Bach: Violin & Voice

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Works for Violin and Voice: Arias from BMV 32, 58, 59, 117, 140, 157, 158, 204, 205, 244 & Mass in B minor
PERFORMER: Hilary Hahn (violin); with Matthias Goerne (baritone), Christine Schäfer (soprano); Munich CO/ Alexander Liebreich
CATALOGUE NO: 477 8092

Hilary Hahn made an auspicious recording debut with Bach, and she has returned to the Kantor of St Thomas’s for a disc whose premise tantalises but whose execution proves a mite hard to digest. With potentially Rolls-Royce vocal accomplices she sets out to explore Bach’s love affair with the entwining voice and obbligato violin, bookending a selection of cantata movements from the Leipzig years with two arias from the St Matthew Passion (‘Erbarme dich’ obligingly available to Christine Schäfer thanks to Mendelssohn’s transposition), 
and including the Laudamus Te from the B minor Mass.
In theory it promises much, but everyone is so concerned with making a seductive sound it’s as if the music is being mined for nuggets of unadulterated beauty. Shorn of context, Bach’s intentions are twice compromised because in performance it’s as if instead of being integrated, the violin is often held up for appreciative inspection.
Of course there’s plenty to admire in Hahn’s warm, expressive if occasionally over-mannered playing, but everything sounds the same – and for all the incisiveness of the continuo, curiously old-fashioned. Schäfer and Matthias Goerne, a few discomforts aside, yield nothing to Hahn in beauty of tone but the result can often leave you gasping for air.Paul Riley