I used mostly my ears

a blog about music by Marc Haegeman


Leave a comment

Hilary Hahn’s Mozart and Vieuxtemps

Wolfgang Mozart: Violin Concerto #5 in A Major, K. 219
Henri Vieuxtemps: Violin Concerto #4 in D minor, Op. 31

Hillary Hahn, violin
German Chamber Philharmonic, Bremen/Paavo Järvi
Deutsche Grammophon 4793956

Hilary Hahn plays Mozart and Vieuxtemps

Hilary Hahn plays Mozart and Vieuxtemps

Hilary Hahn never hesitated to bring unusual couplings in her discs. For her most recent Deutsche Grammophon release, combining Mozart’s Fifth Violin Concerto with Vieuxtemps’ Fourth, there is however a simple explanation. As she writes in the liner notes, she became acquainted with both concertos at a significant moment in her career. The Vieuxtemps was the last major piece she studied with Klara Berkovich, who had been her teacher for five years. The Mozart was the first she learned with Jascha Brodsky who had just become her professor for 7 years at the Curtis Institute for Music. Brodsky himself had been taught by Eugène Isaÿe, star-pupil of Vieuxtemps. She was 10 and ever since these works have been pillars of Hahn’s active repertory.

Perhaps it was this lifelong respect for the scores which kept her from giving their full due on disc. I heard Hahn perform the Vieuxtemps Forth in concert with the Berlin Philharmonic last year and if memory serves well it was a much more exciting performance than the one recorded here in the studio with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen (dating from August 2013). At least in the concert we didn’t have to wait until the final movement before imagination and expressive freedom join the trademark tonal beauty and technical mastery to kick the piece really alive. The preceding Scherzo with its leaden pace is underwhelming.

Paavo Järvi’s accompaniment is detailed but as often with him distant and bland. The Bremen ensemble sounds thin and cannot muster the necessary drama nor these dark tones which the music needs. It suffices to compare with Itzhak Perlman’s recording with the Orchestre de Paris under Daniel Barenboim. But then again they opted for a full-blooded romantic approach, while in Hahn’s case it never becomes clear which way they wanted to go.

The Vieuxtemps Fourth Concerto isn’t recorded much and as Hahn reminds us performing it is for most ensembles a discovery. It could have been a (re)discovery for us as well, but I for one rather stick with the old Perlman and Heifetz recordings.

The Mozart Concerto isn’t a big revelation either. The playing is vivid and attacks are firm (Allegro aperto), yet for somebody this long familiar with the work, in spite of the formal beauty, Hahn stays curiously outside of the music (Adagio). I don’t feel a real common sense of purpose between soloist and conductor. The Joachim cadenza in the first movement is performed with a romantic emphasis which doesn’t connect with the surrounding accompaniment. In the end you end up damning this whole period performance movement and the fallout it had on traditional orchestras. In the old days they might have over-romanticized classics like this, but at least everybody was on the same track.

Copyright © 2015 Marc Haegeman
First published on Classical Net (http://www.classical.net/music/recs/reviews/d/dgg793956b.php)


Leave a comment

Buniatishvili in London

Jean Sibelius: Karelia Suite
Edvard Grieg: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16
Antonin Dvorak: Symphony #7 in D minor, Op. 70

Khatia Buniatishvili, piano
Philharmonia Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
London, Royal Festival Hall, 7 April 2013

At first glance, the concert of the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Paavo Järvi at the London Royal Festival Hall on April 7 couldn’t have been further removed from the “blazing originality” label that the orchestra’s 2012/13 cycle at the Southbank Centre brandishes on its posters and programs. Sibelius’ Karelia Suite, Grieg’s Piano Concerto and Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony seem rather safe Sunday matinee fare instead. Yet with an electrifying Khatia Buniatishvili bringing insight and character to the Grieg, with an inspired maestro and above all a Philharmonia in tremendous doing, the concert was nothing short of revelatory.
Read the full review on Classical Net


Leave a comment

Khatia Buniatishvili’s Chopin

Frédéric Chopin: Waltz in C minor, Op. 64 #2 (B 164)
Sonata for Piano #2 in B Flat minor, Op. 35 (B 128)
Ballade #4 in F minor, Op. 52 (B 146)
Concerto for Piano #2 in F minor, Op. 21 (B 43) *
Mazurka in A minor, Op. 17 #4
Bonus Video: Warsaw – Paris (A short film conceived by and featuring Khatia Buniatishvili)

Khatia Buniatishvili, piano
* Orchestre de Paris/Paavo Järvi
Sony Classical 88691-97129-2 71m

Bunatishvili Chopin CD

Khatia Buniatishvili plays Chopin

Khatia Buniatishvili’s second solo CD is dedicated to Frédéric Chopin and continues in the same vein as her acclaimed solo debut which focused on Franz Liszt. The 25-year old Georgian pianist proposes a highly personal album again, with a handpicked selection of pieces that form a compelling ensemble of 70 minutes of Chopin music, linked by inherent themes like youth and nostalgia, love and death. As in her Liszt CD Buniatishvili’s pianism blends prodigious technique with a vivid imagination and instinctive musicality. By all means, it is a CD to savior slowly and gradually, because like some select wine it can hit rather heavily when taken in too quickly. When tasted with moderation however the rewards turn out to be so much bigger. Buniatishvili is a profound and intelligent artist, and evidently everything has been well considered, not only the choice of music but also the photos and the booklet essay. This may not be your everyday Chopin recital, yet it clearly comes straight from the heart with irresistible eloquence as well as tremendous skill.
Read the full review on Classical Net


Leave a comment

Southern Fire Against Nordic Cool

Benjamin Britten: Simple Symphony
Edvard Grieg: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16
Jean Sibelius: Symphony #1 in E minor, Op. 39

Khatia Buniatishvili, piano
Munich Philharmonic Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
Munich, Philharmonie im Gasteig, 28 April 2012

The German city of Munich boasts no less than three symphony orchestras of international stature. Next to the Bavarian State Orchestra (the former Bavarian Court Orchestra, now the opera ensemble) and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, it is however the Munich Philharmonic which is considered the true city orchestra. Founded in 1893, in recent times the Munich Philharmonic became mainly associated with Sergiu Celibidache, who was its influential general Music Director from 1979 until his death in 1996, and whose memory remains to this day very much alive – the legendary Romanian maestro even has a (smallish) square named after him next to the concert hall. As of 2012/13 Lorin Maazel will act as the orchestra’s Music Director.
Read the full review on Classical Net