Schoenberg Violin Concerto Op.36/Sibelius Violin Concerto Op.47
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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
Top customer reviews
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.
A courageous Hilary Hahn and Esa-Pekka Solonen really crack this hard nut, the Schoenberg Violin Concerto, making it listenable music rather than what seems to be a collection of difficult 20th Century gestures, as it's often apt to sound. Their performance is better than the one by Amoyal and Boulez (Erato/Ultima), but perhaps not quite as good as the out of print classic account of Israel Baker and Robert Craft (Columbia LP). This last is more humorous than Hahn's more literal approach, but the digital recording of this new recording is certainly a great advantage in such complex music.
The performance of the Sibelius is good (especially the orchestral playing), but the Heifetz (RCA) is still best; he swaggers more in the finale, and has a fuller tone. Hahn is a bit detached and cool here, which is perhaps an influence of playing the Schoenberg. Salonen is excellent is delineating Sibelius' formal structures, but he also somewhat lacks passion.
Schoenberg A plus for clarity and intellectual passion
Sibelius B plus for clarity, but lacks passion.