186 of 192 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clearly she's among the giants
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...
Published on April 9, 2008 by D. Sills
15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The greatest Schoenberg - a bland Sibelius
I was not a fan of Schoenberg's violin concerto until I heard Hahn's version. She plays with astonishing technique, and Salonen is the right conductor for the job. The excellent audio quality also helped quite a bit. Personally, I would never consider another recording of the piece after listening to this one - it made me see music in it, whether previously I had only...
Published on December 9, 2008 by P. Cruz
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186 of 192 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clearly she's among the giants,
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. The orchestra, of course, could easily have ruined things; that they rise to the level demanded by such a superb soloist and conductor speaks volumes for their remarkable abilities. I look forward to hearing much more from them.
The Schoenberg Violin Concerto has finally joined the Piano Concerto as a major brainchild of the composer, not merely a respected but unheard stepsister. I know it's not quite so adventuresome, Hilary, but perhaps a Berg Concerto to go with this one? At the right tempi, which I know you (unlike so many) will find?
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revelatory,
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.
52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Schoenberg Violin Concerto,
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. No reason to expand on that subject as previous reviews have covered at length how well this recording succeeds on that level. I will voice a complaint about the recording which is that I wish the orchestra playing was a little closer in the mix, more of a close-mic sound. Schoenberg's orchestrations are rich and some of the inner detail of the part writing is lost here. But make no mistake, this is an otherwise beautiful sounding recording.
I look forward hearing the Sibelius but right now I just can't get past this wonderful Schoenberg. Bravo!
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime Sibelius,
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.
True it is that Ms Hahn's reading is slightly unorthodox, but it captures that quintessentially Finnish aura found in Sibelius' symphonies and orchestral works better than most other recordings. Her playing is of the highest order, the balance with the SRSO is spot on, and Mr Salonen's conducting is superb, revealing previosuly unheard nuances in the score.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Sibelius but the Schoenberg is the showstopper,
The same is true of the Sibelius. Here I felt Hahn's tone wasn't quite as distinctive or confident, but her freedom with the line is fascinating and again Salonen reveals tiny details in the accompaniment I'd never noticed before. (I don't own a score.) Hahn plays the most rhapsodic cadenza in the first movement I've ever heard, and the result is wonderful. Again, balances of violin vs. orchestra are perfect--one never intrudes on the other and we hear details that are often lost in this music in even some of the best readings. I'd recommend this disc highly to those who love either of these pieces, and I hope DG lets HH continue to record challenging repertoire like this instead of pushing her into yet another Four Seasons.
33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hahn, Schönberg, and the Greatest Violin Concerto...,
Ms. Hahn's brilliant realization of Schönberg's masterwork is absolute artistry of the highest order.
Mlle. Hahn has really done something remarkable here: she has deeply understood this piece not merely as an intellectual exercise, but sincerely as the profoundly moving passionately expressive work of art it is.
Hahn has illustrated trenchant insight here with crystal-clarity of vision.
She not only has the vast technical ability to execute the many challenges the work incorporates--(viz., pizzicato, double-stopping, glissandi, etc.)--but she has the maturity and psychic gravitas to appreciate the exquisite beauty of Schönberg's text.
She apprehends each section and passage--each phrase and sentence--and elucidates Schönberg's entire statement as a whole.
She reveals the singing, hyper-Romantic/Brahmsian melodies with great beauty while punctuating the echt-Modernistic dodecaphonic argument with precision.
The Swedish RSO also does an outstanding job with Schönberg's colourful and multifaceted score.
In addition: Ms. Hahn perfectly realizes the popular Sibelius Concerto. Methought I had wearied of the work through overexposure; well!--Ms. Hahn revitalizes the piece with thrilling panache.
In conclusion: this gracious lady is a genuine artist with extraordinary talent and prescient vision.
P.S.: there is a classic older reading by Zvi Zeitlin with Rafael Kubelik and the Bavarian Radio SO:
Berg: Violin Concerto; Schoenberg: Piano Concerto; Violin Concerto
Berg: Violin Concerto/Schoenberg: Violin Concerto
Schoenberg: Piano Concerto Op.42/Violin Concerto Op.36/Berg:Violin Concerto/Kubelik
Schoenberg (Master Musicians Series)
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grammy-winning Schoenberg? Surprisingly, yes,
In this album, though, Hilary Hahn proves that this need not be the case. While she certainly had to put in a grueling practice regimen in order to learn this monster of a concerto, the result is her groundbreaking interpretation of the piece, her impeccable technique, and her always perfect sound--she turns a mess of a piece, rarely played and even more rarely enjoyed, into a work of art, and the reception the album has gotten shows that people all over agreed that she has done the seemingly impossible: she has gotten people to warm to Schoenberg.
