Hilary Hahn is completing Bach S&P recordings!

September 4, 2018, 10:00 PM · Hilary Hahn's partial recorded set of sonatas and partitas of Bach has been an all time favorite of mine for a very long time. I just wanted to make PSA to let anyone who doesn't have her social media know that she is completing the set! The full release is october 5.

Replies (49)

September 4, 2018, 10:13 PM · Awesome! Can’t wait to hear them.
Edited: September 5, 2018, 12:39 AM · HH's recording of Bach's 1004-1006 has also been one of my favorites.
The new album are the BWV 1001-1003.

I'll buy it, but I wish she would release the new recording as a "complete Bach's Sonatas and Partitas", not just the BWV 1001-1003. I suppose she will do, soon. The previous Sonatas and Partitas were reused again and again and again in her albums, no reason why not to add them in this one...

September 5, 2018, 8:22 AM · Sometimes artists/management package recordings in a manner that ensures you have to buy multiple items.
September 5, 2018, 8:26 AM · It's the record company that makes that decision
September 5, 2018, 9:29 AM · Just try buying a Van Morrison Greatest Hits cd, which actually contains ALL his greatest hits. Same with Linda Ronstadt. AND contains more than 9 tracks.
September 5, 2018, 9:39 AM · I'm not going to try.
September 5, 2018, 9:50 AM · I suppose I'm alone in my lack of enthusiasm for Hahn's interpretations.
September 5, 2018, 10:14 AM · Her Bach us rock-solid and also quite charming at times. One might argue the best that can be done with a modern bow and synthetic strings... however, a bit of sadness she never ventured into period performance.
September 5, 2018, 7:56 PM · Cotton, you are not alone, I find her Bach to be dreadful.
September 5, 2018, 8:03 PM · ' Rocky Milankov
September 5, 2018, 10:14 AM · Her Bach us rock-solid and also quite charming at times. One might argue the best that can be done with a modern bow and synthetic strings.'

Rocky, I don't know what strings he is using, but Gidon Kremer uses a modern bow, and plays sublime Bach:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWX_mohRkQ4

September 5, 2018, 10:32 PM · Just curious, if you think HH is dreadful, how would you rate your own performance of these pieces.
Edited: September 6, 2018, 7:56 PM · Christopher, tu quoque is a logical fallacy.

However, while I prefer Szeryng’s Bach, Hahn’s technical proficiency in her partial set was so solid as to be charming in its own right. I find them useful as a middle of the road interpretation, without seasoning, which is helpful to judge what other artists are doing.

However, I suspect she will have improved her interpretation over the last decade. We shall hear...

Edited: September 6, 2018, 8:32 PM · HH is not my favorite Bach, but I enjoy her playing of these sonatas and partitas. I do really like Gidon Kremer. And even though I am far from a Heifetz freak, I like his Bach too. Somehow it just speaks to me.

I like Janos Starker too.

September 6, 2018, 8:50 PM · There is no logical fallacy because “Her Bach is dreadful” is not an argument.
September 6, 2018, 10:04 PM · I very much like Hahn's Bach, especially live. Much as I like Milstein's Bach.
Edited: September 7, 2018, 1:48 PM · I find that Hillary sounds like a robot. Which I guess comes from the way she practices. There is zero spontaneity in her playing, and nothing is felt.

And her Bach sounds like most other Bachs out there: horrendously out of style, which just completely kills the music for me.

September 7, 2018, 10:49 PM · HH is a robot ... no feeling .., etc. All that comes about because she doesn't sway gaily on stage like a minstrel of yore, she isn't given to tortured facial expressions, and she refuses to titillate her audiences with risque apparel. My impression of her playing is that she is concentrating very hard on appkying her preparation so that the music can speak for itself without artifice or affectation.
Edited: September 8, 2018, 9:02 AM · I've watched some HH videos. I root for her technique and exactitude and starting so young, but am not moved emotionally by the music and sound of her violin.

I was just watching some Janine Jansen videos today, and felt much more connection with the music and the emotion.

I have now found that I can't watch Janine Jansen video performances anymore, and must listen to sound only. She's distractingly gorgeous, and I can't concentrate on the music.

Edited: September 8, 2018, 6:10 AM · I keep it with Paul Deck and - far from being anybody's fanboy - love the way she performs. It's precise, intellectual, and also very intense where it has to be. Maybe it is because I'm a rather introverted guy myself, but her music really speaks to me, and I love her thoughtfulness about every single little detail. This hasn't anything to do with roboticism. This is only my general opinion, without knowing her Bach.

