Brahms, Stravinsky: Violin Concertos

Brahms, Stravinsky: Violin Concertos

4.2 5
by Hilary Hahn
Virtuoso violinist Hilary Hahn may be young, but she plays with the skill and polish of a seasoned pro. Here, on her fourth solo disc for Sony Classical, the 21-year-old navigates the many challenges of Brahms's "Concerto Against the Violin" (as one of the composer's contemporaries famously quipped) with seeming ease, bringing transparency


Virtuoso violinist Hilary Hahn may be young, but she plays with the skill and polish of a seasoned pro. Here, on her fourth solo disc for Sony Classical, the 21-year-old navigates the many challenges of Brahms's "Concerto Against the Violin" (as one of the composer's contemporaries famously quipped) with seeming ease, bringing transparency and intensity to the demanding work. Her tone is taut and well focused, her playing by turns fiery and lyrical but never sentimental. This is not a Romantic's account, perhaps, but it is one played with meticulous control, clarity of vision, and an attention-grabbing conviction. Stravinsky's Violin Concerto balances the program, and at first blush it may seem like an odd choice -- after all, the two concertos inhabit utterly different sonic worlds. But the Concerto's spry Neo-Classical style offers a pleasing palate cleanser after the richness of Brahms, and it complements Hahn's incandescent take on the Romantic's work surprisingly well. Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields accompany, achieving a lush, warm sound in the Brahms and a wiry crispness in the Stravinsky. This isn't Hahn's first thought-provoking program -- she paired Beethoven's Concerto with Bernstein's "Serenade" on one disc, and Samuel Barber's Concerto with one written for her by Edgar Meyer on another. And we can bet it won't be her last, either. Hahn is fast establishing herself as one of the world's preeminent violinists, and many more creative and ear-catching recordings from this rising star are sure to come.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Blair Sanderson
One of the most technically accomplished young musicians, Hilary Hahn is also ambitious. Performing Johannes Brahms' violin concerto at age 21 is a serious-minded choice, since this piece has acquired a reputation for being appropriate for mature artists. Hahn removes that dubious impediment by playing it on her own terms, with new ears, and by taking no heed of pretensions imposed on this masterpiece. All the fire and yearning are here, the chief characteristics of Brahmsian romanticism. However, Hahn has the intelligence and sensibility to keep her interpretation within classical bounds. Although she pushes the envelope just once -- her drawn-out cadenza in the first movement seems a little self-indulgent -- she maintains a high degree of control throughout. Her second-movement entrance, following the long oboe solo, is seraphic, perhaps the concerto's most moving passage. The finale is a pure delight, Hahn's shining moment as a virtuoso. Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields provide a radiant accompaniment to support Hahn's glorious tone. If balance is the rule here, then they are all playing from the same score. The sound of this performance is terrific, and the violin's central placement is natural and uncontrived. Igor Stravinsky's "Violin Concerto" is notorious for its demands on the soloist, who must grab awkward quadruple stops, octaves, and harmonics, yet make them seem effortless. This piece is well-suited to Hahn's skills, and still more to her classical instincts, since it is never expressively overwrought. It takes a considerable intellect to grasp the complexities entailed in the music's quirky changes and to make them cohere. Hahn has given a unified interpretation, even when the music seems to resist her by denying expectations at every turn. The work's wry humor never becomes sarcasm, though the proceedings get fairly heated in the first movement, where Hahn is most focused. She does the best she can with the enigmatic material of the second movement, which disconnectedly meanders between painful reflection and ironic commentary. The elegiac third-movement aria is poignant, yet austere, and challenges Hahn to convey emotion with detachment. The fast finale employs the most virtuosic passagework and displays the rhythmic dynamism that never failed Stravinsky. Hahn pulls it all off with great panache. Sound reproduction is excellent here, marred only by someone's audible exertions.
International Record Review - Julian Haylock
Rarely have I heard the Brahms Violin Concerto so commandingly played as here.... Sir Neville and the ASMF are on expert form, supporting Hahn every inch of the way, and the recording could hardly be more flattering in its combination of detail and warmth... [In the Stravinsky,] Hahn's effortless mastery (both technically and musically) of this notoriously demanding score leaves one weak with admiration. A classic account.

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Brahms, Stravinsky: Violin Concertos 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The wonderful Hilary Hahn has released yet another incredible albaum, combining the works of Brahms and Stravinsky. This is one of the most pleasing CDs to listen to because it combines technical wizardry with beautiful phrases and masterful style. After every CD release, Hilary seems to be improving by leaps and bounds. Both concerti possess that live performance quality (she plays both concertos with jaw-dropping precision and warmth in concert as well) and the listener feels like applauding at the end of each movement. I feel that she especially excels in the slow movements of each concerto; it is almost unbelievable that such a young person could convey her message and purpose with such warmth and drive. Even in some of the most technically difficult of passages, she never seems to lose sight of the musical line. Her Vuilluame projects incredibly well in the recording studio, and the orchestra does a wonderful job supporting the solo line. Bravo to the engineers, Sir Neville Marriner, and Hilary Hahn for producing such a magnificent fourth albaum. The liner notes, a major part of every one of her CDs, come to show people how intelligent and well-rounded a musician she trully is. It is my hope that she continues to produce better and better albums.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I must confess that I have no basis for comparison, since I am not familiar with other renditions of these two pieces. However, I must conclude after listening to this CD that you'd have to be stone deaf to miss the sensitivity and technicality of this rendition. The supreme synergy between Ms. Hahn, Sir Neville Marriner, and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fileds, together with the clarity of the production, is simply beautiful!
Guest More than 1 year ago
If the violin is the voice of an orchestra then Hilary is holding one of the best singers ever in her talented hands. The Brahms is the capstone of her recordings thus far. The Stravinsky is different enough to stand on it's own yet is the perfect partner for this disk. The diversity presented allows Hilary to explore her styles and delivery. If you are a long time fan or someone who's been wondering just how good she is, this is the disk for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a violinist myself, I must say that Hilary Hahn is an extremaly talented person. Technically, she is flawless, and as far as musicality goes- well, let's just say that she plays with an incredible amount of feeling. The first track is my favorite, and someday I hope I can play half as good as Hilary!
Guest More than 1 year ago
i'm sorry to break people's hearts, but this cd of the brahms stinks. anna-sophie mutter is so much better with the brahms. her bach cd is pretty good...she can get away with the bach, but when it comes to brahms...whoa...she needs to get a brain. hello, it stinks.