How Can Anyone Not Like This?
Moldyoldie | Motown, USA | 01/09/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is such sweet, evocative, and accessible music played so eloquently that I can't stop playing it -- this CD has been played twice a day here for the last three days! I'm familiar with Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto from the Kyoko Takezawa/Leonard Slatkin recording, a fine enough interpretation on a larger scale; but Hilary Hahn, just 19 when this was released in 2000, exudes such a cool objectivity and firm understanding of Barber's elegiac American expression that one can't help but be taken by it. Takezawa certainly allowed herself freer rein in much of the work's more emphatic and romantically inclined moments. Her tone also often took on a rougher, darker shade very reminiscent of Anne-Sophie Mutter -- I'm wondering if it's her or her instrument. Hahn, on the other hand, plays in a more controlled manner with perfectly judged phrasing, finely graduated dynamic adjustments, and absolutely superb intonation. (After having heard Hahn on a few recordings, I'm convinced this girl is well-nigh incapable of playing a bad note!) Nothing we hear draws gratuitous attention to itself except Barber's beautifully inevitable scoring and Hahn's impeccable, decidedly feminine realization of it. Another big plus here is the smaller, more intimate compound sonority of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra led by Hugh Wolff who provide the consummate accompaniment. As to the work itself, the first two movements are positively fetching, tuneful and sublime. However, I'm not all that enamored of the frenzied and seemingly disconnected brief finale; it's from a different world entirely, though certainly a virtuoso showcase for both soloist and orchestra. Hahn and the orchestra tear through it with aplomb and fine ensemble.
Edgar Meyer is a virtuoso double-bassist and composer from Tennessee who has made a name for himself in a variety of musical styles. His Violin Concerto was written for Hahn and here represents her first (and so far only) world premiere recording. The work is in two parts and is immediately accessible, blending a firmly tonal American minimalist sensibility with Appalachian folk stylings and even occasional allusions to neoclassical Stravinsky. It's a thoroughly charming and entrancing confection which complements the preceding Barber and is played by all concerned with a winning verve, commitment and convincingness."
J. Rich | 10/13/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm starting to come around to Hilary Hahn as a player. When I first heard her, I was put off by certain aspects of her playing, but now I've finally come to appreciate what she brings to the table. Her tone isn't as full as say Joshua Bell, Gil Shaham, Viktoria Mullova, or Anne Sophie Mutter, but her overall drive and determination put her in the same ring as these players and may very well surpass them. Technically Hahn is flawless and her performances are almost partly detached emotionally, which gives her a certain introspection not found in many of the violinists I've heard. Hahn is, without a doubt in my mind, a virtuoso with a bright future. Her playing is also very clear as she plays almost transparently where you can hear how defined the structure of the music actually is. She also seems to serve the music more than herself, which is an admirable trait in a soloist, especially of Hahn's caliber.
Hahn's playing on Barber's "Violin Concerto" is, without question, one of the finest I've heard and she's battling some stiff competition from Bell, Stern, Perlman, and Shaham. I can say she succeeds in outperforming these fine violinists. Her technique is flawless. I disagree with one reviewer who said the third movement "Presto" was bland. They must have been listening to another recording (probably Perlman), because she blew my mind with her rush of energy and amazing virtuosity. I'm almost convinced that this performance will not be bettered by any other violinist. Only history will tell now.
The Meyer "Violin Concerto" is actually not too bad of a piece of music as some reviewers would have you to believe. I have only listened to it once. Further listening will tell me how well I end up liking this concerto.
The conducting from Hugh Wolff is highly sensitive and overall very pleasing. He keeps up with Hahn which is no easy task for any conductor. She leaves most conductors scrambling for their baton. The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra also provide superb accompaniment. Highly detailed and only forceful when the music calls for it. The audio quality is also excellent. Sony, in more recent years, have perfected their audio engineering and this performance benefits from the SBM (Super Bit Mapping) technology.
I think this disc deserves the high praise it's received. Highly recommended."