WORKS: Violin Concerto
PERFORMER: Hilary Hahn (violin); Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Neville Marriner
CATALOGUE NO: SK 89649
Strange bedfellows, these concertos share only the home key (D major) and certain correspondences between the way the two composers engaged with the soloists for whom they were writing – which is perhaps why Hahn’s perfectly eloquent booklet notes dwell on the historic background at the expense of what the music’s about. What she doesn’t report is that Stravinsky didn’t think Brahms’s Concerto among his best works, which is why he determined to avoid the classic models. Interestingly, similarities rather
than differences are stressed in the performances: natural musical instincts support unusually fast speeds as Hahn glides neatly on from Brahms’s finale to Stravinsky’s opening Toccata, professionally if somewhat anonymously abetted by Marriner and the ASMF.
The lyric side of Brahms’s flowing inspiration calmly takes the upper hand over his epic moments; a violinist of Vengerov’s imposing character makes you feel more of the white creative heat. At least there are no mannerist bulges in the line; Hahn’s pure intonation and her personable nudges to what could
so easily be mere virtuosic padding make her a good companion. It’s a pity that the Academy oboe can’t match her easy dignity in the crucial solo which launches the slow movement. Stravinsky’s more consistently exposed woodwind companions can be reticent; but there’s a spellbinding moment at the end of Aria II where Hahn’s perfect Bach stylisation is movingly reflected in the two flutes. Otherwise, expect no surprises but applaud the musicianly sensibilities maintained throughout. David Nice