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Elgar: Violin Concerto / Lark Ascending
Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Colin Davis
Elgar: Violin Concerto / Lark Ascending
Genre: Classical
 
  •  Track Listings (4) - Disc #1

This is an oddly cool performance of one of the most overtly sentimental--indeed, gushing--pieces in the violin repertoire. In an effort simply to present, rather than interpret, the music, Hahn seems to have gone overboar...  more »

     
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Amazon.com
This is an oddly cool performance of one of the most overtly sentimental--indeed, gushing--pieces in the violin repertoire. In an effort simply to present, rather than interpret, the music, Hahn seems to have gone overboard--she plays with little portamento and vibrato, she keeps away from the music's soul. All that having been said, the playing itself is faultless, her tone lovely, and by the last movement her virtuosity is truly impressive. The classic performance remains Menuhin's, but Hahn and Davis and his LSO have much to offer here. Vaughan Williams' gorgeous-if-sappy "The Lark Ascending" is played ravishingly, with more overt feeling than the Elgar, and again the LSO add greatly to the pleasure with the woodwind section--and clarinet in particular--shining brightly. --Robert Levine

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CD Reviews

Hahn Ascendant
C. Roe | bloomington, in United States | 10/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"While other reviewers carp about the Elgar Concerto as a flawed composition, I've always found it rather beautifully melancholic. Hahn is a superb technician (in the tradition of Grumiaux) and plays here with the flawless technique one also recognizes in her Bach recordings. Levine, in his review, faults Hahn for playing too "cool[ly]" in a piece known for its rather hot-house emotions, but I find her restraint, a quality found in all her recordings, noble in the Elgar. I've heard Hahn play this concerto in performance and found no difficulty experiencing the emotions Elgar recreates in his music, so, perhaps, that colors my listening to this disc. Yet one need only listen to the Lark Ascending to hear that Hahn has no difficulty communicating the rapturous emotion VW caught in this piece. No, Hahn doesn't gush as a player, but then, she produces such a beautiful tone through her faultless technique and lancet intelligence that gushing seems beside the point (and rather vulgar)."
Fine English Music
Brian F. Hudon | New York State | 10/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I have to admit that I own every Hilary Hahn CD and yet now, this one, along with her CD of solo Bach might be my favorite; but about the Elgar... Until this recording came along I thought I would own no other version than the 1949 recording with Jascha Heifetz. And now Hilary Hahn records a brilliant version of this somewhat "difficult to know" piece. Her playing perfectly matches the dark and emotionally wrenching Elgar concerto making it more accessible than it perhaps has ever been. The London Symphony Orchestra, as on the 55 year old Heifetz recording, is wonderful and shows why they are one of the finest ensembles in the world. And if the the Elgar is too dark, Vaughn Williams Lark Ascending brightens things greatly. Hilary Hahns playing is as light and as lovely as I have ever heard and soars just as the title of the piece suggests. This is sweet romantic music to listen to and daydream by with your eyes closed. This is a wonderful recording all around and worth repeated listenings. You will love this one."
Lyrical and Nostalgic (If you think it fits Elgar)
Al Au | Hong Kong | 11/19/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I did have great expectation on this recording as I think Hilary Hahn is definitely the best violinist to appear in the past 10 years as witnessed from her interpretation of Bach's partitas, Brahms, and Shostakovich. She is a rare instrumentalist in the present music scene with both flawless technique and remarkable interpretative power.

To review the present set, the most convenient comparison would be Kennedy/Rattle as this is a key digital era recording of Elgar (as mentioned by many reviewers here) and both discs pair it with Lark Ascending.

Hahn's entry is lyrical but restrained, definitely unexpected if you have heard her Brahms (that's why Amazon review writes "oddly cool"). And you expect the tension to build up but the atmosphere remain pretty the same in the final part of the first movement and even toward the end of the whole work. Though having a cleaner, more assertive and powerful tone than Kennedy, Hahn lacks the heat here. She is like a storyteller telling a story about a man and his destined to be in vain affection to a woman. But it is in past tense thus the mood is nostalgic. On the contrary, Kennedy thinks of himself as the hero of the story, his playing is intense with emotions keep pouring out. And along passages he can display unforgettable contrasts between painful love and extreme tenderness. This fits the spirit of the work when you think of Elgar's affection toward Alice Stuart-Wortley (the ..... and the soul being enshrined) when he wrote this music. Kennedy gives a more impressive interpretation here.

The key of playing Lark Ascending, in my opinion, is to deliver a soaring mood with beautiful tone color, especially in the high register. Hahn wins here with her clean intonation even though both play the work brilliantly. I also think that this piece somehow fits Hahn's character, at least part of her present persona. She likes to describe herself as a traveling violinist in her online journal (in this case I better use "A Flying Violinist"). So it is natural to see her expressing a yearning for freedom in the music.

After all, it is still a very nice recording to own.
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