Rachmaninoff, Variations, D. Trifonov, Philadelphia Orchestra, Y. Nézet-Séguin (Deutsche Grammophon, 2015)
Vieuxtemps, Violin Concerto No. 4, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, P. Järvi (Deutsche Grammophon, 2015)
Next, all eyes turned to violin soloist Hillary Hahn. By the end of the four-movement Violin Concerto No. 4 in D minor, op. 31, of Henri Vieuxtemps, a contemporary of Bizet, it was clear that Hahn remains a virtuoso performer and Nézet-Séguin’s reputation as an excellent collaborator is warranted. Less clear, though, is why the Vieuxtemps, written in 1849-50, isn’t better known. The concerto, which Berlioz called “a magnificent symphony with principal violin,” contains large orchestral passages without soloist and extended room for the soloist to shine unaccompanied. Its Scherzo is a playful vivace that Hahn and Nézet-Séguin clearly enjoyed, and the Finale marziale is similarly spirited. While there were a few rough patches for the orchestra, Hahn’s technique and tone were flawless throughout. Best, of course, was the sense that soloist, orchestra and conductor were completely in synch interpretively.
Anne Midgette, Philadelphians reliably glorious in all-too-reliable repertory (Washington Post, December 8)
David Rohde, The Philadelphia Orchestra Presented by Washington Performing Arts at Strathmore (D.C. Metro Theater Arts, December 9)
David Patrick Stearns, Philly Orchestra features Hilary Hahn and a lavish 'Firebird' (Philadelphia Inquirer, December 5)
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It is said that to create a great performance one must know how to end a piece before beginning it. Barely moving on the podium until the very end of the piece, Nézet-Séguin seemed to have every note mapped out. His overall directive to his troops was control, allowing the famous Philadelphia silky smooth string sound to permeate, creating a mysterious atmosphere that was augmented with bursts of brass and the muted horn of principal hornist Jennifer Montone. While the score’s famous final bars had plenty of sound and power, they seemed more so due to the tastefully subdued playing throughout. In their best moments, Hahn and Nézet-Séguin provided celebrity music-making at its finest.