CD Review: Hilary wins 

*****
click to enlarge Violinist Hilary Hahn
  • Violinist Hilary Hahn

I can't say whether Hillary will win the presidential election a year and a half from now, but Hilary (with one less "l") has already won my heart as the best interpreter I've ever heard of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 in A ("Turkish"), K. 219 -- bar none.  Hilary Hahn's recent CD release of the Mozart, coupled with Henri Vieuxtemps' Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 31 (1850), shows the 35-year-old artist at the top of her game. In this recording Paavo Järvi leads the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Dresden in lock-step with their soloist. 

It is enjoyable enough to hear the French Romantic's most popular foray into the genre when I hear Hahn's faultless playing of it.  But with the Mozart, when she enters -- after the orchestral intro -- on the tonic A from out of the "ether," climbs up and down the the A major chord and continues in lyric splendor, the effect is a musical epiphany unlike any previous performance/recording I've ever heard.  And that includes the late Arthur Grumiaux, who I formerly thought was unsurpassed and whom Hahn herself reveres.

Throughout Mozart's three movements, Hahn makes the reading her own, with subtle nuances of tempo as tasteful in execution as the 19-year-old composer's miraculous inspiration, after writing his first four violin concertos in the same year (1775).  The first movement sparkles with the iridescence common to many of Mozart's A-major compositions.  And, as with his No. 3 and No. 4 concertos, this one's E-major Adagio approaches the sublime in its lyric repose, with Hahn faultlessly meandering through it, wringing all the expressiveness from it that it can muster.

Then we have the "Turkish" finale in Rondo form, something like A-B-A-C-A-D-A-B-coda.  Part A serves as the main theme with B as a counter theme.  Part C jumps to F# minor in one of the few times Mozart enters this key. The fiery Turkish entry is part D, taking an A-minor dramatic turn, with the strings occasionally playing "col legno"--striking their strings with their bows.  All the while Hahn sails her way "above" each part of the movement, hovering over Mozart's small orchestra (2 horns, 2 oboes, strings) while "singing" away with her matchless tone.

The Vieuxtemps concerto is a less interesting work, with a larger orchestra and cast in four movements.  But I'll willingly listen to Hahn play any concerto in the repertoire.  She might consider recording Mozart's 4th Violin Concerto and couple it with Bruch's more substantial (than the Vieuxtemps) G-Minor Violin Concerto.

Amazon offers this CD new at $15.28 and new at $9.56 from a secondary source.  For what Hilary Hahn gives us, either price is a bargain.

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Tom Aldridge

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