Hilary Hahn Retrospective

Hilary Hahn


Deutsche Grammophon, 2018



After acclaimed violinist Hilary Hahn recorded several albums for Deutsche Grammophon in the past fifteen years, the time has come for her to examine them in retrospect and to choose her favourite tracks for her own personal collection. The present recording is the fruit of this reflection.

Retrospective is a collection of new and old tracks. It begins with new live recordings from a concert Hahn held at the Meistersaal in Berlin in May 2016. The pieces are Mozart’s Violin Sonata in G major K379, Tina Davidson’s Blue Curve of the Earth and Max Richter’s Mercy. As for the rest of the album, it consists of excepts from Hahn’s previous recordings that, as she points out in the booklet notes, have been personally selected by her.

The tracks are ordered chronologically and there is at least one track from every previous recording. From canonical “classical” composers to contemporary music, from Bach, Paganini and Mozart to Schoenberg, Vaughan Williams and Higdon, Hahn’s versatility and wide interests are very well represented in Retrospective. Moreover, one of the tracks, Gounod, has been composed by Hahn herself with Hauschka.

Overall, Retrospective is the shimmering and colourful album that the cover announces. Listening to so many fine performances one after another can only be fabulous. Hahn’s commitment and passion, not to speak of her technical brilliance and skilful expressive playing, are mesmerizing. The tracks from the Berlin concert open Retrospective with the energy and transport of a public performance, where moreover a wish to communicate with the audience is noticeable in Hahn’s performance.

Her abandonment and lyricism stand out in every track. Independently from the work Hahn plays, being it Bach’s delightful Double Concerto, Vaughan William’s suggestive The Lark Ascending, Schoenberg’s tense Violin Concerto or Higdon’s Violin Concerto, Hahn’s soulful rendition is magisterial. The warm sound of her violin is inspiring when she performs works by composers of the past, but it is even more precious as a guiding thread in the demanding and perhaps less known contemporary compositions.

Hahn’s expression of feelings is subtle and charming and her refined playing makes her performance emotionally intense and honest. She places all the technical demands at the service of the music. Every piece is a little gem, but among the most outstanding I list Mozart’s wonderful Sonata K526 and the next movement from Paganini’s Violin Concerto, which are remarkable for their vivacity; Bach’s Gebt mir meinen Jesum wieder from Matthäus Passion, which is joyful and bright; and Hahn’s Godot, an extremely evocative composition thanks to its tension and subtle sounds.

For all these reasons, Retrospective is a wonderful achievement. Even though the major part of the tracks is taken from previously released albums, the fact that they have been collected here make possible to enjoy one after another some of Hilary Hahn’s best recordings. In the end, you will be really enthused by her skill and sensitivity.