HH, viol; Cory Smythe, p.
Violinist Hilary Hahn is not only an extremely talented musician, she is a generous one, and on none of her recordings more than this, her latest, one. This is an album of encores, but not the standard warhorses --Kreisler, Paganini, etc.—rather, all modern composers.
The result is a list of composers I, and probably most other listeners, have never heard before. Of these twenty-seven composers, for instance, I knew of three, and of only one, David Lang, do I own other recordings. She selected the composers herself, and then contacted them to commission a short piece from each of them. For the twenty-seventh piece, she conducted an on-line contest: the submissions were listened to blind –with no indication who had written them- before the winner was selected.
This is resolutely modernist music but of many shades and hues, from lyrical and reflective to angular and jarring. I doubt that any other violinist today could have undertaken such a project –Gidon Kremer, perhaps, but Hahn is a much more complete violinist than him and her talents are necessary to cause such a disparate palette of offerings to cohere together as a singular entity. She has superb technique, her tone is always what it needs to be –it soars! She is, in addition, mature beyond her age, able to tackle all kinds of good music and make them sing.
If there is any drawback to this project it is that, because all of the pieces are short -- the longest, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh’s “Impulse”, runs minutes—mood, tempo and timbre are always changing in this record. The composers’ voices change quickly and often. At times, it feels like listening to a sampler record, rather than immersion in the musical vision of one or two composers. But this is brilliant music. These pieces aren‘t to be found elsewhere on record and they deserve to be –they’re of uniformly high caliber. And Ms. Hahn plays as eloquently here as she has on any of her many fine recordings. What a treasure she is!
I haven't written anything about pianist Corey Smythe and I should have. He's brilliant.