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Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto / Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No. 1
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Hahn blazes through the final pages with amazing energy, and at times it seems that Marek Janowski and the Oslo Philharmonic will be hard pressed to keep up with her -- but they do, winningly. The Mendelssohn is also engaging, if as some have noted, the coupling of these two concerti might seem a bit odd. (I confess that as a piece I prefer the Shostakovich.) Never mind. Here conducted by the excellent Hugh Wolff, Hahn brings out the poetry and melodic invention that makes this work so enormously popular. And it could be argued that its relative sweetness makes a nice contrast to the violence of the Shostakovich.
Sony's sound is very good -- no complaints. Hahn is rapidly mowing down staples of the violin repertoire and proving she is one of the best violinists around. If you like these pieces, here is a great opportunity to hear for yourself.
The Shostakovitch is probing. From the outset the violin tone settles into an otherworldly quality that suggests unspeakable tragedy. Moving through a searing second movement into the Passacaglia, Ms. Hahn, for all her beauty of tone and sensitivity of phrasing is let down a little by a relatively impotent orchestral brass section. I heard her do this concerto in Carnegie Hall with the Royal Concertgebouw orchestra and I so wish she had been able to do this recording with them. Their low brass opened the Passacaglia movement with a menacing snarl not even suggested here. That set off and contrasted perfectly with the sweet open tone of the violin, as it transformed the menace of the horns into the soul-wrenching soprano soliloquy Shostakovitch intended.
Hahn does her part but the Oslo orchestra or the recording does not. The burlesque however, makes up for any previous shortcomings and overall, I advise everyone to buy this SACD.
I have to admit I heard Vadim Repin (also a wonderful performer) and the Czech Philharmonic in Carnegie do this same concerto and Repin was similarly let down by the Czech Philharmonic as was Hahn by the Oslo Orchestra in the Passacaglia as compared with the Concertgebouw, so it probably wasn't the recording so much as the orchestra. Interestingly, Hahn was, and in this recording is, intense where Repin (that night, at least) was cool. I would have expected otherwise.
The Mendelsohn is truly sensational and the Shostakovitch very satisfying despite my quips about the orchestra. You really owe it to yourself to get this!
This is the best Mendelssohn Violin Concerto I have ever heard. Of the scores of times I have heard this work on record or in concert, none has come close to Hahn's combination of precision and passion. The extraordinary maturity of her musicianship reveals surprising depths to what is ordinarily an old warhorse. In addition to the solo performance, the orchestral support also surprised me with a power I never expected to hear in the Mendelssohn. The word "virile" came to mind, which I would never have associated with this work. But Hilary always soars with and above the orchestra. I played this recording for a musician friend and he was as excited by it as I was, and he too has since bought all her recordings.
I cannot recommend this recording more highly. I do not have enough familiarity with the Shostakovich to say anything about it except that if this recording contained only the Mendelssohn, it would still be worth it.
This would seem to work agaisnt her in the Shostakovich, which is dominated by the classic interpretation from Oistrakh, biggest of all big violinists. But Hahn makes something different of the Shostakovich First Concerto, turning her back on its very Russian black sorrow and biting irony. The orchestra still sounds that way, but Hahn herself becomes a lone voice of lyrical balm, and the contrast is very convincing. Oistrakh was such a powerhouse in the long cadenza at the end of the slow movement that every other violinist since has been tempted to try the same huge approach. Hahn is penetrating, gritty, and wiry instead--it's the only time she allows herself actual grit. Her finale is mercurial, more positive emotionally than the usual biting slashes one hears from everyone else.
The Mendelssohn is lightness and lyricism all the way, which means that Hahn misses many chances for depth and inward phrasing such as Menuhin famously found in his classic postwar recording with Furtwangler (EMI). Hahn's mercurial swiftness becomes pure delight in the very fast finale, and her feminine sparkle (I mean that as a high compliment) results in a captivating performance that holds one's interest from first to last. Highly recommended in both works.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Her solos in both concertos are absolutely incredible. I'm still trying to figure out how it's humanly possible to do the spiccato section of the Mendelssohn like she does. Read morePublished 29 days ago by Anthony Luo
I think that Hilary Hahn's playing is superb and I enjoyed all of the music on this disc.Published 4 months ago by Linda Lee
My favorite soloist, playing my favorite violin concerto! (the Mendelssohn) This young woman is among the top talents in the world. I love her work. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Hank
I really enjoy this CD. Very relaxing; Hilary is amazing!Published 14 months ago by Amazon Customer
Hillary Hahn, in my opinion, is one of the top five violinists in the world. That was why I purchased this disk even though I had copies of both pieces performed by other artists. Read morePublished on January 13, 2014 by Michael W. Graves