Hahn, Marriner on Sony Classical

0 of 5 stars

Violin Concerto in D
Violin Concerto in D

Hilary Hahn (violin)
Academy of St Martin in the Fields conducted by Sir Neville Marriner

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: March 2002

A unique coupling I think and not as questionable as might be first thought. Both concertos are in the same key; Brahms looks to Hungary for his gypsy finale; Stravinsky’s Russian spirit intercedes his concerto’s neo-classical tag: try the ’tang’ of the violin and oboe interchanges from 1㤘”-1㤡” in the opening ’Toccata’ – fiddle and accordion music!

The tempo for this first movement is faster than adopted by anyone else I know, but as marked; the hair-raising difficulties for soloist, orchestral solos and overall co-ordination are brilliantly solved, Hahn not resorting to Mutter’s ’swoops’ (DG). The recording is pinpoint-sharp and equably balanced unlike Perlman/Barenboim (Teldec) or EMI’s for Vengerov/Rostropovich, which laud the soloist. Marriner’s precise conducting and his players’ virtuoso and vivid response to syncopation and rhythmic point brings to the ’Toccata’ a suggestion of player-piano origination in its mechanical sophistication – but in ’real’ terms.

Both middle movements are termed ’Aria’. The first emerges from Hahn as over-fractious – it’s so easy to de-humanise Stravinsky – but the second is deeply-felt without mawkishness, seamlessly lyrical. The final ’Capriccio’ returns to the high spirits of the opening; the quick tempo reduces the opportunities for witty asides but doesn’t compromise either articulation or quick reflexes – high-wire stuff! Returning to Krzysztov Smietana’s Philharmonia Orchestra recording, with Stravinsky’s close assistant Robert Craft conducting, is to hear something almost slow-motion in comparison, yet there seems more musical character (Musicmasters 01612-67195-2). Swings and roundabouts.

If Hahn’s interpretation of the Stravinsky obliges itself on collectors, the Brahms isn’t quite so imposing. It doesn’t get off to the best start with an ’unrelated’ edit at 0㤝”. Marriner’s opening is traditional in tempo and outline, and while Hahn brings heroics and poise to her first entrance, her broad approach is familiar from so many other readings. What distinguishes Hahn, apart from her formidable technical skills, is the passion and declamation she brings to the music, and also the love with which she shapes the more lyrical and private episodes. She may have little original to say, but hers is an uninhibited reading given within an appreciation of classical decorum, which instils a musical shape and sensitivity to overall direction.

Emphasising her sense of custom, Hahn opts to play the cadenza that Joachim wrote at Brahms’s behest – Joachim gave the premiere and advised Brahms on the solo part; again it’s the ’usual’ choice but it’s encouraging that Hahn is relying on her own re-creative talents rather than novelty. This is a fresh and compelling reading that scores high on bravura and intense communication for its success – qualities that Hilary Hahn has in abundance.

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