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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Arnold Schoenberg; Jean Sibelius - Violin Concertos (Hilary Hahn)


Composer: Arnold Schoenberg; Jean Sibelius
  1. Schoenberg - Violin Concerto, Op. 36: 1. Poco allegro
  2. Schoenberg - Violin Concerto, Op. 36: 2. Andante grazioso
  3. Schoenberg - Violin Concerto, Op. 36: 3. Finale: Allegro
  4. Sibelius - Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47: 1. Allegro moderato
  5. Sibelius - Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47: 2. Adagio di molto
  6. Sibelius - Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47: 3. Allegro, ma non tanto

Hilary Hahn, violin
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

Date: 2008
Label: Deutsche Grammophon



Where Heifetz warily trod, Hahn strides to a triumphant performance

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.

-- Rob Cowan, Gramophone

More reviews:


Arnold Schoenberg (13 September 1874 – 13 July 1951) was an Austrian composer, leader of the Second Viennese School. Schoenberg was known early in his career for simultaneously extending the traditionally opposed German Romantic styles of Brahms and Wagner. Later, his name would come to personify innovations in atonality that would become the most polemical feature of 20th-century art music. In the 1920s, Schoenberg developed the twelve-tone technique, an influential compositional method of manipulating an ordered series of all twelve notes in the chromatic scale.


Jean Sibelius (8 December 1865 – 20 September 1957) was a Finnish violinist and composer of the late Romantic and early-modern periods. His music contributed to the development of a feeling of national identity in Finland where he is now celebrated as the country's greatest composer. Sibelius is widely known for his seven symphonies, the violin concerto and the tone poems, especially Finlandia and the Karelia suite. Throughout his career, the composer found inspiration in nature and Nordic mythology. He almost completely stopped composing after 1920s and did not produce any large-scale works in his last thirty years.


Hilary Hahn (born November 27, 1979) is an American violinist. In her active international career she has performed throughout the world both as a soloist with leading orchestras and conductors and as a recitalist. She also has built a reputation for championing contemporary music. Several composers have written works specially for her, including concerti by Edgar Meyer and Jennifer Higdon. She has released 16 albums on the Deutsche Grammophon and Sony labels, in addition to three DVDs, an Oscar-nominated movie soundtrack, an award-winning recording for children, and various compilations.


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