Julia Fischer, the just-over 31-year-old violinist, wowed the Thursday evening audience at Symphony Hall as the Boston Symphony Orchestra worked strongly alongside her in the Brahms Violin Concerto. To no surprise, though, with Charles Dutoit at the helm, it was the Stravinsky Dumbarton Oaks and Debussy Images that rose to heights of orchestral execution. So why did these same concert-goers not leap to their feet for either of the latter as so many did for the Brahms—was it all about Fischer?
The sensibilities of both the Russian and Frenchman allowed their otherwise arguably contrasting works to somehow thrive together—odd fellows of sorts. Opening the program, Concerto in E-flat, “Dumbarton Oaks” had but fifteen players on a near vacant stage. For the following Images , the stage was bursting with more brass and percussion than usual. What a reverse disappearing act to behold a chamber orchestra and a full-sized symphony orchestra in such quick succession.
The leanly drawn Stravinsky and lushly penned Debussy found remarkably heightened presence at Symphony Hall. A mind-gluing eloquence it was. It also was an intensely sensuous raiment before intermission and the Brahms, a coat of a decidedly different color.
Stravinsky’s syncopations and mixed meters felt ever so natural with the small group of BSO musicians who were as technically as musically on. They and Dutoit savored every Baroque or Bach theft that the composer had turned into his own witty modernisms. A perky succinctness was all protein with not a trace of fat or carbs; Dutoit and his chamber players knew that and followed suit. Their refined interplay of timbre gleamed through translucent contrapuntal spinning
In Images, the Dutoit-BSO collaboration summoned a revelatory wholeness through thoughtful pacing. But illumination would come with Les perfumes de la nuit (Perfumes of the night) being attached, with no break at all, to Le matin d’un jour de fête (Morning of a festive day). Hints of a real party led ultimately into a rousing raucousness that would be the climactic epicenter of the five images. Thus, the final image, Rondes de printemps (Spring rounds) would end with a far more limited blast, a typical move of Debussy who is fond of more reflective closes, ones often pleading nostalgia. This lack of a blockbuster finale might explain the BSO audience’s not having risen to their feet for such a phenomenal iteration.
Experienced as he is, especially with this music, Dutoit did take his time extending applause by inviting several members of the orchestra to stand, one-at-a-time, before calling on various sections—and then the entire orchestra—to do likewise. Dutoit even huddled in a brief conversation with the principal violist before taking his leave.
With the Dutoit-BSO collaboration extraordinaire, the fluidity of Debussy’s score reached levels rarely experienced. Crescendos dissolving into hushed restarts of still more builds came in mind-blowing gradations of sensitivity. Where a Boulez might bring transparency, blend would be the word for Dutoit. From throughout the orchestra came formidable streams of colorful imagery, of dream and celebration; there were delicate watercolor-like wisps, bold golden fanfares and everything in between. Shouldn’t Dutoit and the BSO record this?
How well did Brahms’s Violin Concerto in D Major fare with Stravinsky and Debussy in this uncommon programming? The only answer I could come up with was Julia Fischer and her violin. She is a dynamic even athletic concert artist, bending backwards and forwards even lifting the bow off the strings as if having shot off an arrow.
The Brahms browned like an old ambrotype in contrast to the Monet-like oils of Images. Still, though Fischer enlivened those memorable Brahms themes in their statements, their many ensuing iterations seemed lacking. She brought a good deal of logic to scalar patterns and arpeggios that inhabit those areas between themes, and that brought simple refreshment to this old warhorse of a piece. At times, her violin wonderfully raised its wholesome voice with passionate flair. The dialogues between winds and Fischer in the Adagio were some rare moments when orchestra and soloist really clicked.
Though a fair number left after the Brahms, many, thrilling to her playing, stayed. Her encore, the last movement of Sonata in G Minor by Paul Hindemith, once again wowed. Many-a-face gleamed with smiles. “Amazing!” as uttered by an usher, might very well suggest that Julia Fischer’s virtuosic wizardry, unabashedly on display in the Hindemith, in combination with an honest integrity behind that prowess, was the real crowd-pleaser.
She heads on to Europe and other destinations to satisfy the worldwide demand.