New York Times
Isabelle Faust adopts a perspective on music in which ever-new experiences and discoveries are the principal focus. Having founded a string quartet when just eleven, her early chamber music experiences imbued in her a fundamental belief that performing is a process of giving and taking, in which listening is just as important as expressing your own personality.
Victory at the 1987 Leopold Mozart Competition, when she was just 15, brought with it the prospect of a solo career. However, the guiding principles instilled in her as a chamber musician remained strong. In Christoph Poppen, the long-time first violinist of the Cherubini Quartet, Faust found a teacher who shared and fostered these musical convictions. Whether performing sonatas or concertos, Faust constantly sought dialogue and the exchange of musical ideas. After winning the 1993 Paganini Competition, she moved to France, where she grew to love the French repertoire, particularly the music of Fauré and Debussy. Here she came to international attention with her first recording - sonatas by Bartók, Szymanowski and Janácek - and gradually refined her command of the most important works in the violin repertoire.
In 2003, Faust released her first recording of a major Romantic work for orchestra, the Dvorák Violin Concerto. Having first performed the concerto at the age of 15 under Yehudi Menuhin, the work has remained a mainstay of her repertoire. Her 2007 release of the Beethoven violin concerto also reflects her immersion in period performance practice - not interpreted dogmatically but used as a challenge and incentive to re-assess the substance of every note, in order to comprehend its purpose and meaning. For Faust, the ultimate importance of musical dialogue necessitates establishing a common language between performers, enabling artists to perform a Mozart concerto with an ensemble such as Concerto Köln as convincingly as with a large symphony orchestra.
It is precisely this willingness to open herself up to different musical idioms that has made Isabelle Faust a highly sought-after performer of contemporary music. The list of composers whose works she has premiered extends from Olivier Messiaen to Werner Egk and Jörg Widmann. She is a fervent proponent of music by György Ligeti, Morton Feldman, Luigi Nono and Giacinto Scelsi, as well as of forgotten works, such as André Jolivet’s violin concerto. In 2009 she premiered works dedicated to her by composers Thomas Larcher and Michael Jarrell. Faust can be heard with her duet partner, the pianist Alexander Melnikov, in searching renditions of the chamber music repertoire in recordings for harmonia mundi. For their recording of the complete Beethoven sonatas they received the “Choc de classica”, the “German records Critics’ Award” and the “ECHO Klassik Award”. Her latest solo recording of the Partitas and Sonates by Johann Sebastian Bach was decorated with the “Diapason d’Or Arte” among others.
Increasing numbers of orchestras and conductors have come to appreciate Faust’s artistry in recent years: Claudio Abbado, Charles Dutoit, Daniel Harding, Heinz Holliger, Mariss Jansons, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Munich Philharmonic, the Orchestre de Paris, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Orchestras and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra are a few examples of the fruitful artistic partnerships that have emerged in recent years. These musicians and ensembles have all come to appreciate Faust’s artistry: rather than merely mastering her instrument and its repertoire, experiencing and deeply exploring music lies at the heart of her work.
Isabelle Faust performs on the 1704 “Sleeping Beauty” Stradivarius on loan to her from Germany’s L-Bank Baden-Württemberg.