There are plenty of artists out there who play the old classic concertos and play them well. There are some who even attempt novel interpretations of the pieces in order to bring some variety to the repertoire. The truly great violinists, though, are those who offer something new. Hilary Hahn is not just a performer; she belongs to that upper echelon populated by those who give listeners something amazing and unforgettable, and this album proves it (again--remember her Stravinsky album?).
Also included is a performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto, for those who want a side by side comparison, not to contrast with the Schoenberg, but to showcase the similarities and to make clearer the hidden romantic depths within the piece.
This is a recording that must be in the collection of any serious listener.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical Schoenberg, Lost Sibelius,
As far as the Schoenberg goes, Hahn and Salonen meet these challenges unabashedly; it is the most well-controlled yet lyrical recording of this sadly underplayed masterpiece I know. Schoenberg's musical language--so difficult for so many listeners--is brought to life with remarkable clarity and, more importantly, treated with a lovely musicality that sings out the Romantic beauty of the work.
However, while Schoenberg's lyricism generally reveals itself in shorter bursts, Sibelius's is positively epic; and that's where this recording falls short. Despite admirable playing, neither Hahn nor Salonen seem to be able to stay on course in the Laplandian hugeness of this piece and often end up sounding somewhat lost in the expanse. (For a masterful and simply gorgeous performance of this work, I'd recommend Mutter/Previn on DG.)
Nonetheless, one could do far worse as far as the Sibelius goes; and, in any case, the Schoenberg itself is worth the price of the disc.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An impressive Sibelius, an accessible Schoenberg,
This review is from: Schoenberg: Violin Concerto / Sibelius: Violin Concerto op.47 (MP3 Music)The sole violin concerto written by composer Jean Sibelius is my single favorite piece of music. I've heard several recordings of it, from Jascha Heifetz (stunning) to Maxim Vengerov (disappointing save for a rousing finale), and any new recording excites me with the possibilities.
Hilary Hahn's recent recording of the Sibelius violin concerto, under the baton of Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, is nothing less than gorgeous. Her tones are pure, and she extends the slow parts, squeezing every last bit of emotion out of them. Salonen and the orchestra offer commendable support. In contrast, the violinists I've heard before this (all men, if that matters) seemed to be interested more in just hitting all the notes perfectly. Hahn opened a new door for me.
The Schoenberg violin concerto paired on the disc was written using the composer's pioneering dodecaphonic (or 12-tone) technique. Schoenberg himself pronounced it "unplayable" (with pride!), but Hahn gives it the old college try and manages to draw a discernible melody out of the dissonance. This is definitely the more challenging listen of the two pieces, but repeated tries are most definitely rewarded, especially for those interested in the history of modern classical music (Schoenberg is the undisputed progenitor of such phase, so I'm reserving judgment until I can get my head around it properly with a few listens. Also, I have no frame of reference, never having heard it before.
Twenty years ago, Salonen led violinist Cho-Liang Lin in a recording of the Sibelius violin concerto (paired with the violin concerto of Sibelius's fellow countryman Carl Nielsen) that has since become a classic. I have no doubt that this Hahn performance will achieve an equal level of respect over time.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Mastery for Modern,
Schoenberg's sole violin concerto is something like a Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit for violinists - a pinnacle piece only attempted by the fully-matured virtuoso. In this strange yet alluring modern work, Hilary Hahn shows she stands among the finer of today's big concerto players. She seems to have a well-studied approach and striking resonance for this music - as does the Swedish Radio Symphony orchestra - as she navigates the chromatic nuances, fascinating textures and daunting technical gauntlets of this unique score.
Regardless of what any of us today think of Schonberg's works, his compositional evolution has been a significant event in the history of music. This - along with the piano concerto - are a good intro point into the musical world of Arnold Schonberg. Mitsuko Uchida's release on the latter is superb and helped pull me into twelve-tone compositions.
Especially in the Schonberg, Ms. Hahn's astonishing virtuosity, intellectual maturity and beautiful synchronicity with the orchestra came across as a special event and pulled me into this otherly musical world. It would be a performance to definitely see in person. The orchestra is powerful and spellbinding. Gramaphone gave a strong nod of appreciation to this performance as well.
Jean Sibelius is considered the greatest symphonist since Brahms and the latter's influece for romantic ardour is heard in his sole violin concerto. Along with the symphonies, Sibelius's 1905 violin concerto is one of the most important works in Finnish music legecy. In spite of being somewhat of a failed violin virtuoso, Silelius gave us here a masterwork full of magnificant violin moments. The mid-movement candenza in the great first movement is a unique touch. Hahn approaches this hallmark piece with great mastery and beautiful tone. Her clarity and precision, as in the Schoenberg, is impeccable and deeply admirable. You sense complete confidence.
The sound quality is very good and brings out the fullness of these works - spacious, bright, detailed, balanced ... just right. Rightfully so, this weighty recording was nominated for two Grammys - and helped propel this marvelous musician into the coveted "Gramphone Artist of the Year" award in 2008. Compositions - 5; Performance - 5; Sound qaulity - 5.
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