WORKS: Violin Concerto in E minor
PERFORMER: Hilary Hahn (violin); Oslo PO/Hugh Wolff, Marek Janowski
CATALOGUE NO: SK 89921
Here is a superbly talented young musician with strong ideas about both works on this disc. You don’t have to read her extensive and authoritative booklet notes to realise that: it’s clear enough from the performances. The energy and technical focus are dazzling, especially in the scherzo and burlesque-finale of the Shostakovich – the Burlesque in particular is awe-inspiringly fast, close in fact to Shostakovich’s own marking (as Hilary Hahn proudly points out in her note). Hahn certainly knows how to end both these concertos – it’s the slow movements that leave room for doubt. In the Shostakovich the climax of the Passacaglia is oddly underwhelming, despite the recording placing Hahn well out in the front of the orchestra; and as early as the opening Nocturne I began to find her bold, intense vibrato rather unrelenting. There’s a similar problem in the more lyrical parts of the Mendelssohn.
Maxim Vengerov on Teldec offers a much more rounded, consistently compelling view of the Shostakovich. Tonally he may be less subtle than the Concerto’s dedicatee David Oistrakh (alas, the wonderful Oistrakh/Mravinsky version isn’t currently available), but in his hands the work tells a convincing, moving story. As for the Mendelssohn, there’s more joy to be had from Joshua Bell (though the rewritten cadenza may be a sticking point) or, less controversially, from Nigel Kennedy. Stephen Johnson