Above: violinist Hilary Hahn
Wednesday November 26th, 2014 - After experiencing conductor Jaap van Zweden's performance of the Shostakovich 8th with The New York Philharmonic last week, I was very glad of the chance to attend a second concert under his baton. In addition, the evening provided my first opportunity to hear Hilary Hahn live.
The evening opened with a genuine rarity: Johan Wagenaar's Cyrano de Bergerac Overture which was inspired by Edmund Rostand's play of the same name. The play premiered in 1897, the concert overture dates from 1905. The overture commences with a bold statement, then waxes poetical, romantic or swashbuckling by turns. It's a melody-rich piece; though sometimes compared to the works of Richard Strauss, there's no hint in the Wagenaar of the absonance that tends to crop up in some of Strauss's works.
Ms. Hahn then appeared for the Korngold violin concerto. Most widely known as a composer of film scores, Erich Wolfgang Korngold arrived in Hollywood in the 1930s, already an established classical composer. Themes from his movie scores found their way into his concert works; for the violin concerto, Korngold drew upon his music for the films Another Dawn, Juárez, Anthony Adverse, and The Prince and the Pauper. Jascha Heifetz premiered the concerto in 1947.
Ms. Hahn looked fetching in a silvery-steely strapless gown; slender and elegant, she is as lovely to watch as to hear. In the concerto's opening movement, much of it set in the violin’s high register, Ms. Hahn displayed a truly shimmering quality of timbre. In the second movement, Romance, she caught the quality of sehnsucht that the rapturous themes evoke; and in the quirky, devilish technical demands of the final Allegro assia vivace, she really went to town, dazzling us with her virtuosity.
Ms. Hahn and Maestri van Zweden were greeted with sustained applause after the concerto; coming out for a second solo bow, the comely violinist took up her bow for a Bach encore. Tonight's Playbill states that Hilary Hahn has not appeared with the NY Phil for a decade; she should immediately be signed for future appearances: she's a treasurable player and we should have every possible opportunity to experience her artistry.
Following the interval, Jaap van Zweden unfurled the Beethoven 7th for us. This symphony is just about perfect: neither too short nor too long, and especially appealing in its rhythmic variety. The symphony's first movement opens slowly (marked 'sostenuto'...'sustained') and then turns animated. The famiiar allegretto that follows - one of Beethoven's most widely-appreciated passages - has a stately sway to it. The lively dance of the ensuing Presto propels us irresistibly to the finale with its exhilarating feeling of joyous abandon. The music sailed on with Maestro van Zweden, the musicians, and Beethoven carrying the audience along on buoyant waves of sound. Richard Wagner called this symphony “the apotheosis of the dance itself...” and the audience responded with vigorous enthusiasm to the almost breathless pace which the conductor imposed in this uninhibited finale.