Five minutes with Julia Fischer

Finding five minutes in which to interview Julia Fischer was quite a feat.

Thinking we would take advantage of her being over in London for a couple of concerts, we contacted her record company Decca to arrange a meeting. An internationally renowned soloist is always going to have a busy diary and hers turned out to be no exception.

Julia was only in London for a couple of days and had no spare time outside of her rehearsals and concerts. So after many emails flying backwards and forwards between agents and Decca employees in the UK, Germany and the US, we finally managed to schedule a slot – in the car on the way to the airport. We would meet Julia at the artist entrance following her final concert and go with her to Heathrow, from where she was catching a plane back to her native Germany.

Julia Fischer is pretty extraordinary. For her latest album, released last month, she recorded Paganini’s Complete Caprices. She was only ten when she learnt and performed her first Paganini Caprice – No.17 - and she’s made her way through the majority of them since then, so she only had to learn a couple from scratch for the album. Even so, we were surprised to hear that it took her only four days to record them all, considering their fiendishness.

Julia also released a DVD last month, featuring a concert in which she plays Saint-Saens’ Violin Concerto No.3 and Grieg’s Piano Concerto – yes, the solo parts in both. There have been few leading solo artists who have performed on two instruments, yet Julia performed two concertos, one on the violin and one on the piano, in the same concert. Julia began the piano first and says she took up the violin mainly because her older brother played the piano, and so her family “thought it would be nice to have some variety”.

We wonder how Julia manages to find the time for both instruments, and whether her piano and violin teachers encouraged her to focus her attentions on one instrument when she was growing up, but she says they were happy that she played both.

Julia’s teachers were right to have confidence in her time management skills. She has managed to juggle a constant stream of rehearsals, concerts, planes and hotels since an early age. Is there something or someone that’s kept her sane amidst the whirlwind? “Myself”, she replies. She doesn’t like relying on other people and is highly organised. She’s had to be even more so in the last year, since the birth of her son.

She’s performed in all the great concert halls and with most of the great orchestras around the world and recorded much of the great violin repertoire, and she’s still only 27 years old. It’s difficult to know what’s left for Julia to achieve, short of taking up the cello and recording all the solo parts of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto herself. She’s so ambitious that you never know…