Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No. 1

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Dvorak,Shostakovich,Weber
LABELS: EuroArts
WORKS: Weber: Overture to Oberon; Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No. 1; JS Bach: Solo Sonata No. 1, BWV 1001; Dvorˇák: Symphony No. 8; Slavonic Dance in C
PERFORMER: Hillary Hahn (violin); Berlin Philharmonic/Mariss Jansons
CATALOGUE NO: EuroArts 2050448 (NTSC System; DTS 5.1; 16:9 picture format)

This concert from the Suntory Hall in Tokyo is presented without frills: no commentary or other extras, just subtitles to identify each work and movement. The Oberon Overture takes a couple of minutes to get off the ground, but Jansons moulds an expressive performance, his batonless hands eloquent and fluid.
Hahn’s technical perfection in the Shostakovich would be hard to beat, but I found it difficult to hear much engagement with the music behind her scrupulous intonation and beautiful tone. In the opening Nocturne, her vibrato is unvaried, and there’s none of the strength of character that David Oistrakh brought to the music. The faster movements have a bit more grit but at the end of the Concerto, Jansons looks as if he’s been through the wringer, whereas she seems as cool as she did at the start, which says it all.
The opening of the final Passacaglia shows the Rolls Royce quality of the Berlin wind section, and they have many lovely moments, as a group and individually, in the Dvoπák Symphony. The camera is on Jansons a lot and he provides an object lesson in when to conduct the music, when to beat time, and how important the eyes are as a means of communication. He inspires a performance which is poised and genial, with an especially lilting third movement, and an exciting finale which leaves the Japanese audience clamouring for more. Martin Cotton