“Without a doubt, she is the most complete, perfect, and intelligent interpreter of her instrument so far in the 21st century.” – El Mundo
Hilary Hahn’s newest album, Mozart 5, Vieuxtemps 4 – Violin Concertos, is her first recording with The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and Paavo Järvi, after performing and touring with the ensemble and conductor for many years. The disc releases on March 31, and is Hahn’s first orchestral offering since her 2010 pairing of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto and Jennifer Higdon’s Pulitzer-prize winning violin concerto, which was written for Hahn. With this new album, she returns to core violin repertoire, hot on the heels of her critically-acclaimed, Grammy-winning album of 27 commissioned short pieces, In 27 Pieces: the Hilary Hahn Encores, and an improvised recording with prepared pianist Hauschka, titled Silfra.
Mozart 5, Vieuxtemps 4 also brings Hahn full circle, after more than three decades of violin playing, to two concertos that have been part of her repertoire since she was ten years old. Vieuxtemps’s Violin Concerto No. 4 was the last large piece she learned with Klara Berkovich, her teacher from ages five to ten. Several months later, Mozart 5 was the first concerto that Jascha Brodsky taught her at the Curtis Institute of Music. Berkovich began her violin studies in Odessa and went on to teach in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) before emigrating to the States. Brodsky was one of the last pupils of the legendary Eugène Ysaÿe, who, coincidentally, was a star student of Vieuxtemps, making Vieuxtemps Hahn’s musical great-grandfather in the violinist family tree.
Both concertos are part of Hahn’s active performance repertoire, and both were written by composers who were violin virtuosos in their own right. Hahn writes, “It’s fun to delve into [Mozart’s] ingenuity and emotional directness, his writing speaking directly to listeners while performers delight in his myriad clever phrases. As a result, Mozart improves moods; when I look around the stage at people playing his works, I always see smiles.” On this recording, Hahn plays the cadenzas by Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim.
Like Mozart, Vieuxtemps initially learned violin from his father and toured Europe as a prodigy. When he wrote Concerto No. 4, he was living in St. Petersburg, where he was a court violinist to Tsar Nicholas I and taught violin at the Conservatory. “This concerto is operatically lyrical and demands flexibility, panache, focus, a flair for drama, and chamber-music-style unity even in its most symphonic dimensions,” Hahn explains.
Of the collaboration for this album, Hahn writes, “One of my favorite things about working on a piece over many years is the chance to experiment broadly with expression, concepts, and technique — on my own and with my colleagues. When those colleagues have been musical partners for a long time, as is the case with Paavo Järvi and The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, our shared access to the imaginative aspects of music is immediate and honest. Trying a new idea is as natural as breathing, and challenging each other’s musical inclinations is like conversing with your oldest and closest friends.”