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Bach: Violin & Voice

4.5 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Audio CD, January 12, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

To the vocal lines of arias and duets, Bach composed gorgeous violin obbligati. In this novel album, Hilary Hahn records these obbligati exclusively - an act of devotion no other virtuoso violinist has ever committed to disc. Sharing this album with Hahn are soprano Christine Sch fer and baritone Matthias Goerne, both also renowned Bach exponents. Numbers from such masterpieces as the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor are rendered with an unearthly beauty and a reverence that add to this recording's historical significance. In truth, this album features not two but three singers - Hahn elicits from her Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume tone as sung by a golden voice.

Review

"Hilary Hahn is a formidable musician. She astonishes audiences in performance after performance and recording after recording with her superb technical prowess, refined good taste and intuitive musical understanding . . . she is able instinctively to combine a highly assured virtuoso ability with a deeply thoughtful engagement with the score . . . this technically awe-inspiring, wonderfully imaginative violinist . . ." -- Gramophone Awards Issue, London, November 2008
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Product Details

  • Performer: Matthias Goerne, Christine Schafer
  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Audio CD (January 12, 2010)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B002SSZ7E6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,066 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Erik Ketzan on March 5, 2010
Format: Audio CD
With so many artists re-treading the same ground in classical music-- endless recordings of the same popular warhorses, especially by violinists-- Hilary Hahn is charting her own path. First, these are not overly-recorded pieces: a couple selections from the St Matthew Passion and Mass in B Minor, plus a bunch of cantatas. Second, no other recording of these pieces (I listened to a bunch for sake of comparison) sound anything like Hahn's-- she places the violin and voices front and center for this recording, regardless of where Bach's sheet music and previous recordings place them in the orchestral mix, and that's a great thing. Third, Hahn continues her musical journey with this album, applying her signature style (clean, fast, crisp... dare I say, American?) to music that's never been recorded with that kind of violin sound.

In sum, this is new music. Which is exactly what classical music needs.

Baritone Matthias Goerne and soprano Christine Schäfer are stellar. Hahn shines. It's a great album. Looking forward to Hahn's recording of Jennifer Higdon's violin concerto.
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It was Hilary Hahn's idea to create this unique concept album that juxtaposes violin and voice in a set of widely varied Bach arias and duets with solo violin. There is no questioning the credentials of these fine musicians, particularly in the realm of Bach interpretation, and they deliver an outstanding recording that merits many repeat listenings. Some may argue that this grouping of "soloists" with continuo accompaniment results in a lack of uniform style, but historicity and conventionality notwithstanding, the balance is quite pleasing and musical.

The sheer variety of Bach works on this single album is remarkable, including selections from the St. Matthew Passion, cantatas both sacred and secular, and the Mass in B Minor. One is hard-pressed to identify outstanding tracks, but some of my favorites include "Gebt mir meinen Jesum wieder," "Wann kommst du, mein Heil?," "Angenehmer Zephyrus," and "Erbarme dich." The "Erbarme dich," probably the most well-known work on the album, is particularly poignant in its curious blend of austerity and sentiment.

When listening to this recording, one might not be able to decide whether it sounds old-fashioned or distinctly new. The best description probably includes both aspects. Whether you are new to Baroque music or have long appreciated it, you can't go wrong here. This recording is a true gem.
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I bought this CD on recommendation from my fellow reviewer Mr. Ogan, had high expectations, and have not been disappointed. Great idea, and overall fine execution, although with some differentiation.

Matthias Goerne is easily worth 5 stars, with his warm, expressive, smooth voice that goes so well with Bach. Christine Schaefer overall also delivers a fine performance, although at times her soprano sounds a little thin, in particular in "erbarme Dich" (which, in all fairness, has been written for a deeper, fuller alto voice). Hilary Hahn plays beautifully, very clean, with marvelously intelligent phrasing. Sometimes I wish though she would dare to adopt a bigger tone, in particular when paired with Goerne.

The weakest part, in my view, is the Munich Chamber Orchestra, which often provides little more than a shallow backdrop to the soloists, rather than emphasizing the counterpunctual lines that Bach has also written into the orchestra score. Maybe it is also suffering from what appear to be rather dry acoustics.

Bottom line: 4 stars (not everything can be 5), and a must for Hahn-, Goerne- and Schaefer-Fans.
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BACH VIOLIN AND VOICE, with Hilary Hahn (violin), Matthias Goerne (baritone), and Christine Schafer (soprano), accompanied by Munchener Kammerorcheter, conducted by Alexander Liebreich, is a compilation of arias composed by J. S. Bach. Aside from one or two of these pieces, Ms. Hahn's violin part is distinctly in the background. In only one or two of the pieces, Ms. Hahn's violin part is closely miked. In other words, this product is mainly a showcase for the baritone and soprano, who are always closely miked. Thus, I might infer that the prominent place of Ms. Hahn's name and photograph on this product is mainly because of her intellectual input in how the music was played, and also as a marketing tool. Of course, Ms. Hilary Hahn is an established Bach scholar, as demonstrated by her infinitely superior recording of the Bach Concertos (infinitely superior to the recordings by Elizabeth Wallfisch). The Wallfisch recordings with Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment are lugubrious, and lack the springiness that is characteristic of Ms. Hahn's recordings of Bach.

THE PIECES. There are twelve pieces, all between about three minutes and seven minutes in length. For some of these, the melody is distinctive, and I liked these the best. The lead violin part (Ms. Hahn) is prominent really only for BMV 205, BMV 157, and BMV 58. Flute is prominent really only on BMV 157.

(1) BMV 244 (2 minutes, 59 seconds). Brisk, brash, and stately. The stateliness is provided by the deep-throated cello section. This features the baritone, who does plenty of singing using this sound, "Eee-eeeee-eeeeeeee-eee."
(2) BMV 140 (5:44). Soprano plus baritone. A slow tune with an optimistic sounding tune, not mournful. The singers seem to be having a conversation with each other.
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