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Tchaikovsky, Higdon: Violin Concertos / Hilary Hahn

Release Date: 09/21/2010 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 1469802  
Composer:  Peter Ilyich TchaikovskyJennifer Higdon
Performer:  Hilary Hahn
Conductor:  Vasily Petrenko
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

HIGDON Violin Concerto. TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto Hilary Hahn (vn); Vasily Petrenko, cond; Royal Liverpool PO DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 00289 477 8777 (68:16)

Hilary Hahn recorded Jennifer Higdon’s Violin Concerto, which the composer wrote for her, in May 2009 (she had recorded Tchaikovsky’s concerto in November of the preceding year). Its general harmonic palette may be broad, but Higdon’s colorful orchestration and the often lyrical Read more writing for the solo instrument make it consistently comprehensible and ingratiating. The first of its three movements, “1726,” alternates rhythmic skittishness, brash outbursts, and ruminative passages. The solo part intersperses dramatic gestures, fevered passagework, and spiky double-stops that would challenge any soloist. If there’s occasionally a sense of notes spinning wildly, that may arise from the rapid figurations being loosened from tonal moorings. But passages of cantabile relieve them. Sparse, delicate textures often accompany these, and such timbres bring the movement to a quiet close. The slow movement, “Chaconni,” opens with a plaintive woodwind passage, into which the lower strings timbres weave themselves, creating the sort of ambiance (although less firmly tonal) featured in the woodwind section of Roy Harris’s Third Symphony, which so strongly recalls wide open plains—or at least Western movie music. In this movement, the solo pours out long-breathed melodies and commentary in the upper registers. Orchestral outbursts interrupt the generally reflective mood, but the movement, as does the first, ends quietly. The brief finale, “Fly Away,” keeps the soloist moving and brings the work to a kinetic conclusion. Once again, the orchestra often accompanies the soloist’s peregrinations with bright, high-pitched sonorities. Hilary Hahn seems to have mastered the concerto’s massive difficulties; and, appearing where the engineers have placed her—toward the rear-middle of the soundstage—her tone emerges confidently and always suavely. Whether her championship of this work will inspire others to take it up remains to be seen, but adventurous listeners should find her authoritative reading both a pleasure and a challenge.

Tchaikovsky’s concerto, which Hahn notes she first encountered as a student in Auer’s truncated and tweaked version, appears here in its original form. Hahn makes the most of the violin’s opening passage, taking the kind of time that Mischa Elman took to luxuriate in its tonal splendor. And while she seems to dote fondly on the thematic passages, and even some of the technical ones that follow, the relaxed tempos at these moments don’t seem to result from struggle (if Heifetz seems wound as tight as a spring, Hahn seems as loose as a goose) nor does it seem that her decisions spring simply from a desire to achieve individuality through willful caprice. The orchestra plays stormily in the tuttis (ratcheting up the tempo just before the cadenza), but the engineers have guaranteed that little if any detail gets lost. Hahn takes time to reveal unsuspected and even startling expressive possibilities in the cadenza, some of which may not be entirely welcome to all listeners, for they collectively could have the effect of robbing the passage—and in general, the movement—of the kind of forward motion that Heifetz, Oistrakh, and even Elman—all of whom in a way owned the concerto for a time—imparted to it. After a simple, unaffected reading of the slow movement, Hahn launches into a version of the finale that, as in the first movement, includes some very personal rhythmic nuances, but nevertheless sounds virtuosic and tonally resplendent.

Those who warm to Hahn’s individual approach to Tchaikovsky’s concerto and those adventurous enough to explore her reading of Higdon’s brightly lit concerto should find in this recording much to enjoy or to ponder. Recommended most strongly to those sorts of listeners.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 35 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  Hilary Hahn (Violin)
Conductor:  Vasily Petrenko
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Russia 
Concerto for Violin by Jennifer Higdon
Performer:  Hilary Hahn (Violin)
Conductor:  Vasily Petrenko
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 A GRAND CONCERTO September 19, 2012 By Kenneth Kittell (Manassas, VA) See All My Reviews "I have been listening to the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto for a little over 50 years. Over those years I developed a liking for those artists who put a life into the piece. Ms. Hahn has endowed the piece with not only life but a grand style. She never ceases to amaze me, the complexity of the piece is handled with precision and no hesitancy; it flows from her. This performance has become my favorite, of the many versions I have. I cannot reccomend it enough." Report Abuse
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