Schoenberg; Sibelius Violin Concertos

Where Heifetz warily trod, Hahn strides to a triumphant performance

Author: 
Rob Cowan
Hilary Hahn - Schoenberg and SibeliusHilary Hahn - Schoenberg and Sibelius

SIBELIUS; SCHOENBERG Violin Concertos – Hahn

  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra

Some years ago RCA's ace producer Jack Pfeiffer told me how, every now and again, Jascha Heifetz would open the score of Schoenberg's Concerto only to close it again with a perplexed shrug. Years earlier Schoenberg had personally sent Heifetz the score and the reaction was much the same. Heifetz just didn't get it, but he did at least try. What I wonder would he have made of this magnificent recording by Hilary Hahn? When the last chord sounds its full stop, the sense of satisfied finality is exhilarating. Hahn has the full of measure of the piece, its gawky lyricism, ethereal filigree and cripplingly difficult cadenzas (awkward chords galore), all rendered seemingly effortless. Wisps of old-world Vienna echo from the Andante, whereas in a performance of this calibre the finale's complex acrobatics suddenly have musical meaning. Of course having a first-rate orchestra and conductor helps: Esa-Pekka Salonen's direction is in the very best sense of the term “slick”, a perfect example of musical badinage, alert, crystal-clear and superbly recorded. Which makes the CD mandatory listening both for lovers of the work who crave an appreciative performance and for doubters who still await conversion.

The Sibelius performance is fascinating but less wholly convincing although as with the Schoenberg Hahn weaves a seductive, evenly deployed tone and her technique is impeccable. But while in the Schoenberg you sense a palpable level of emotional engagement Hahn's approach to Sibelius is cool, sphinx-like one might say, the first movement's many solo passages broadly drawn but somehow remote. No violinist currently performing makes a lovelier sound and although time and again I would note some illuminating phrase (not to mention Salonen's immaculately groomed accompaniment) the sum effect is of a strangely cold beauty. But the Schoenberg performance is, as I say, magnificent.

Gramophone Subscriptions

From£64/year

Gramophone Print

Gramophone Print

no Digital Edition
no Digital Archive
no Reviews Database
no Events & Offers
From£64/year
Subscribe
From£64/year

Gramophone Reviews

Gramophone Reviews

no Print Edition
no Digital Edition
no Digital Archive
no Events & Offers
From£64/year
Subscribe
From£64/year

Gramophone Digital Edition

Gramophone Digital Edition

no Print Edition
no Reviews Database
no Events & Offers
From£64/year
Subscribe

If you are a library, university or other organisation that would be interested in an institutional subscription to Gramophone please click here for further information.

© MA Business and Leisure Ltd. 2017