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Posted October 1, 2010
At first glance seeing Hilary Hahn and Natalie Zhu on the cover of a CD of Mozart Violin Sonatas seems like a nonsequitor. Hahn is a very popular violinist but more closely identified with the big Concerto repertoire than with Mozart pieces. But with age comes greater appreciation of the early important works of the masters and that seems to be the case here (and who can forget her recording of the Bach solo sonatas and partitas?). Though more often heard in the scaled down sound of Mozart's period with the pianoforte substituting for the contemporary piano, here Hahn and Zhu find the beauty of tone and warmth of phrasing and textures that fits these sonatas very well indeed. The sound Hahn produces is absolutely glorious: she frolics through the playful A Major Sonata, K. 526, dances with the lightness of the G Major K. 301 and F Major K. 376 sonatas, and yet plumbs the sadness of the Sonata in E Minor K. 304. The two artists are perfectly paired and their years of collaboration clearly shine in this very clean recording. It is a welcome gift for Mozart's 250th birthday! Grady Harp
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Posted October 1, 2010
I had written an earlier critique of Hahn's Bach Violin Concertos which I had found to be somewhat forced and too cerebral for my tastes. I beg to differ with my enthusiasm for Hahn's interpretation of the Mozart Violin Sonatas.
For this listener, Hilary Hahn seems to be more appropriately placed as a chamber musician than as a virtousic concerti violinist. The reason for this is that Hahn's temperament is basically introspective and probing instead of spontaneous and adventurous. For example, Hahn's concerti recordings seem to be placed behind the virtousic talents of Mutter, Jansen, St.John, Hope and Repin in the manufacturers' discography. Since Hahn is less likely to place her personality before her performance, virtuosity takes second place to intellectual brilliance.
And it is indeed the cerebral calculation that works well with this recording. Her longstanding partnership with pianist Natalie Zhu reflects a self-effacing detachment from public attention, and instead, a lifelong affection for music as a participatory experience in small group settings.
For this reason, I believe, Hahn has drawn a loyal fanbase who appreciates the attention that she gives to the audience's experience of her music. She does this very well with the Mozart Violin Sonatas. And this is a recording that I will very favorably recommend. Great job, Ms. Hahn!