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  Deutsche Grammophon -
  474 873-2
  Elgar: Violin Concerto etc. - Hilary Hahn
  Elgar: Violin Concerto Op. 61, Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending

Hilary Hahn (violin)
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 14 show all

Reviews: 6 show all

Site review by akiralx October 14, 2004
Performance:   Sonics:  
Just finished listening to the Elgar in multi-channel and my first thoughts are: there is a febrile quality and lack of warmth in the violin sound that those used to more opulent interpretations will find unidiomatic.

In fact, the soloist as recorded sounds like an attempt has been made to overlay a track of Albert Sammons or Mischa Elman from the 1930s onto a modern orchestral backdrop, as a record company did a few years ago with Enrico Caruso.

Hahn sounds pinched and cool, with a very rapid vibrato that reveals little of the richness she can play with. The sonority of Nigel Kennedy in this work is light-years away, sadly. Whether this is her fault or the DG engineers, heaven only knows. Colin Davis is the only sonic succcess with a fine if occasionally portentous accompaniment.

The interpretation is extremely well-played, with Hahn's meticulous observance of dynamics etc in the solo part, but I must admit that despite the objectivity, there is often a lack of magic that Kennedy often finds (in either of his recordings - but especially in the first superior one with Handley) - just the way he turns a phrase with, say, a touch of portamento can really bring this wonderful concerto to life in a way that Hahn only occasionally hints at.

The Vaughan Williams, recorded 2 months later is better - not a work I know as well as the Elgar but the added warmth, especially in the violin's timbre, makes this sound richer than the main work.

Not state of the art sound, but still good as far as the LSO are concerned - although the wiry sound of the violin is unpleasant to my ears, especially in the main work.

This is a massive disappointment, especially after hearing Hahn in the Brahms Concerto on Sony (non-hybrid SACD) - which is a superb performance and recording. Sadly not recommended.

Review by swestbom July 26, 2007 (8 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Ok, I am a geek, but there are far more eloquent and informative professional reviews of the content. So I will mention some technical things:

"Not state of the art sound, but still good as far as the LSO are concerned - although the wiry sound of the violin is unpleasant to my ears, especially in the main work."

The wiry sound is probably because it was recorded using PCM equipment (96/24), PCM always sounds harsher in the high end, especially given the sound engineers' propensity to "engineer" when they should just leave the sound untouched (this is the great thing about the older, non eight bit recording equipment which has not knobs and buttons). PCM mixing equipment tends to have lots of knobs and buttons.

"This is a massive disappointment, especially after hearing Hahn in the Brahms Concerto on Sony (non-hybrid SACD) - which is a superb performance and recording."

Sony uses DSD based recording equipment for the very few discs they actually produce anymore. DG uses the center channel for the soloist. Sony seemed to use it for the back of the orchestra instead of the soloist, I haven't seen anyone but Sony use this technique to add spaciousness and depth while leaving the soloist to be handled by the left and right front speakers.

Now for the non-geek viewpoint:

I thought her interpretation was a quite expressive performance that flowed nicely, showed the full range of musical emotion. The sounds in the background by the conductor are only really noticeable to me if I listen for them (I try not to). Overall it is worth buying this excellent performance and ignoring the slight foibles.

I rate the sonics lower because of the typical PCM artificial edge enhancement to the sound and higher noise floor from what I suspect is an over engineered recording. The PCM sound is especially problematic with the violin. I have quite good equipment (but nothing esoteric) and the difference in the straight DSD versus the PCM to DSD discs is almost always obvious but still way better than the 44.1/16 CD layer.

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Review by terence May 12, 2006 (7 of 12 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
i enjoyed the interpretation and sound more than the other two reviewers - i find the elgar on the whole a very fine performance.

i would suggest you don't buy it, though - what spoils it almost totally for me is the pitiful amount of grunting, moaning and sniffing indulged in by conductor sir colin davis. it really is quite ridiculous. the slow movement is the worst affected - it's drastic.

i blame the producer of the sessions. either he has to:

[a] get sir colin (and people like him) to curb their ejaculations on-microphone.


[b] simply abandon the sessions and get another conductor with more control over himself.

i don't appreciate paying quite a lot of money to have a performance ruined by someone else's guttural emissions. they really are NOT NECESSARY, and in no way impressive.

the ratings are for hilary hahn, therefore. i wonder what she really feels about her efforts being ruined in this fashion?

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Works: 2  

Edward Elgar - Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61
Ralph Vaughan Williams - The Lark Ascending (1914)