x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Classical CD review: Hilary Hahn

Hilary Hahn's Tchaikovsky is technically proficient but lacking emotion.

Hilary Hahn

Higdon & Tchaikovsky Violin Concertos

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Vasily Petrenko (cond)

(Deutsche Grammophon)


Hilary Hahn has all the technical proficiency that you expect from a graduate of the Suzuki method. However, Tchaikovsky requires not only a grasp of the composer's genius, but his emotional intent. Tchaikovsky's music is on the one hand pure child-like joy, and the other deeply melancholic. Hahn grasps the former, but falls short in her rendering of the despair inherent in some of Tchaikovsky's most famous works - the Violin Concerto in D major being among them. But Tchaikovsky is not Hahn's beloved Bach, which calls for strict adherence to the composer's demanding score in order to achieve a great performance. Still, her undeniable virtuosity delivers a perfectly enjoyable recording of the piece. However, it is the Jennifer Higdon violin concerto, for which she won this year's Pulitzer Prize, that makes this album worth buying. Dedicated to the 31-year-old violinist, the piece appears to be made for Hahn. And she performs the technically difficult piece with skill and magic. Together, the two concertos present different, if complementary, themes of joy and sorrow. But whereas the almost mathematical nature of modern classical music lends itself to a violinist such as Hahn, the magic of Tchaikovsky is more than the sum of its notes.