musician who is also carrying a child. Only seeing a pregnant dancer perform gets better than that. It’s like the height of artistry and creativity (both literally and figuratively) to me.
My admiration for her is now complete. What a privilege to have watched this wonderful performance and this beautiful, graceful violin master in action.
© 2009 Terez Rose
More entries: May 2009
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