Chloë Hanslip – John Adams’s Violin Concerto

0 of 5 stars

The Red Violin – Chaconne
Enescu arr. Waxman
Romanian Rhapsody No.1
Tristan and Isolde Fantasia
Violin Concerto

Chloë Hanslip (violin)

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Leonard Slatkin

Recorded 11-13 December 2005 at Abbey Road Studio 1, London

Reviewed by: Rob Witts

Reviewed: February 2007
CD No: NAXOS 8.559302
Duration: 64 minutes

Coming to public attention as a heavily marketed teen virtuoso, Chloë Hanslip has emerged as a stunningly accomplished and thoughtful musician, and this excellent recording of John Adams’s 1993 Violin Concerto is proof. Simply put, this is the most persuasive performance I have heard on disc, finer than such established talents as Gidon Kremer (Nonesuch) or Leila Josefowicz (BBC Late Junction).

It’s a shame, then, that the rest of the music on this disc is so badly chosen. John Corigliano’s Chaconne (based on his music for François Girard’s film “The Red Violin”) is an unappealing mixture of schmaltz and noisy bombast. Franz Waxman’s arrangement of George Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody No.1 is a gossamer-light moto perpetuo confection, but seems pointless placed in the middle of the disc; Franz Waxman’s Tristan and Isolde Fantasia (also featuring pianist Charles Owen) is a bizarre Hollywood hack-job on Wagner that formed the climax to the 1946 Joan Crawford melodrama “Humoresque” (which featured violin solos courtesy of Isaac Stern).

John Adams’s concerto, however, is anything but showy: this is the composer at his most introverted, almost approaching at times the emotional world of late Ligeti, especially in the fifteen-minute first movement, as the soloist is threatened by a ceaseless surge of rising chords. Chloë Hanslip’s singing upper register initially floats serenely above this restless landscape but is drawn down into it and spins off into virtuoso passagework; the gradual transition of mood is beautifully handled, with real care lavished over every note.

The second movement ‘Chaconne’ enables Hanslip to display gorgeous tone in long-breathed melody. The steady accumulation of detail in the orchestral writing is clearly and movingly evoked, and the synthesised keyboard sounds blend nicely, giving just a suggestion of otherworldly shimmer. The recording balance is good, with the soloist prominent but not detached; this is especially tricky in the hectic finale, whose bluegrass fiddle figurations can easily be drowned by the band. The high-octane dialogue between Hanslip and the Royal Philharmonic players is thrilling, and Leonard Slatkin keeps things bowling along to the exciting conclusion; you can feel the buzz in Studio 1, Abbey Road as the final notes ring out.

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