I used mostly my ears

a blog about music by Marc Haegeman


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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)


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Janine Jansen’s Tchaikovsky

Paul Dukas: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Pyotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35
Robert Schumann: Symphony #4 in D minor, Op. 120

Janine Jansen, violin
Orchestra dell’ Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome/Antonio Pappano
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, 4 March 2015

It was a packed and enthusiastic Centre for Fine Arts that greeted Sir Antonio Pappano, leading his Roman Orchestra della Santa Cecilia. Their visit guaranteed a notable Italian presence but of course music lovers in Brussels also fondly remember the glory days of the Monnaie Opera when Pappano headed it for some ten years before moving to London’s Royal Opera House in 2002. As it turned out, however, this evening it was Dutch violinist Janine Jansen who quickly became the focal point, delivering the most remarkable performance in an otherwise unremarkable concert.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Some Legends Never Die

Henri Vieuxtemps: Violin Concerto #4 in D minor, Op. 31 *
Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky: Manfred Symphony, Op. 58

* Hilary Hahn, violin
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Tugan Sokhiev
Berlin Philharmonie 31 May 2014

Hilary Hahn © Peter Miller/ DG

Hilary Hahn (© Peter Miller/ DG)

There is no doubt about it, catching the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in their iconic Philharmonie in their hometown, remains something of an event. Forget all the HD big screen broadcasts. Cliché but true: nothing beats the live experience. With a program described as “Two Symphonies, one with a soloist, one with a hero”, the Berlin Philharmonic under guest conductor Tugan Sokhiev and joined by violinist Hilary Hahn, offered a remarkable evening of undiluted romanticism. Neither Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony nor Vieuxtemps’ 4th Violin Concerto are works one would readily associate with the Berliners, but then again, lest we should forget, the orchestra has long since left the path of security and predictability when it comes to repertory choice. It’s with an unusual setup like this that an orchestra can demonstrate its versatility and strength. And that’s exactly what happened here.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Batiashvili’s Brahms

Johannes Brahms: Concerto for Violin in D Major, Op. 77
Clara Schumann: 3 Romances for Violin & Piano, Op. 22

Lisa Batiashvili, violin
Alice Sara Ott, piano
Staatskapelle Dresden/Christian Thielemann
Deutsche Grammophon 4790086 DDD 48m

Lisa Batiashvili

Lisa Batiashvili plays Brahms

The Georgian violinist Lisa Batiashvili teams up for her second Deutsche Grammophon disc with the Staatskapelle Dresden and its principal conductor Christian Thielemann in this new recording of the Brahms Violin Concerto. The 33-year-old Batiashvili has quickly established herself as one of the most acclaimed and sought-after violinists of the day. She holds the position of “Capell-Virtuosin” in Dresden for the 2012/13 season, emphasizing her special relationship with the reputed orchestra and while falling short of being revelatory, her Brahms nonetheless makes a fine stand among the many reference recordings available.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Two Souls from Mikhail Simonyan

Aram Khachaturian: Concerto for Violin
Samuel Barber: Concerto for Violin, Op. 15
Adagio for Strings, Op. 11

Mikhail Simonyan, violin
London Symphony Orchestra/Kristjan Järvi
Deutsche Grammophon 4779827 DDD

Mikhail Simonyan

Barber and Khatchaturian paired

Odd couplings of repertoire are not uncommon, especially with violinists (think of Hilary Hahn), and to our great pleasure young Mikhail Simonyan, too, newly signed by Deutsche Grammophon, comes out with the unusual pairing of Aram Khachaturian and Samuel Barber. “Two Souls”, as his debut concerto recording is dubbed, refers to Simonyan’s Armenian and American sides. Born in Novosibirsk in 1985 to mixed Armenian and Russian parentage, he spent his teens in the U.S. Playing the violin since he was five, he was already a multiple competition and prize winner before completing his studies at the Philadelphia Curtis Institute with Victor Danchenko, himself a pupil of none less than David Oistrakh’s. The choice of the Khachaturian Violin Concerto was in this respect not just an homage to his Armenian roots but also to the great Oistrakh who premiered the work. Interestingly, although worlds apart in style and spirit, both concertos are practically contemporary – 1939-1940.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Gergiev Reunited with Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw

Henri Dutilleux: Métaboles
Jean Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47
Sergei Prokofieff: Symphony #5 in B Flat Major, Op. 100

Leonidas Kavakos, violin
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Valery Gergiev
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, March 18, 2012

For being one of the world’s most sought-after conductors whose budding career moreover got a serious boost in the Netherlands back in the late 1980s with among others televised concerts, Valery Gergiev hasn’t been seen much at the helm of the country’s most illustrious ensemble, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. He got firm ground in Rotterdam, crowned by an annual “Rotterdam Philharmonic Gergiev Festival”, but Amsterdam has reportedly always been a love/hate affair. The short tour this March with a program of 20th-century music and concerts in Amsterdam, Paris and Brussels reunited the Russian maestro with the Concertgebouw Orchestra after a break of more than 15 years.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Inspired Programming from Salonen and the Philharmonia

Jean Sibelius: Symphonic Fantasy “Pohjola’s Daughter”
Esa-Pekka Salonen: Violin Concerto
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony #7

Leila Josefowicz, violin
Philharmonia Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen
Brussels, Center for Fine Arts, March 6, 2012

As part of the European Galas series hosted by the Center for Fine Arts in Brussels and the Flanders Festival, the Philharmonia Orchestra of London under its current music director Esa-Pekka Salonen brought a remarkable evening, covering no less than two centuries of music. Starting with Jean Sibelius’ rarely heard Pohjola’s Daughter from 1906, they fast-forwarded us to 2009 with Salonen’s own Violin Concerto, before bringing us back to 1813 with the Beethoven Seventh. And although these compositions might as well have originated on different planets, rhythmic drive is a prominent feature in all three. By juxtaposing Beethoven with contemporary music, Salonen replicates his “Beethoven Unbound” project from 2005/06 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Inspired concert programming like this is all too rarely found, and it’s still most welcome.
Read the full review on Classical Net