J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Hilary Hahn Plays Bach

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Hilary Hahn
Individual Works:Partita n 3 for solo violin, BWV 1006
Partita n 2 for solo violin, BWV 1004
Sonata nr 3 for violin solo, BWV 1005
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:Sony Classical
Catalog Number:SK 62793
Year Released/Recorded:1996
Total Playing Time:approx 60 min
Comments:Katarina Ekstrom said:

A very passionate and technically brilliant performance by (at the time of the recording) a 15 year old. Generally such a young artist is more concentrated on the technique rather than the feeling, but Hahn manages to bring forward the passion in Bach's work.

Adam N. La Spata said:

As well-played performances that older violinists might give, it is surprising that such a young person can accomplish her task to the same degree of passion and virtuosity. Although the Preludio of BWV 1006 is a bit too fast, this CD is a joy to listen to. I especially enjoyed the Courante and Sarabande of 1004 and the Fuga of 1005. And, as demanding as the excruiatatingly long Ciaccona is, Hahn never lost the intensity inherent in that movement. She takes great care with intonation of the double stops and bringing to the fore individual voices in the counterpoint. A very enjoyable disc overall.

Shawn Dedrik said:

If a bigger name were attached to this recording, it would surely be hailed as a monumental performance. These are unprecedented interpretations, far surpassing Milstein, Grumiaux, Heifetz, Perlman, St. John, Szeryng, Szigeti, you name it. Over time, I expect this to be regarded as the definitive recording of these pieces. Keep an eye out for this young violinist.

The Serious Listener said:

I am constantly on the lookout for my next hero, (or heroine in this case), who can step up as the next premier violinist in my future. Hilary Hahn may just be that person.

Here is a very proper and courteous young lady who has the potential to give the classical music industry a much-needed shot in the arm. She is the symbol of hard work and clean living whom exudes a prestigious, almost regal flavor about her, without the loathing arrogance that stigmatizes the classical music industry in general. An example is her very touching album dedication to the late Jascha Brodsky; Curtis' majestic and revered violin teacher. Although Hilary's relationship with Master Brodsky was well beyond mentorship, it was still the right thing, and, the proper thing to do. Because not only does it give credit where credit is due, more importantly Mr. Brodsky's family will always cherish it. Hilary, if you happen to be reading this, . . . good girl. Many other fans and I are very proud of you.

Yet another astounding graduate from the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, she had recorded this music almost two years before it was released by Sony Classical. One of the recording distributors confided in me that Sony had the music sitting "in the can" while they waited for an ideal time to release the album. The folks at Sony understand that timing is essential and were shrewdly patient in handling Ms. Hahn's debut recording. The pricing was about two dollars less than the off the shelf competition, which moved many CDs - after all, that's basic economics; reduce the price to include a larger demand base equals greater total revenue. In layman terms; this CD is a bargain for not only being more affordable, but also having such an exceptional artistic performance besides.

Miss Hahn had been actively playing the violin for slightly over ten years when she recorded these works. This is certainly enough time to become technically acquainted, but what also shows through is an astounding maturity in her interpretations. This is probably her greatest attribute as a performer, being relatively young, very experienced for her age with such a passionate artistic insight. Her abilities extend far beyond Bach, I was thoroughly impressed with her Beethoven and Brahms performances as well.

When my friends ask for my opinion of who is the best violinist, I give them the analogy that they could look at these artists like basketball players. Some are good ball handlers, some are good shooters, or passers or rebounders and some are good defenders. Violinists are no different, they have their own strong points, and Hilary Hahn is no exception. I have not witnessed her pizzicato abilities, but do I have an opinion against her Ciaccona. Unfortunately, she falls short of my expectations here - only because the performance in this album is too lethargic and lacks the spirit and life that are splendidly captured in her other performances. Likewise, the C major Fuga is a little slow for my tastes also. The remainder of the album is just exquisite though. It combines an energetically skilled artist who no doubt loves to play Bach in all his glory.

The recording itself is very clean and clear, but not too close. Other recordings are so close that the listener can hear the breathing, and even hear the rosen on the strings (itÆs not a bad thing, only your personal tastes will decide that).

This is the perfect starter album for the person who is new to Bach and wants to explore the mystique of these splendid solo works for violin, but the performance in general is so exemplary the experienced listener will have deep appreciation as well. Combine the performance with a dedicated young lady who is lauching what will likely be a magnificient career, and you have a æmust haveÆ album.

Doug Nestler said:

I first read about Hilary Hahn in Strings magazine. I'm 18 now, and this was a year or so ago. In my youthfulness, I was surprised that Edith Eisler had said that Hilary was "less of a hothouse plant" than Sarah Chang, who was my idol at the time. But after I bought Hilary's Bach cd, I'm officially an addict. Her tone is exceptionally steady and her sound is inviting and warm. I imagine ocean swells during some of her runs, especially in the (in)famous Ciaccona (chaconne... whatever); her dynamic contrast is incredible, and her technical facility and evident ease is equally fantastic. Everything about her amazes me except the fact that she's young. I play double bass myself, and I'm no more surprised by her acheivements considering her age than I am without thinking of the fact that she's not much more than a year older than I am. Amazing is amazing. Period. And Hilary Hahn Plays Bach is amazing. For anyone who appreciates well-played Bach, this is an absolute must have.

Davood Aboudarda said:

Hilary Hahn plays amazingly! One of the best recordings of these works by Bach, she has perfect intonation and technique. I love her style especially in the Ciaccona. You should go out and buy a copy today!

David Perrine said:

Modern recording techniques make it possible for the performer to sound as if they are playing right next to your ear and at the same time be drenched in reverb. This very bright recording is a good example. The playing is remarkable for a 16 year old, but there is too much of the loud and fast variety for my taste.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Katarina Ekstrom
  • Adam N. La Spata
  • Shawn Dedrik
  • The Serious Listener
  • Doug Nestler
  • Davood Aboudarda
Date First Submitted:10/23/1997