The violinist Hilary Hahn (Photo by Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images)

Hilary Hahn: Paris (Deutsche Grammophon)

Hahn’s finely honed skills as a violinist are seldom in demand on this one-star album

Artillery Row Lebrecht's Album of the Week


When you hear the term “multiple issues” in 2021 it usually signifies that Covid is not the only cause of death. This album has multiple issues.

On the positive side, it marks the return of the US violinist Hilary Hahn after a year’s sabbatical that was doubled in length by lockdown. Hahn, 41, is one of few concert violinists to enjoy broad media recognition and she is much needed on our empty concert stages.

Her playing has lost none of her edgy assertiveness or her eye for a selling angle. The album, which contains works by a Finn, a Russian and a Frenchman, is titled “Paris” because Hahn has long dreamed of living there. C’est tous.

There is barely 50 minutes of music on this release and I’m not sure I’d want more

The accompanying orchestra is that of Radio France, conducted by its Finnish music director Mikko Franck. In the first Prokofiev concerto Hahn plays with a whispering wonderment that the French winds match with fine, pursed-lip compliments. That, I’m afraid, is the end of the positives. Hahn’s playing in the Chausson Poème lacks colour, passion and seduction. In terms of traditional interpretation, it is not neurotypical. Nor is it Parisian in any way that I, as half-Parisian, can recognise.

The concluding pair of serenades is by Einojuhani Rautavaraa, a composer who struggled all lifelong to escape the shadow of Sibelius by finding other means to express the vastness of the Nordic tundra. The music is late-romantic, perfectly suited in tone and duration to a breakfast radio playlist. It demands few of Hahn’s finely honed skills. In all, there is barely 50 minutes of music on this release and I’m not sure I’d want more. As for the album title: I’ve eaten fresher croissants in Helsinki.

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