Originally published on September 23
If it’s not the most persuasive performance of the Dvořák, Hilary Hahn’s assumption of it is certainly distinctive – intense, strong-willed, fiery – and you can take the virtuosity for granted, with the highlight being the slow movement, very expressive and soulful, her bow digging into the strings. The Finale has its ma non troppo qualification recognised and is certainly articulate as a result if a little hidebound. Andrés Orozco-Estrada and the Frankfurt Radio musicians accompany well, quite detailed, although the recording is a little inconsistent regarding balance (Hahn sometimes too much in the picture) and perspective, the acoustic spacious and quite resonant.
Also included is Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy, recently recorded by Hadelich, http://www.colinscolumn.com/recuerdos-augustin-hadelich-records-violin-concertos-by-britten-and-prokofiev-with-wdr-sinfonieorchester-and-cristian-macelaru-for-warner-classics/, for which Hahn is vivid, shall we say, creating a cast of characters, reasonably enough for an opera-based showpiece, and she is probably close to the sort of showmanship and embellishment that might have informed Sarasate’s own playing.
The prize is (Argentinean) Alberto Ginastera’s half-hour Violin Concerto, given its premiere in 1963 by Ruggiero Ricci with the New York Philharmonic and Leonard Bernstein. It may be “almost unplayable”, says Hahn – she has of course mastered it – but it is also a fascinating listen as well as intriguingly designed: an opening cadenza (of five minutes and quite Bartókian) and six Studies; an enigmatic Adagio for twenty-two soloists; and a final ‘Scherzo pianissimo e Perpetuum mobile’, including a very brief Paganini reference. I knew Ginastera had written a Violin Concerto but only now do I get to hear it: it’s a great piece – colourful (including bongos and tom-toms), sometimes dark and mysterious, and scenic and fervent – and a fabulous performance from all concerned, and better recorded (different venue) to the other Concerto here. DG 486 2383 is released on October 7.