Jaolinist Julia Fischer is artist-in-residence with the London Philharmonic this spring. His first concert group with the orchestra focuses on Mozart, with his five concertos for solo violin spread over three programs. In the second of these, under the direction of Thomas Søndergård, she played the fifth concerto, in A major, K219, as well as the Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola, K364.
There is no doubting the technical security of Fischer’s playing, nor the quiet authority of his musicality. But his account of the concerto was without a smile and without charm. With rather dry and peremptory phrasing, emotions held to the tightest rein and reluctant to savor moments of lyricism even in the central Adagio, it was all strangely joyless.
Joined by violist Nils Mönkemeyer for the Sinfonia Concertante, Fischer sounded more relaxed, though there was still something superficial about their performance. On this evidence, Mönkemeyer is not an expansive and expressive player either, and there were few playful compromises that one associates with the best performances of this extraordinary work, let alone any obvious attempt to explore the depths of its slow movement, perhaps the deepest music Mozart had written so far in his life.
It was left to Søndergård to inject some life into the evening. He had opened the concert with a sufficiently luminous and impetuous recital of the overture to Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail – fitting perfectly into the “Turkish music” episode of the concerto’s finale in A major. Then, with LPO forces nearly doubling in size just for this work, he closed it with a brilliantly colorful romp through Strauss’ symphonic poem Till Eulenspiegel, describing each of its picaresque episodes with sardonic liveliness. .