The Classic FM Q&A: violinist Julia Fischer

22 September 2015, 09:43 | Updated: 22 September 2015, 10:37

The wonderful German violinist first shot to the attention of the music world when she won the Menuhin Competition in 1995 aged just 11. But, as she explains, one of her proudest achievements is a performance not on the violin – but on the piano…

What’s your earliest musical memory?

My mother playing the piano – she always practised when I went to sleep as a child, since I was born. My entire childhood was her playing piano in the house.

So why did you choose to take up the violin?

I wanted to play the piano – I never actually wanted to play the violin because my mother was a pianist and my brother played the piano. It was actually my mother who thought it would be nice to have a change in the family so I took violin lessons – but I was very pushy and insisted that I also wanted to play the piano.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone trying to make it as a solo musician?

I don’t think that you can try to make it as a solo musician – you’re a musician or you’re not and it’s up to destiny which path you will take within that. To a certain degree you’re either a soloist or you’re not – you can’t choose to be one.

Is there something you wish you’d been told while you were training?

Not really because I had excellent teachers and I had great people round me. Some things I certainly had to figure out myself but I think even if I’d been told those things I wouldn’t have believed them anyway!

Which recording or project are you proudest of?

Probably I’m most proud of the Grieg Piano Concerto because I was soloist on the piano and not on the violin! It’s certainly not my best recording but it’s the one I’m most proud of.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

Actually there have been many things but most memorable are the two competitions I won – the Menuhin Competition in 1995 and the Eurovision Competition for Young Instrumentalists in 1996. There were great concerts and awards and CDs and everything after that, no question, but those two competitions really put me on the road that I’ve taken to this day.

Is there a recording you’d like to do again and perhaps do differently?

No, because I know that I always put 120 per cent into every recording and if for some reason I put on the radio and I heard one of my recordings by chance (I would never ever put on one of my own CDs) of course basically every moment I would think “maybe I should have done this or that”, but not in a bad way. I was a different person when I recorded it so I performed differently. Sometimes I listen to something I’ve done three months ago and I already have a different opinion. But it’s not that I don’t have respect for what I did earlier.

What’s the most exciting thing you have coming up?

In January I’m on tour with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields with the first performance of a violin concerto that a friend has written for me – that’s always exciting.

Finally, which composer – past or present – would you like to go for a coffee with and why?

That’s a tough question – all of them! Probably it would be one of the Romantics – maybe Schumann – I really want to know about Schumann.

The Menuhin Competition London 2016 takes place 7th-17th April 2016. Today, 22 September, you can hear the first prizewinner from 1989, Joji Hattori, and last year’s Junior prizewinner 15 year old Ludvig Gudim, perform with the Orpheus Sinfonia in London's Temple Church. Visit the Menuhin Competition website for more details.