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Ghost Canyon

Title - 'Bach: Violin Concertos' [Vinyl]
Artist - Hilary Hahn

For those not in the classical know, Hilary Hahn is an American violinist who, in her active international career, has performed throughout the world both as a soloist with leading orchestras and conductors and as a recitalist.

Indeed, she also built a reputation as a champion of contemporary music. Several composers have written works especially for her, including concerti by Edgar Meyer and Jennifer Higdon and partitas by Antón García Abril.

When Hahn, did I mention, one of today’s greatest violinists, released her first CD with Deutsche Grammophon, Bach: Violin Concertos, in 2003, it immediately became a big success; praised for the soloist’s brilliance as well as for “the chamber-like interplay that produces a more ‘authentic’ impression than many performances using period instruments” (Classics Today).

15 years after the original CD release these great recordings are now, and finally, available on vinyl for the first time.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) Side A:
Concerto for Violin, Strings and Continuo in E major (BWV 1042)
1. Allegro
2. Adagio
3. Allegro assai
Concerto for Violin, Strings and Continuo in A minor (BWV 1041)
4. (Allegro moderato)
5. Andante
6. Allegro assai

Side B:
Concerto for 2 Violins, Strings, and Continuo in D minor (BWV 1043)
1. Vivace
2. Largo ma non tanto
3. Allegro
Concerto for Oboe, Violin, Strings and Continuo in C minor (BWV 1060)
4. Allegro
5. Adagio
6. Allegro

Listening to these wondrous Bach works now on vinyl, for the very first time, it strikes me that perhaps because Hahn was relatively young at age twenty-three when she recorded these pieces in 2002-03, she was able to bring to them a youthful vitality that is sometimes missing in the performances of older artists.

Yet, as we all now know and love, the vitality in no way suggests immaturity or reckless abandon. Indeed, it brings to the works a contemporary feeling, making them sound as though written in and for our own era.

I suppose some listeners might quibble that Hahn takes things a bit faster than most older, more-traditional violinists do, but her performances are much in keeping with today's historically informed style, though not as frenetic as some period-instruments groups perform the pieces.

Anyway, if the Violin and Oboe Concerto that accompanies the Violin Concertos seems a bit more conservative by comparison, it is no less persuasive.

The E Major concerto (BWV 1042), perhaps the best known of these concertos, is one of the high points of the form during the Baroque era that Bach reigned supreme over; and Hahn gives it one of the best interpretations it has received in many years; and the A Minor concerto (BWV 1041) gives us a hint of the more somber and reflective side of Bach, again with Hahn bringing out the most in it.

Hahn also collaborates well with L.A.C.O. concertmistress Margaret Batjer on the D Minor concerto for two violins, and with L.A.C.O. principal oboist Allan Vogel on the C Minor concerto for oboe and violin.

Besides the basic chamber approach that Hahn and company take with these Bach concertos, the other noticeable thing is the way they are able to walk the fine line between modern-instrument performances and period-instrument practices without stumbling into the prissiness that more than a few people believe the period-instrument crowd engages in.

They understand that Bach was a thoroughly modern composer of his day, and that holds true even now in the 21st century.

My only quibble, of which I kind of alluded to earlier is about the depth of the sound, even here on luscious vinyl: which is almost nil. The instruments are pretty much strung out along a straight line from left to right, with little sense of the group's size or shape.

Otherwise, the sound is warm, smooth, well defined, terrifically well-balanced, and easy on the ear. For a modern recording of these Bach works played on modern instruments, this remains one of the best current choices; slightly eclipsing Grumiaux's old Philips recording in sound quality and almost everybody else in performance.

• 180g Vinyl LP
• First time available on vinyl
• Mastered from original sources
• Includes Bonus Audio CD of the complete album
• Made in Germany

'Bach: Violin Concertos' [Vinyl] Purchase Link