The first question one must ask of any release of an oft-recorded work like the Beethoven Violin Concerto is why? What can a new performance, especially one from an artist as young as Ms. Hahn was at the time of the recording, say that hasn't already been said by seasoned performers like Heifetz, Perlman, Kremer, Szeryng, and the rest? Or, for the audiophile, what can Sony's sound do to improve upon the catalogue's previous recordings? The answers in the case of this album are because, a little, and not a lot.
This isn't to say I disliked the disc. The Beethoven is sweet, and the companion piece, the Serenade for Solo Violin, Strings, Harp and Percussion by Leonard Bernstein, is charming. In fact, it is the Serenade that works best, which is surprising considering that Ms. Hahn apparently just recently learned it before recording it here in the late Nineties, while the Beethoven has long been a staple of her repertoire (well, not too long; she wasn't very old at the time).
Still, it is not a disc I would recommend to first-time buyers. I would suggest one stick with the others I've mentioned, instead. On the other hand, if you really love the composer's work and are collecting different approaches to it, by all means you should go ahead. You won't be disappointed.
Now, about Sony's packaging: The fold-out booklet is about as easy to manage as a road map in the wind. It unfolds to about three feet long, drooping over one's arms as one tries to read it. Thanks, Sony. For those listeners interested in what Ms. Hahn looks like, Sony has also included eight separate photographs of her: on the front cover, the back cover, and within the booklet itself. There's everything here but a poster of the lady. Maybe next time.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below: