Hilary Hahn is not only one of the best, but one of the most interesting young violinists before the public. Even as a teenager, she seemed uninterested in displaying her formidable technical mastery, concentrating instead on the music with a seriousness far beyond her years. Now 21, she has become a thoughtful, knowledgeable musician and an arresting, involved performer. Both qualities are reflected in this recording, beginning with the choice of the two concertos, which are entirely dissimilar--except for being in the same key--yet make an excellent pair, and extending to the program notes, which blend personal reminiscence and scholarly research.
As for the playing, it is extraordinary. Technical difficulties do not exist. Even the most daunting passages, like the infamous G-major section in the Finale of the Brahms and the wild running-around in the Stravinsky, are dispatched with perfect clarity and consummate, effortless ease. Hahn's tone is intense, focused, variable, and of pristine purity in all registers, at all dynamic levels. She never loses her sense of meter or direction; her phrases have shape and elegance; and she needs no external effects. Her playing is austere and controlled, with an inward, noble expressiveness; she can change tone and mood on a dime. In the Brahms, the high soaring passages are ecstatic, the Finale is quite fast and very strict; only the Joachim cadenza is almost too free. Altogether, it's a most impressive achievement. --Edith Eisler