Hilary Hahn: One of the Greatest Violinist of Our Generation
goodmusicman | USA | 03/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First, let me just clarify what is included in this collection: you get three, factory-sealed CDs in their original packaging: 1) the Bach solo violin music CD 2) the Beethoven/Bernstein CD 3) the Brahms/Stravinsky CD. These three CDs come in their own special box, but they are each exactly as they were in their original release. This alone makes the set worthy from a budget perspective.
When I say "one of the greatest" in the review title, I mean one of the most enjoyable to listen to, virtuosic, and musically gifted. When I say "our generation" I mean of all young violinists on the scene today, not including the great masters of earlier generations (even those still alive). I also do not mean to detract from many other wonderful young violinists. There are many capable violinists on the scene today (see my later note below) and they all have unique qualities that they bring to their playing. All are worthy of our listening and all should be blessed with success (if that is possible!). What makes Hilary Hahn stand out, however, is her ability to make music which might otherwise be unappealing, extremely enjoyable to listen to. She has such a mesmerizingly beautiful and sweet tone to her playing, her intonation is so clear and smooth, and her virtuosity is often jaw-dropping.
Even if you are generally not a fan of the German repertoire, you will still find her recordings of the Beethoven and Brahms concertos very appealing. I have heard various recordings of both of these works, and Hahn's are, by far, the most enjoyable to listen to. You'll never hear a more bravura entry into the first movement, or a more thrilling final movement, of the Brahms concerto than Hahn's. Even Bach, which some people find boring, sounds so sweet and heartening in Hahn's hands, that you will find yourself listening to her Bach recording more than you would have expected. The same goes for the other two concertos, those of Bernstein and Stravinsky (the former "a concerto in all but name", the booklet notes tell us). Even if you generally do not enjoy modernist music (some people call it "scratchy"), you wil undoubtedly enjoy Hahn's exciting and virtuosic renderings of these works, which have never sounded better (except for Jennifer Frautschi's Stravinsky recording, which is better). In fact, her virtuosity seems to know no bounds; she can play at the fastest tempos imaginable, without missing a note or sounding in the least bit strained. (This quality is perhaps evident even more in recordings not included here, such as the Barber and Shostakovich concertos). She also always manages to have first-rate orchestral accompaniment in all her recordings.
Her playing never sounds "cool" or emotionally distant as some critics have alleged. She simply does not overindulge or wallow in the seriousness of it all, making her recordings vibrant, expressive, and heartfelt, without sounding overblown. We are lucky to have such a gifted violinist in our generation and we can only hope that she will go on to record all the major--and minor--pieces in the violin repertoire, achieving the huge success which she so rightfully deserves.
[Later note: For the sake of consistency, I must add that one other violinist currently on the scene has displayed as remarkable musicianship as Hilary Hahh, and that is Jennifer Frautschi. While this name may not be as instantly recognizable as Hahn's to some people, I highly encourage you to purchase her recordings of the two Prokofiev concertos, the Stravinsky concerto, or either of her other CDs. Her violin tone is different from Hahn's, but it is no less appealing to the listener. Ultimately, both Hahn and Frautschi are in a class all their own and violin fans must hear the recordings of both of them. Neither one will disappoint! Therefore, this set of some of Hahn's best recordings is a must for classical fans.]"
Not Hahn's best work on display
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 12/22/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"While Hilary Hahn lovers will enjoy this, I don't think this box represents her best work from the recording studio. The contents are:
-- Bach's Violin Partitas BWV 1004-1006.
-- Beethoven's Violin Concerto Op. 61 with Zinman/Baltimore Symphony.
-- Bernstein's Serenade "After Plato's Symposium" with same forces.
-- Brahms Violin Concerto Op. 77 with Marriner/ASMF
-- Stravinsky's Violin Concerto in D with same forces.
All these selections have been available individually for some time. They generally received good reviews although the Brahms and Beethoven warhorses compete with the best recordings ever made. I owned both and sold them, not considering them the equal to my favorite versions -- Bell with Norrington (Beethoven) and Kennedy (Brahms). They are not bad and Hahn fans will enjoy them.
The Bach is -- like everything this performer does -- romantically inclined, as is the Stravinsky. You'd have to judge your own taste to determine if a romantic approach will suit you in this music.
It's hard for me to understand why any box of Hilary Hahn's previous recordings would exclude her best one -- the Barber Violin Concerto under which she estblished her name in classical music. Here is musicmaking on the most grand scale -- exquisite, romantic and visionary -- with wonderful support by Hugh Wolff and a chamber orchestra. The recording was also banded with a far less well known piece by a modern composer.
This box is essentially for fans of the violinist that want her big warhorses in their collection and didn't get them when they first came out. That's fine if that's the goal but I don't think these performances compete with the best out there. That would be different if the Barber was included."