Newport Music Festival – Francisco Fullano Bach’s Long Shadow

Francisco Fullano, who grew up on the Iberian island of Mallorca, stitched together a program in inspired by Bach on a 1735 Guarneri del Gesú ‘Mary Portman’ that was owned by Fullano’s idol Fritz Kreisler with steel strings and a more modern instrument with gut strings.  He began his July solo recital on the stage in the Newport Art Museum with Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D. Minor BWV 1004. The six movements with their repeats shone with his extra flourishes.  The Guarneri sounded bell-like, so clear as the Courante spilled off his bow.  There was no fourth wall in the room as he did not use a music stand for the Bach.  The Gigue expanded the joyful tone established in the initial Allemande. The Chaconne belonged to Fullano: fully expressive and rapturous as Bach can be.  Only the Rhode Island humidity disrupted the flow of the evening as he often needed to adjust the tuning of the fine instruments.  

After the Bach, he switched to his contemporary instrument with a darker sound for Korean-born composer Isang Yun’s Königliches Thema (King’s Theme) written in 1976.  The theme that rooted Yun’s piece was improvised and performed by King Frederick II for Bach. It uses all but one note in the chromatic scale.  Each variation of the theme relied on a serial technique. Yun was kidnapped from his adopted home country of West Germany in 1967 and sent to a Seoul prison for espionage. The torture and forced confession do not enter into the piece that worships at Bach’s feet. Yun’s mathematical feat of building on the variations was flashy fun in Fullano’s hands. He filled the corners of the room and exposed light with his unwavering up bow added to the contrapuntal line that mimicked a partita.

The Paganini Caprice No. 24 lived up to its virtuosic reputation in Fullano’s passionate playing. The Guarneri was his tool for digging into the edges of the showstopper.

The balance of the second half of the solo recital was weighted with Eugune Ysaÿe’s Violin Sonata Op. 27. No. 2 for Jacques Thibaud which Ysaÿe dedicated to the legendary violinist who performed with Pablo Casals and pianist Alfred Cortot  Ysaÿe’s six Sonatas were inspired by Bach’s six Partitas and each is dedicated to a different musician.    Sonata No. 2 began with the first bars of Bach’s Preludio from the E Major Partita, then Ysaÿe’s voice emerged with Fullano’s harplike plucking in the Sarabande, the 3rd movement. Two of Bach’s themes  – Dies Irae and Preludio – recur in the piece,   

The final Partita No. 3 in E Major BWV 1006 transported me. Fullano’s elegant playing on the Guarneri was precise and expressive. The winner of Austria’s 2014 Brahms International Violin Competition closed the program with a showpiece that displayed his virtuosic power, Fritz Kreisler’s Recitativo and Scherzo-Caprice, Op. 6. He played ferociously as if to give homage to his idol on the violin that Kreisler may have used during his 1910 premiere of the piece.

Fullano studied wth Midori at USC Thornton School of Music after studying at Juilliard. He received the Avery Fisher Career grant in 2018.  In 2018 he recorded the album Through the Lens of Time with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and conductor Carlos Izkaray.  In 2018 he was chosen as a CMS II artist in residency with Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center which has booked him for a Rose Studio Concert on October 24, 2019.  He’ll appear with the fine clarinetist David Shifrin and violist, Paul Neubauer. He will again play with Shifrin at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall on November 19th.


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