Hilary Hahn, violin; Oiji Oue, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. DG B0007188-2.
Ms. Hahn makes much of the fact that the Paganini and Spohr Violin Concertos have qualities of bel canto in them--fine singing, beautiful voice--as well she should. The Paganini, especially, has always been noted for its soaring lyrical elements, and Ms. Hahn makes the most of them, as advertised. This is as sweet, as lyrical, as songlike, as expressive a Paganini Violin Concerto as one could imagine.
After the work's lengthy introduction, Ms. Hahn enters the Allegro with appropriate bravura, contrasted with a lovely, flowing second subject, taken at a tempo that emphasizes its poetic nature in opposition to the more flamboyant parts of the movement. The middle Adagio is a poignant time-out, a reflective interlude before the zippy Rondo conclusion. It is in this final section that Ms. Hahn's dramatic, lively, yet wholly engaging style holds one's attention most securely. And it is here that she is able to demonstrate her most virtuosic technique.
Coupled with the Paganini is the Violin Concerto No. 8 by Paganini's direct contemporary, Louis Spohr, only two years Paganini's junior. His Concerto, too, is one of song, but there could not be a greater contrast in showmanship. The Paganini is all color and contrasts, glamour and high spirits; the Spohr is more sedate, more conventional, but equally attractive.
Although I still prefer Michael Rabin's 1960 and Perlman's 1971 realizations of the Paganini for their greater sparkle, there is no denying this new rendering by Hilary Hahn is one to consider. Chalk up the excellent recording quality afforded her by DG engineers, too. The sound is very dynamic and very well balanced, with a reasonably solid bass and decent stage depth. Together, performance and sound make this an outstanding album.