Hilary Hahn – Paganini and Spohr

0 of 5 stars

Violin Concerto No.1 in D, Op.6
Violin Concerto No.8 in A minor, Op.47 “in modo di scena cantante”

Hilary Hahn (violin)

Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Eiji Oue

Recorded in October 2005 (Paganini) and February 2006 in the Berwald Hall, Stockholm

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: November 2006
CD No: DG 477 6232
Duration: 58 minutes

A sprightly and quasi-operatic orchestral introduction, a lengthy one, introduces Paganini’s D major concerto, a thoroughly enjoyable work full of tunes and show-stopping pyrotechnics for the soloist. Yet, for all that Hilary Hahn gives a technically immaculate account of the devilish violin writing – Paganini’s contemporaries believed him and Satan to be in league! – her triumph is that she makes music out of what can seem an endless parade of virtuosity.

Hahn’s affectionate shaping of the lyrical music and an imaginative flexibility to tempo brings the music alive in the most positive way; she invests the music with an intense and singing line and much characterisation – an opera for the violin. Eiji Oue and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra offer a lively and stylish accompaniment, one that dances with detail, and the work is completed by a slow movement of drama and a finale that is irresistibly playful.

Paganini’s concerto is reasonably familiar in the repertoire. Its companion on this disc is now rather less so, even though Spohr’s concerto ‘In the form of a vocal scene’ attracted violin luminaries of the past, not least Heifetz, who recorded it.

Like Paganini, the German Louis Spohr (1784-1859) was a violin virtuoso. Despite being in three (linked) movements, his A minor concerto is cast more as a fantasia with many vocal-like entreaties for the soloist; a lovely lyrical work ensues – one phrase might remind of “Some enchanted evening”! It may not be deeply memorable but it is certainly likeable and the stakes are raised by Hahn’s obvious affection for it; indeed her playing mixes the skills of the ‘modern virtuoso’ with an individuality that reminds of violinists of yesteryear.

With excellent sound, attentive accompaniment, and written notes from Hilary Hahn and Tully Potter, this is a very recommendable release.

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