The Violin as Voice


 CD 477 6232 Photo: © Mathias Bothor / DG
                                                                                                                                                                                                          International Release Date: Sept.2006

        Louis Spohr: Violin Concerto No. 8, op. 47 in A minor                      
"in modo di scena cantante"
Hilary Hahn gives us a really compelling reading of the Spohr . . . I give a hearty thumbs up to this recording...
The Spohr is an important piece, and deserves more attention. Hilary Hahn is proving to be a musical personality in her own right.
Record Review / Max Dudious, Audiophile Audition / 01 October 2006

The Violin as Voice by Hilary Hahn



The human voice holds exquisite sway over us. It has the ability to inspire joy, sorrow, love,    
despair, courage, humiliation, pride - the list, if I had enough space, would encompass everything that one is capable of feeling.
A single word can trigger a physical reaction from an infant. A child, while still building vocabulary, grasps complex phrases by means of the vocal intonations that he or she hears. An adult understands the influential nature of inflection and puts that to use when expressing ideas in his or her own terms. Clearly, the interaction of voice and recognition is powerful and fantastically poignant.
Even more than speech, song penetrates to the care of human sensitivity. Song incorporates not
only poetry and sentiment but musical shadings as well, in the realms of phrasing, intonation, speed and tone.

Words can be emphasized in ways that might sound odd if so spoken; significance is indicated through pitch, dynamics and rhythm.
Through song, many singer-songwriters feel comfortable exploring topics into which they would rarely delve in conversation. Why?
Music enhances meaning in countless ways, imparting delicate complexities with concision and elegance. One could argue that the defining element of song is its music, not its text; for is it not true that foreign-language opera, lieder, folksong, and tribal and world music are as compelling as - if not more touching than  - song performed in our native tongue?

It is along these lines that I propose to refer to this album as a vocal one. Its lexis may be that of the violin. but its intent is operatic.
The concept of violin as voice has remained in my mind since childhood. Not only is the violin anchored against the throat, symbolically extending its player's voice, but the two instruments, different as they may seem, also share striking tonal similarities and emotional depth. Throughout my
training, my teachers urged me to look to singers for musical inspiration (some vocal students, ironically, turn to violinists for the same), and I was encouraged to think of each bowed note as a sung syllable.

This connection between voice and violin was, of course, noted long before my time. Over the past few centuries, innumerable vocal works have been arranged for violin, taking new form as showpieces, themes for variations and concertos, vocalises, and many an encore. Most derive from classical models such as arias or lieder; others are drawn from popular and folk music. These concerti by Paganini and Spohr, however, are not transcriptions but original music, shaped by vocal styles prevalent at the time.

Within this framework, each caters imaginatively to the expressive range of the violin while displaying a richly individual character. Bear in mind that, in these recordings, no passage is meant to impress violinistically at the expense of its musical content.

In essence, this album attempts to combine the lyricism and drama of the oldest instrument  - voice  -  with the intimacy , strength, suppleness and beauty of what is frequently deemed the most romantic of instruments Ė the violin.

As you revel in the nuances of Paganiniís Concerto no. 1 and Spohrís Concerto no. 8, I hope that these works resonate with you as profoundly as they do with me.

Photos Hilary Hahn:  © Mathias Bothor / DG



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