For period performance I neither feel a preferance nor an aversion. Both can work, and both can awfully drift off. Specifically for Bach S&P, Rachel Barton Pine set a standard recently with her recordings. Again with a grain of salt, since I regard myself as a Bach addicted and do need my heavy daily dose of his stuff, but by all means I'm not a profound violinist - and afraid I'll never be.

September 8, 2018, 7:28 AM · HH is great if you like a completely dry performance that is technically "perfect". I prefer something with more grit and life to it. Her style of playing is just so... boring. Everything exactly by the book.
Edited: September 8, 2018, 9:17 AM · "... Everything exactly by the book." - Well, in simple words. If the Beethoven is on the programme, I'd rather expect the Beethoven than "an inspiring evening full of unheard sparkles based on a concerto by someone knewn as LvB at his time but nowadays is mostly forgotten because his music has become too boring to us as we wish to see something more Justin-Bieberish".
An interpretation's fundament should always be what is written in the book. It's simple like that. And no, I'm not a fan of classical kitsch medleys, although I do not mind - if a bus group of senior citizens fancies to spend a fete blanche with André Rieu and his orchestra, then it's not my piece of biscuit, but let them have a good time. I also do not believe that theater only has it's right if the actors are dancing naked on the ceiling while recitating their Hamlet, and that modern paintings or sculpture can only be regarded as art if noone including the maker understands it's essence. And even a pop star like David Garrett plays what is written in the book, no matter if he's using a loop recorder, fog machines or light effects.
Anyone has the right to defamiliarize any piece of music as much as he wishes, if the copyright has expired. If there's an audience for that, go for it. Sometimes the result might even be great, if it is done by a bright mind. But please, don't disparage those who try to play the music somehow similar to what the composer intended. Sometimes already-perfect things will not appreciate by someone's overwhelming drive for further "improvement".
September 8, 2018, 9:18 AM · I can live with that if someone would tell me "her interpretation is too cold, perfect, whatever". But not "she sucks because she follows the text".
September 8, 2018, 10:20 AM · Once upon a time, violin performance was a creative art. Performers would improvise, compose their own music, et cetera, et cetera...
That level of "life" I find is missing from the concert stage today. Mostly because classical music has fallen out of fashion and not many people want to hear unique interpretations and retellings. But I do. That's what I meant.
Edited: September 8, 2018, 10:42 AM · There are still musicians making their own compositions. Improvisations. Cadenzas. Within the classical music "market". And it's not that masses aren't attracted to classical music because interpretations would be to conservative and "always the same" - as folks like André Rieu show us, it's the most conservative, slack and kitschy-ornamental interpretations that are most attractive to the masses.

Classical music never was a mass phenomenon. The "average guys" always enjoyed with folk, dance, later pop and rock music, small bites, nothing complicated, easy to digest. Nothing wrong with that, life itself is already challenging enough for most of us.

There is some interpretational freedom within what is written. And you're totally right that HH isn't the one who is trying to fully exploit these borders. She's rather someone who is able to break things down to it's essence, keeps things pure and simple in a way. One doesn't have to like it. But there's nothing wrong with that, and I don't see the necessity of a competition about the most creative interpretation. I like this true and honest style of storytelling, in a perfect manner with a focus on the core instead of optional ornaments. If you want to understand a piece, this kind of interpretation is most helpful. This isn't boring at all, if you get her subtleties.

Edited: September 8, 2018, 10:47 AM · And by the way, if you fancy musicians trying to push borders into modern times, HH is one way for you to go. Playing and recording pretty new stuff, many would call it even experimental music. Just look her up on YouTube... Again, pretty much intellectual stuff not everyone will enjoy.
September 8, 2018, 10:56 AM · Mr. Tetzlaff is very "free" in his third recording of the S&P-some may or not like it but I respect he just does whatever he likes and believes is in the spirit of the works (surely too "restrained" for some, but I did find it quite "loose", for lack of a better term.)

Ms. Hahn-seen her play many times and she does not strike me as boring or "tied up" in the modern tradition. Which modern player performs Vieuxtemps and Spohr nowadays? I find her to be a good combination of old-school aesthetics inherited from her teachers, nixed in with a modern touch (her Paganini is not conservative, her Bach is "romantic", etc.)

Also no one's perfect, and I rarely listen to aperformance that is "recording perfect", but DO NOT expect that in a live performance (by this I don't mean memory slips or major mistakes, but you can often hear steel Es whistle, some bow noise, some of the double stops slightly off, some notes very slightly off-things you "wouldn't allow" on a recording.)

Ms. Hahn is not a robot, and doesn't play like one live either, IMHO-just have certain preferences that may feel too "modern" for some of you.

