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Stunning Sibelius-but Schoenberg is the revelation
on 29 March 2008
Since her first recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto coupled with Bernstein's Serenade, Hilary Hahn has continued to surprise with her choice of couplings. The Sibelius concerto with the Schoenberg is no exception.
The Sibelius is well established in the Violin rertoire. It has been well served with recordings by, amongst others, Heifetz, Kyung-Wha Chung, Mutter and most recently by Lisa Batiashvili. All are are prime recomendations. To this one must now add Hilary Hahn with her brilliant technique, and delightful musicality. Her phrasing is a delight to the ear. Salonen and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra's sensual accompaniment is equally well recorded. There is something fresh here even for those, like me, whose shelves are overstocked with this concerto.
However, it's the Schoenberg that's the biggest revelation. The history of this concerto is one of neglect. Heifetz, no less, complained about its unplayablilty saying it needed "a violinst with six fingers" (Schoenberg's reply was that he'd "wait"). The work has lacked a major champion since. And the few performancies I've heard left me unconvinced, even feeling allergic to it.
Until this recording, that is. In the notes, Miss Hahn expresses her enthusiasm for the piece. The love shows through in the playing. Her ravishing tone makes the Schoenberg Violin Concerto lyrical and dramatic. The twelve-tone serials (clearly explained in the booklet) that grated come across as beautiful and sensual instead of cold and analytical. For the first time, I felt moved and even charmed instead of frustrated after listening.
It's possible that the Schoenberg will never be to everyone's taste. Even if that is the case, it will never have a more persuasive advocate than Hahn. The beast that defeated even Heifetz's formidable virtuosity has finally been tamed.