- Violin Concerto, Op. 36
- Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47
"First impressions can be hard to shake," writes Hilary Hahn in her personal notes to this album, adding, "They can also, in music as in life, be misleading." Right on both counts. And more to the point, what better theme to tie together these two very different violin concertos? Hahn's interpretation of both works has deepened over the years, as she details in her account, and her premise will strike a chord with many listeners, especially those who have struggled to come to terms with Schoenberg's challenging music. Schoenberg certainly did his part to deter audiences: After he completed the 1936 concerto, he claimed that he was delighted to contribute another "unplayable" work to the repertoire and wrote that it is "as difficult for the head as it is for the hands." Well, Hahn takes Schoenberg's bluster and calls him on it, finding deep veins of expression in the 12-tone score and carrying off its technical demands with panache. If Hahn can't change your mind about this music, no one can. The Sibelius concerto, on the other hand, is another story: Once heard, one can't help but love this lushly melodic late-Romantic work. Hahn allows how as a youth she was puzzled by its shifting moods, but she has clearly found her way, discovering (in her eloquent words) "an exquisite, nostalgic beauty, laced with hope, that undergirds the work's extraordinary power." It's not a sentimental performance, but neither is it without moments of gorgeous, heart-melting lyricism. Esa-Pekka Salonen coaxes rich sounds from the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in the Sibelius, while the ensemble shines brightly in Schoenberg's coruscating orchestration.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Hahn's Schoenberg is nothing short of amazing. No previous performance of this work has ever revealed its beauty. I had always regarded it as an intellectually interesting but basically ugly piece of music. Part of her secret is her absolute technical mastery of the piece. Something else is present that must have resulted from very careful study and experience with the piece by Ms. Hahn. The Sibelius is excellent but no better than several other versions of this popular concerto. This is a must buy for anyone that has a Schoenberg collection or for someone that would like to get to know the composer's atonal music.
Everything about this recording is top-notch. As the review says, if Hahn can't bring you 'round to liking the Schoenberg work, no one can. This is a flawless release, with passionate and competent performances by both Hahn and the orchestra. The presentation of the Sibelius concerto is lush, warm, and emotive. But the Schoenberg concerto is the real triumph here. Hahn takes this angular, jagged work and smooths out its edges, making the piece fun, enjoyable and infinitely listenable. She and the orchestra capture the fire of Schoenberg's convictions and realize his vision probably more pefectly than has ever been done. This recording is proof positive that the 12-tone system didn't necessarily (or at least always) turn out music that is off-putting. Challenging, yes. But in the right hands, and both Hahn and Salonen are those, Schoenberg comes alive in new and exciting ways, and his music becomes accessible. The sound quality of the recording is rich, with a great deal of clarity and depth. I can't praise this CD enough. Its a revelation.