I like the old masters as well, and I am happy to say that some modern performers are taking some liberties that were not common just a few decades ago, when portamento was a dying species and the very few who dared to break this "serious performance rule" of sorts were given the term "schmalzy", some times unfairly. Yes there are those who have been over the top, but the old-school wasn't that wrong as initially believed, IMO, and it's good that some players aren't playing too mechanically, or taking the score as an inflexible dictator (note: I do respect urtext.)

Do not mean to argue with any of you, of course. Like and listen to what you like.

September 8, 2018, 11:33 AM · Well said.
Edited: September 8, 2018, 12:46 PM · I look forward to it. I'll buy it! Well, at least the mp3 (my old ears can't tell the difference).
September 8, 2018, 1:16 PM · (Mr. Victor,

To be fair, even most-or more likely, "all"-younger ears can't tell the difference the best quality mp3 and CD. I still prefer to get the CD, and then make a high quality digital file copy for my smartphone device. Surely whatever they sell you online for classical recordings would be the variety you need not worry about the sound quality vs the master.

Best wishes.)

September 8, 2018, 2:44 PM · I've seen HH several times and she's always worth it! Great performer- very competent and tasteful. I've got a copy on Retrospective in vinyl on order at local record shop, and will get the Bach on vinyl, too. Supposed to be out 10/5. Everyone can tell the diff vinyl makes on a good tube system! Great for her to release it in that format!
September 8, 2018, 7:29 PM · Vinyl. Tubes. LOL. Gold cables too I assume.
September 8, 2018, 8:29 PM · no, copper cables all the way. All electronics (incl. cables) and speakers built and tuned to the room by yours truly.
September 8, 2018, 8:57 PM · Favorite cartoon from the New Yorker. Two gentlemen looking at a turntable, receiver, and large speakers on a cabinet:

"You know, what really attracted me to vinyl was the expense, and the inconvenience."

September 8, 2018, 8:58 PM · I did a search on HH vs Janine Jansen, and one person was talking about the "light bowing" of HH. This resonated with me because I was watching one performance, and there was a decided lack of power coming across for the amount of physical activity going on. I would assume that explains it.
Edited: September 8, 2018, 9:54 PM · I guess the professors at Curtis failed then. Letting her graduate with "light bowing." This whole thread is a joke.
September 8, 2018, 11:00 PM · Well, I'm a novice and can't be sure, but when I watch HH videos, it seems like there should be more volume coming off her instrument, to demarcate her better from the orchestra. I can't say for sure if the cause is "light bowing" or not. I just glommed onto that comment as it seemed to explain what I was missing from her playing.

I think HH must generate a polarized camp, in general. I see the same disagreements regarding her on other forums.

I wanted to like her when I recently began viewing her videos, but, something was missing for me.

People are entitled to their opinions. I can't debate on technique. But, I felt something was not coming through, given how big of a star she is.

Edited: September 9, 2018, 12:17 AM · I've heard Hahn regularly live, in both concerto and recital appearances. and she has a huge sound. I've never thought she wasn't projecting as much as she should be, or not properly balanced against the orchestra. That includes hearing her in the Elgar, from balcony seats; that concerto is a feat of projection and endurance. (Andrew Victor, if you're reading this thread: You probably remember that particular performance with Santa Rosa too, I imagine.)

By the way, her bowing technique is remarkable and pretty unique among today's top players. It's not light at all; she's got an intensely even control that allows her to really expend bow while still maintaining a lot of traction against the string. Part of the Jascha Brodsky legacy, I imagine.

You can tell almost nothing about how a player sounds in the hall based on how they sound on a recording or video, unfortunately. In Hahn's case, there's also a very interesting difference on how she sounds on CD vs. SACD. Her sound on CD is weirdly thin and glassy (the same thing sometimes occurs with other violinists, and is no doubt an artifact of the recording process and digitalization) and is much richer on SACD.

Edited: September 9, 2018, 7:39 AM · Fun thread.

The only thing I don't like with Hilary Hahn is the ugly carpet hiding half of her violin. Her playing is just great, and I love the absence of show and gimmicks in her performances as well as her respect and focus for the substance of the music.

And as for vinyl - lol, to each his own. I like my music without noise, degradation after the 1st playing, warped frequency response, lack of dynamics and all that stuff that comes with mechanical playback devices. (I've grown up in recording studios and know the sound from 2" tape and everything after).
Still, a turntable is way more sexy than a file on a computer.

