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Hilary Hahn: Plays Higdon & Tchaikovsky Violin Concertos

4.2 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The two-time Grammy winning violinist releases the world-premiere recording of Jennifer Higdon's 2010 Pulitzer Prize winning concerto, paired with the popular Tchaikovsky concerto.

About the Artist

Hilary Hahn was born in Lexington, Virginia, USA, and moved to Baltimore in 1983, where she had her first violin lessons. In 1985, she began five years of study with Klara Berkovich who had taught at the Leningrad School for the Musically Gifted for 25 years before emigrating to Baltimore. In 1990, she entered the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia to study with 83-year-old Jascha Brodsky, the last surviving student of Eugène Ysaÿe. Alongside her solo work and a deep interest in chamber music, she has also collaborated with non-classical musicians and can be heard as featured soloist on the soundtrack of M. Night Shyamalan's film The Village, on the album Worlds Apart by Austin alt-rockers . . . And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, and on singer-songwriter-guitarist Tom Brosseau's latest album Grand Forks.
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Digital Booklet: Higdon / Tchaikovsky: Violin Concertos
Digital Booklet: Higdon / Tchaikovsky: Violin Concertos
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Product Details

  • Composer: Jennifer Higdon, Tchaikovsky
  • Audio CD (September 21, 2010)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B003YOMNCM
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,891 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mark Van Vlack on September 21, 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I would normally only talk in a review about my visceral observations of the performance as the Classical piece being played is often well known. This is surely true of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. However, since the Higdon Violin Concerto is enjoying its premier recording on this CD, it may be necessary for me to break my own rule this once.
The Higdon Concerto is done on a grand scale. It is modern in style (meaning you aren't going to be whistling it anywhere) but its subtle melodies are never obscured by the type of ugly discordance found in much of the non-romantic modern repertoire. The piece has a tremendous amount of power and energy that brought me many a smile on my initial hearing.
I also must say that if I did not have a hearing aid I would surely not have heard most of the beginning of the first movement as it is full of harmonics way above my age-onset hearing loss. The third movement is exciting, played at a breakneck pace that may have been inspired by Miss Hahn's performance of the Barber third movement. Jennifer Higdon was right when she said that it sounds like Miss Hahn plays the third movement of her (Higdon's) concerto as if she had six fingers! As for its beauty, you can judge for yourself. Music is felt in the soul and many parts of this piece touched mine.
As for Hilary Hahn's performance of both pieces she is in typically amazing form. The phrasing, tonality and technique in these pieces are flawless and inspiring. She has the refreshing ability to put the music above her virtuosity and turn the technically monstrous passages into beautiful and graceful compliments to the spirit of the piece she is playing.
Many have commented that the Violin in Tchaikovsky's concerto was not written in a "violinistic" fashion.
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Hilary Hahn, once again, gracefully proves her fearless and mature artistry through the daunting Higdon concerto and the very well-known Tchaikovsky concerto. It is clear that Hahn never settles for mere virtuosic ostentation. Turning away from the gaudy approach that many violinists take toward the Tchaikovsky concerto, Hahn delves into the music and interprets it in a restrained but most heartfelt manner. She doesn't wrestle with the piece; she dances with it and lets it speak for itself. The Higdon concerto is just wonderful. It captures Hahn's energy and artistic consistency very well. Throughout the two concerti, Hahn can be seen as either Athena in a tough battle shining with her wisdom and perfect control or a young lady in an idyllic landscape embodying purity and evoking nostalgia. Hahn's versatility is admirable.

It is, however, unfortunate that some listeners can't pick up this beautiful music in the noise of their prejudices. Some can't get over Hahn's physical youth and something as absurd as their own resistance to the Tchaikovsky concerto's popularity, to judge the music for what it is. I encourage you to listen to the music with an open mind and appreciate what Hahn has accomplished with this recording.
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Format: Audio CD
First of all, Jennifer Higdon's violin concerto -- of which this is the world premiere recording, played by its dedicatee -- is much the more interesting piece on this disc, and Hahn and Petrenko, with the Liverpool orchestra, give it a great workout here. The variety of the orchestral textures, and the ways in which, in all three movements, these are put into conversation with the solo violin (and at times other solo instruments from the orchestra) is constantly engaging to the ear. Hahn plays with great security throughout, and the DG recording captures her and the orchestra faithfully. The long first movement starts arrestingly and even playfully, and undergoes a variety of developments throughout its 19 minutes, ending with sounds reminiscent of the opening, but now seeming eerie or haunting. I should say that the musical language is resolutely tonal and accessible -- this isn't trivial music, but it isn't "difficult" either. For me, the opening of the slow movement is a highlight of the piece -- even before the soloist enters it seems one of the most gorgeous pieces of orchestral writing I've heard in a long time. The movement builds to two arrestingly distinct climaxes, from which the solo violin emerges hauntingly, and throughout the movement the writing for flute, cor anglais (or oboe?), and cello is beautiful. The solo violin in this movement is more part of the texture than in the other movements, and the overall effect is very impressive. The final movement is a short moto perpetuo, well carried off by soloist and orchestra, but not quite as engaging as the previous movements.

The Tchaikovsky coupling is securely played and sounds good -- but it's dull, and not just in comparison to Higdon.
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I've been meaning to write a review of Hahn's recording of the Higdon and Tchaikovsky concerti for some time, but have struggled to put in words exactly how I feel about the album. In a large part, this is because Higdon's concerto is so hard to describe. It isn't particularly strong on melody, but at the same time isn't particularly jarring, harsh or dissonant, and at times does slip into some tender melodies.

The opening movement starts slow and delicate before picking up the pace and taking on a tense, urgent tone, though the delicate early part does return a couple times. The orchestra surges as the pace and tension picks up, then recedes a bit as the gentler themes return. The second movement is more tranquil, and the piece finishes off with a driving pace in the (short) final movement. There's quite a lot of tone color, with different parts of the orchestra featured behind the soloist (even the glockenspiel, which I believe I played in elementary school music class). I really like what Higdon did here--it's an expressive piece with a lot of tone color that I listen to regularly.

I don't really know what to say about the Tchaikovsky concerto. It's not bad in any way, and the recording quality is good (in, fact there's good production values all the way around this disc, including on the Higdon), but I rarely listen to it. Again, I don't see any problem, per se, but I already have two other recordings I like (Josefowicz/St. Martin in the Fields and Heifetz/Chicago), and don't feel like I'm getting anything new with this version. I don't want to sound overly down on it, but I don't feel like it's a reason to buy the disc, though if your collection lacks the Tchaikovky, I doubt you will be displeased with this recording.
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