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Schoenberg Violin Concerto Op.36/Sibelius Violin Concerto Op.47

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Audio CD, April 8, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Hilary Hahn is an American Grammy Award winning violinist. This album features the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Violin Concerto, Op.36 Composed by Arnold Schoenberg and Violin Concerto in D minor, Op.47 Composed by Jean Sibelius. She has an online journal of her life as a working classical violinist busy on the concert road. As Hilary puts it 'a nomadic musician - a modern troubadour'.

Few would argue that Schönberg's Violin Concerto makes for easy listening. Its angular expressions, weird, heavenly decoration and the long solos that seem designed to maim the violinist can be, simply, too much. Hilary Hahn, on this new CD, plays the work as if it were an outgrowth of Romanticism (which it is), rather than the start of a musical revolution (which it also was) and the result is lyrical, songlike, and, well, Romantic. Yes, the 12-tone thorniness is clear, but each melody makes sense not only within itself, but throughout the whole concerto. If the first movement puzzles, the Andante sounds practically like a Viennese Waltz and the finale is not only like a feat by a virtuoso, but a culmination. This is the most approachable performance of this work available. The Sibelius concerto gets a fine if unusual reading. Hahn plays it with a Nordic coolness; the first movement's long melodies have less passion than the listener will be accustomed to and even the finale, normally played with somewhat of a bellicose nature, comes off without much heat. But it certainly cannot be faulted as sheer gorgeous playing and neither can Esa-Pekka Salonen's accompaniments. -- Robert Levine
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Product Details

  • Performer: Hilary Hahn
  • Composer: Sibelius, Schoenberg
  • Audio CD (April 8, 2008)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: DG
  • ASIN: B0011WMWUW
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,270 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

204 of 210 people found the following review helpful By D. Sills on April 9, 2008
Format: Audio CD
I'm absolutely astonished with this recording. I'm an old string player with a doctorate from the Manhattan School of Music and I have studied the Schoenberg Concerto for years. I know firsthand just how difficult it is (you literally have to learn a new way to finger some passages, using your ring finger and not the pinky for the highest notes because the ring finger can reach farther up on lower strings!).

But the difficulties are not only technical: the piece is VERY romantic and it's EXCEPTIONALLY hard to bring that to it. I never hoped in my lifetime to hear a recording of this concerto as natural and lyrical as this one. Hahn has captured perfectly the atmosphere and drama of the piece. This could easily do for the Schoenberg Concerto what Isaac Stern's recording of the Berg Concerto did for that work.

My amazement is made the more so by the fact that for years I resisted even listening to Hahn's recordings: too young, couldn't be ready for the works she was performing. When I finally did condescend to hear her, I immediately bought everything she had ever done. She's a superb performer (she and Janine Jansen are arguably the two most musical young violinists on the scene today; and Jansen has shown no signs of being nearly as adventurous).

But when I heard she had recorded the Schoenberg Concerto, I have to admit that even with that background, I was skeptical. The work is just too much - it's tempting to think that it's too much for a human being. I'm glad I never gave in to thinking that: now I know it isn't true. This recording is amazing!

About Salonen little need be said: everything he touches turns to gold.
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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Erik Tarloff on May 25, 2008
Format: Audio CD
The Schoenberg violin concerto is widely admired and widely studied, but it isn't much played, and it's never been much loved. This is partly because of the huge technical hurdles it presents fiddlers, but also because it isn't especially easy to bring off musically; in this regard it is unlike the piano concerto, say, which is far more accessible, and which offers up at least some of its beauties simply by being played accurately. I've heard most of the violin concerto performances previously committed to disc and never found them very pleasing; the soloist always seems to be eating his spinach like a good boy. As a consequence, I've always taken it to be one of Schoenberg's more rebarbative works, like the thoroughly unpleasant wind quintet. But Hillary Hahn has located the romantic soul of the piece --- she seems to see in it a kinship to a work like the Brahms concerto --- and delivers a performance that is not only technically thrilling but also very moving. It has fundamentally changed my opinion of this concerto; the score's mastery no longer feels predominantly theoretical, but rather, is characteristic of Schoenberg's masterpieces, big, generous-hearted, romantic.
The Sibelius performance is impeccable as well, but good performances of that very popular piece aren't so hard to come by. The Schoenberg is the reason to buy this CD.
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54 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Jack Jones on April 21, 2008
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The first thing I want to say in regards to this recording is, thank you. I've waited for a new recording of the Schoenberg Violin Concerto for years and Hahn/Salonen/Swedish RSO present near perfection. The previous reviews already cover a lot of ground and I'll try not to repeat too much.

Schoenberg is feared, his music "unapproachable, sterile, mathmatical." I say no. I've been an active Schoenberg fan for nearly 20 years. I love Bach, I love Beethoven. Schoenberg in many regards is following in that tradition, his music an extension or continuation of what they and Brahms and Wagner were doing with chromatic harmony and the formal structure of their music. Schoenberg simply took it one step further. I think the difficulty listeners find when approaching Schoenberg is following the melodic line. In my opinion there is no doubt it is trickier than tonal writing at least because, for the most part, tonal music is what we are familiar with. It takes effort for the listener to get used to this but the reward is a world of sound not available in tonal music.

I don't get overly caught up in how Schoenberg used the 12 note system (and whatever label you choose to apply to it). I hear the music as personal expression. He was, to my ears, a romantic composer, looking for ever more harmonic color and a master of counterpoint. At his best his music could be described as "hyper-romantic." For two examples other than his Violin Concerto, his Piano Concerto packs plenty of emotion as he describes leaving 1930's Germany behind and adjusting to California and his new life, and his Variations for Orchestra (see the Karajan version) presents simply HUGE romanticism.

As for the recording at hand, transcending music theory and making music that speaks is its strength.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A. Argyropoulos on June 3, 2009
Format: Audio CD
This review doesn't touch on the Schoenberg - almost without exception, all other reviewers praise Ms Hahn's recording of it, and I agree with them completely. It's the reaction to the Sibelius which fascinates me: very divided, with more tending to be negative. Too bland, cold and detached. I strongly disagree.

The Sibelius has always struck me as structurally disjointed, particularly the first movement. Musical ideas appear and subside, half-developed, with little sense of architecture. It was only when I heard the original version of the concerto, recorded (on BIS) for the first time by Greek violinist, Leonidas Kavakos, that I understood how these disparate ideas were in truth connected when originaly woven together. The substantially revised version of the work (invariably heard today) pared much of the music back to its stark raw material, which familiarity has helped us to smooth over.

Ms Hahn's reading of the work restores that greater sense of unity found in the original version. She achieves this by avoiding sudden extremes in mood and tempi. Her arcs are smoother and longer, allowing the musical ideas room to breathe, to evolve naturally from one to another.

Many ears find the result lacking in romatic fire and disappointing. On the contrary, Ms Hahn's reading is intensely brooding and contemplative in the first movement, wonderfuly melodic in the second, and naturally rhapsodic in the third. Her playing throughout is never harsh or forced, but radiant and lyrical. Which is not to say she never plays with fire: listen to the 2 notes that open the cadenza in the first movement at 7:15-7:20. They strike terror in me every time I hear them.
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Schoenberg Violin Concerto Op.36/Sibelius Violin Concerto Op.47
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