September 9, 2018, 8:26 AM · Lydia - I sure do remember that concert! Hilary has been one of my violin heros ever since.
September 9, 2018, 9:37 AM · Regarding HH not having enough volume to differentiate adequately from the orchestra, I just saw a Janine Jansen video where the same was happening, and I don't usually have that problem with her. I'm wondering if the problem is compression on the recording, where it is bringing everything down based on the volume of the whole orchestra.
Edited: September 9, 2018, 11:43 PM · I really like her playing and I'm amazed that her talent is questioned. Some of my favorite violin recordings are from her, but also to be said that some of my least liked. That makes me wait and listen to samples of the incoming album.

I didn't like her 2003 recording of Bach Violin Concertos. She played all concertos in a tempo at least 25% faster (that's a lot) than any other recording I have of those pieces; from Heifetz, Perlman to Akiko Meyers. Bach's tempo is always a choice and a bet, but in this case I think it was clear that the colors and subtleties were being lost in the speed. It sounds so rushed that I wondered if it wasn't a postedition mistake. The 2 violin (1043) allegro sounded like a comedy soundtrack.

On the other hand, I love and listen endlessly her other sonatas and partitas, which, funny enough, she plays at a slightly slower tempo ((just 5%)) than other recordings I have. So let's see the next ones.

However whether I like or not a piece, doesn't diminish her talent or makes the piece a bad one. Preferences and tastes aren't art rules.

September 10, 2018, 6:28 AM · Carlos, I agree with all you wrote.

(Funny many musicians don't notice that Bach's music gets ugly and wrong when played too fast.)

September 10, 2018, 8:31 AM · David Ford, have you heard many concertos played live with orchestra, especially in large halls?

I think recordings create an unrealistic expectation of what you should expect to hear from a violinist with orchestra. Even the ones on YouTube (that have been professionally recorded, anyway) are done using multiple microphones, I believe, which allows artificial altering of the balance between soloist and orchestra. The most extreme examples of this are probably Perlman's later CD recordings, which use extremely close miking -- Perlman wants the violin to be heard the way he hears it under his ear, which is very unlike the way that you'd naturally hear a soloist in a hall.

The natural balance is not one in which the soloist is always dominant over the orchestra.

September 10, 2018, 9:03 AM · I admire Hahn's gutsiness, as shown in the repertoire she's recording. I also applaud her stubborness in sticking to her Vuillaume and not joining the "I fell in love with my Strad" circus.

Her Bach doesn't do it for me, but there is plenty of other material she's playing.

Edited: September 10, 2018, 9:25 AM · @Lydia, the soloist doesn't have to be completely dominant, but there should be enough delineation that you can hear well what they're doing. I think it's a matter of degree, not at one end of the spectrum or the other. And no, my live experience with concertos with orchestra is limited. I'm going by YouTube videos I've been seeing lately.
September 12, 2018, 7:38 AM · " Hilary Hahn's partial recorded set of sonatas and partitas of Bach has been an all time favorite of mine for a very long time."

You should really listen to some other more modern recordings if you haven't already - such as Julia Fischer's and Amandine Beyer's for example. HH's earlier recordings are quite dated in performance style to my ears -- more Romantic than Baroque. Referring only to the Partia in D Minor, the speed is actually on the slow, not fast side, and the exaggeration of phrasing / delays on accents often detracts from the rhythmic integrity to my ears. The vibrato throughout the work is also very distracting once you become accustomed to hearing more modern performances, which tend to have much less vibrato. I would also speculate that in her young age, she didn't have the capacity to understand and convey some of the work's emotional content, and as she replaced it with her own take in a Romantic vein, she missed out on what can be heard in other recordings or even some otherwise lousy amateur performances.

I would have looked forward to her more modern take on that piece and others, but am disappointed to hear that the new recording will only have pieces she didn't already record.

She will however be performing the other pieces including the D Minor in her concert tour, including New York, Washington, and San Francisco, so there will be a chance to hear her current take on that as well. Unfortunately when she comes to the RCM facility in Toronto, she will be playing a different program. A few places like Tokyo will get to hear her current take on the entire 'Sei Solo'.

September 12, 2018, 8:48 AM · David Ford, yes, there should be delineation, but what "delineation" means in terms of balance may be surprising to you in some sections of some works. YouTube isn't really a good guide to balance.
September 12, 2018, 12:35 PM · Again, I’m a novice, and basing off of YouTube, which I believe you is inferior.
Edited: September 12, 2018, 1:39 PM · I like Hillary Hahn, and would gladly see her live, and I remember liking her solo Bach years ago, but I went back recently, and it was just painfully slow to listen to, with every nuance overdone. I don't know if my tastes changed, or didn't listen as carefully. But it wasn't some bizarre dadaist conception like Gidon Kremer's most recent recording. I really like her musicality in a lot of other instances, but I saw this as a failure of conception.

My favs are Szeryng and Grumiaux, and I like a lot (but not all) of the recent Midori recording.


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