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Paris (Hilary Hahn)

Hilary Hahn (violin); Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France/Mikko Franck (DG)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Chausson: Poème, Op. 25; Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 1; Rautavaara: Deux sérénades
Hilary Hahn (violin); Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France/Mikko Franck
DG 483 9847   51:31 mins

Hilary Hahn praises the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France as one where ‘emotion is embraced rather than exaggerated’, and the disc is an embodiment of this crucial virtue. I also savour her reference to the ‘measured brutality of Prokofiev’s writing’, this as well amply present in her reading of his First Violin Concerto. She admits it’s technically difficult, though you wouldn’t know it as her poise and silvery tone survive unscathed. In the second movement it’s interesting that where Maxim Vengerov in his 1995 recording follows Prokofiev’s instruction to play the passage on the bridge con tutta forza, with the result that pitch is at times endangered, Hahn does not go so far, perhaps regarding this as exaggeration. Both interpretations are surely feasible.

The Chausson Poème is a joy from start to finish. For the most part rubato is strictly limited, with the one exception of the 25-bar solo passage at fig.4 which has, at least from the 17-year-old Menuhin’s 1933 recording, and probably before that, been treated as a fantasia with a marked accelerando towards the end. Hahn is not afraid to play a true pianissimo when called for, with no loss of tone, nor is she fazed by Chausson’s stratospherics – the part spends much of its time way up above the treble stave.

The two Serenades by Rautavaara, dedicated to her, have moved away from the gritty dissonance of his writing in the late 1950s, when he was still under the influence of his lessons in America with Copland and Sessions that had introduced him to serial ideas. These two gently reflective pieces, the orchestration of the second completed by the composer’s pupil Kalevi Aho, often recall the music of Sibelius.

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Roger Nichols