Beethoven Violin Concerto; Bernstein Serenade for SoloViolin

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Beethoven Violin Concerto; Bernstein Serenade for SoloViolin

  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
  • Serenade

At first glance, this would seem a pretty strange coupling, yet by trailing the most Olympian of classical violin concertos with a semi-concerto based on a Platonic dialogue Hilary Hahn and Sony suggest their own quaint form of programming logic.
Musically, I have nothing but praise for this admirable enterprise. Hahn employs her sweet-centred tone with the utmost finesse, articulating clearly and sailing the first movement’s second set (at 5'25'') on a serene legato. David Zinman’s Baltimore accompaniment is smooth, unhurried and clear-thinking, especially around the movement’s centre: note, for example, how – from 8'52'' – he delineates the strings’ statement of the principal five-note motive.
Hahn opts for Kreisler’s cadenza and makes a special feature of the simultaneous projection of themes, broadening the pace then re-entering into the movement, as if caught in a trance. Her approach follows a recognizably ‘central’ interpretative thread, from Kreisler himself (best heard under Leo Blech), through Heifetz (under Toscanini) and Stern (under Bernstein): in other words, lyrical and unindulgent, though most definitely post-romantic. Not for her the more exploratory manner of Christian Tetzlaff (on an important – though domestically unavailable – Intercord/EMI recording under Michael Gielen that uses Beethoven’s autograph manuscript) or Gidon Kremer (under Harnoncourt), innovative players whose shared aesthetic is more in line with that of, say, the volatile Bronislaw Huberman. Hahn is an immaculate technician who favours a calculated though richly expressive approach to phrasing. She breathes considerable warmth into the Larghetto (again, sensitively accompanied under Zinman) and offers a crisp account of the finale. Of its kind, this performance will be difficult to beat.
Bernstein’s lovable 1954 Serenade – one of his most enduring works – draws on ideas from Plato’s The Symposium, principally those concerning love, and incorporates a sonata-allegro first movement, a tranquil Allegretto, a Presto that suggests (in Bernstein’s own words) ‘a blend of mystery and humour’, a gorgeous three-part song and a finale that looks sideways at On the Waterfront and forwards to West Side Story. Hahn’s agile though tender-hearted rendition lays claim to being the finest of all, and Zinman’s firmly focused conducting (witness the strings’ impassioned attack at the beginning of the finale) steals a subtle lead on Bernstein’s own. Both works are beautifully recorded. Very strongly recommended.'

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