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Culture

Star violinist Julia Fischer impresses at the piano, too

Julia Fischer wears many hats. Not only is she one of the most successful violinists in the world and the youngest professor in Germany, but also a wife, mother - and accomplished pianist.

Julia Fischer

Violinist Julia Fischer has a full concert schedule

In a DVD coming out this month on the Decca label, Julia Fischer performs both the violin and the piano in the same concert, together with the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie and conductor Matthias Pintscher.

Deutsche Welle: Ms Fischer, you play the violin, you play the piano, you have a family and you're a professor at a German music school - does your day have more than 24 hours or do you simply not sleep?

Julia Fischer: (laughs) Neither. Of course, that sounds like a lot, but it's different when you start your career as early as I did. I've been giving concerts since I was 11, so it's not so strange that I started teaching at 23.

As you say, your course was set early on. Your brother and your mother play the piano and you started off with the piano. How did you become interested in playing the violin?

Julia Fischer as a child, playing the piano

Fischer played the piano before learning the violin

At the age of three, you don't really become interested in something. Piano played a role from the very beginning; it was just there in the living room. And in the neighboring village, there was a good violin teacher, and my mother knew that. She had sent her own piano students there to find out whether he really was as good as everyone said. So she sent me to him for lessons and he really was a fantastic instructor. That's why, even though I was really young, I made progress quickly and my interest grew.

But you never neglected the piano.

No, not entirely. I enjoyed playing it too much. For me, it was a hobby, just like it is for other people. And maybe I needed it as a kind of outlet - just making music without thinking about a particular goal. That was just free time; I could play and practice whatever I wanted.

Were you able to take anything from the piano and apply it to the violin - or were they completely separate for you?

No, they go hand in hand. I started playing violin repertoire on the piano, for example. I learned the piano part to the Brahms [violin] sonatas, and from the Beethoven [violin] sonatas, too. That gave me a completely different perspective and helped me a lot as far as learning the harmonic and polyphonic structure of a work.

I learned the piano works by the same composers [whose works I played on the violin]. There are 10 violin sonatas by Beethoven, but 32 for piano. And I had played 12 of them before I learned the first sonata for violin. That made a lot of things easier.

This month, a new DVD is coming out showing a concert where you played Saint-Saens' Third Violin Concerto and Grieg's Piano Concerto. That sounds like a challenge!

Julia Fischer as a child, playing the violin

Fischer received violin lessons at a very young age

Yes, it was. That would be a challenge for anyone. But it was a one-time thing. I don't think I'll be doing that very often - especially not both instruments on the same day. Besides, it was kind of a way to save face - if I had only played the piano and it didn't go well, then the people would have had a bad concert.

I thought, if I play the violin too, then at least half of the concert would be good. (laughs) The point wasn't to prove that I could play both instruments on the same evening.

Was there a reason why you performed first on the violin, then on the piano?

It's very difficult to play the violin after you've played the piano because the violin requires more fine motor skills and less strength. It takes less muscle work - that's why the fine motor skills don't work so well after playing the piano. But, the other way around, playing the violin is a good way to warm up for playing the piano.

You're now a mother, as well as a musician. How do you manage it all?

How to combine family and career is a question that a lot of people ask. Not just me. Fortunately, it's very easy for me to combine them in my family. I think people have the most problems when they're not able to clearly define their priorities and don't make clear how important their career is and how important their family is. Once you've cleared that up, you don't have any moral conflicts. To be a balanced person, you have to recognize what's important.

Interview: Bjorn Woll (kjb)

Editor: Kyle James

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