Short on quantity maybe (fifty-three minutes) this mostly impressive release is not wanting for quality.
The Poème by Paris-born Ernest Chausson opens arrestingly, potently, with dark lower strings creating atmosphere from which Hilary Hahn’s violin steals-in imploringly; not the most voluptuous tone if intensely expressive, leaving Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and Mikko Franck to paint pictures (shrouded in mist) while the violinist weaves a personal narrative; quite operatic at times if a little forced here and there.
At the end of the disc is Deux Sérénades (composed for Hahn) – ‘Sérénade pour mon amour’ & ‘Sérénade pour la vie’ – in which the late Einojuhani Rautavaara cannot disguise his Finnish heritage (not that he would have wanted to I’m sure) despite his titles being in French. Both pieces are cut from similar melodic cloth but are rather restricted (oh for a change of scene), enough to outstay their welcome despite the relative brevity of each. No doubting Hahn’s unstinting devotion though.
The centrepiece is the First of Prokofiev’s two Violin Concertos, world-premiered in Paris in 1923. Hahn and Franck now strike gold in a reading of edgy storytelling – a winter fairytale: footsteps in the snow, wind whistling eerily through the trees, shadows, sprites – contrasts of tempo and mood vividly relayed by her (hair-raisingly spiky and surreal in the second movement) and the orchestra, justly captured in the recorded balance: ear-catching bassoon obbligato in the Finale, 2’18”-2’45”. Deutsche Grammophon 483 9847.