The Classics: February 5

Retrospective. Hilary Hahn (violin). Deutsche Grammophon 2 CDs

Hilary Hahn is undoubtedly a top-flight violinist: she made her first record at 17 (playing Bach) and has released a further 16 albums over a decade and a-half. She has also made an Oscar-nominated film soundtrack and won three Grammy awards.

Retrospective is a compilation of items from her past albums, plus three new live recordings  — Mozart’s Violin Sonata K379, Tina Davidson’s Blue Curve of the Earth and Max Richter’s Mercy — from a recent concert in Berlin. The first CD features movements from Bach’s Double Concerto BWV 1043, Mozart’s Violin Sonata in A major, and Paganini’s  Violin Concerto No.1. Following these delights is a truly immaculate performance of Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending — a gem of musical artistry!The second CD contains eight more works but, with the exceptions of Aria from Bach’s St Matthew Passion and Adagio from Henri Veuxtemp’s Violin Concerto No. 4, has a more modern flavour. These feature concertos by Jennifer Higdon, and Charles Ives, and short pieces: Godot by Hahn and  Hauschka, Two Voices by Muhly, and When a Tiger Meets a Rosa Ragosa by Du Yun.

The selections were played impressively by Hahn, showing great understanding and love of the music. She can play fast and strongly with ease, or show soft tenderness. She plays highest harmonics with absolute ease.  I have never heard a better version of The Lark Ascending and both discs have been beautifully engineered.

Opinion: Violinist’s impressive showcase.

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