BACH Violin Concertos / Hahn



Violinkonzerte · Violin Concertos
No. 1 BWV 1041 · No. 2 BWV 1042
Konzert für Violine und Oboe
Concerto for Violin and Oboe BWV 1060
Doppelkonzert · Double Concerto
Hilary Hahn
Margaret Batjer · Allan Vogel
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Jeffrey Kahane
Int. Release 01 Sep. 2003
1 CD / Download
0289 474 1992 1 CD DDD GH

Liste de titres

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
Violin Concerto No.2 In E, BWV 1042

Hilary Hahn, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Jeffrey Kahane

Double Concerto For 2 Violins, Strings, And Continuo In D Minor, BWV 1043

Hilary Hahn, Margaret Batjer, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Jeffrey Kahane

Violin Concerto No.1 In A Minor, BWV 1041

Hilary Hahn, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Jeffrey Kahane

Concerto For 2 Harpsichords, Strings, And Continuo In C Minor, BWV 1060

Arr. for violin, oboe strings & continuo


Hilary Hahn, Allan Vogel, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Jeffrey Kahane

Durée totale de lecture 57:19

Hahn is an American violinist of fearless instincts, eager to tackle everything from Bach to Barber and beyond . . . Hahn . . . never fails to dazzle in performance.

. . . her musicality and feeling for Bach . . . is so genuine that she can not be expected of merely showing off. In these concertos, her first for the Deutsche Grammophon label, her flawless technique, beautiful tone, and restrained noble expressiveness are on full display.

Violinist Hilary Hahn, a modern instrumentalist to the core, shows a stunning grasp of Baroque style on her new recording of Bach concertos. Her playing is wonderfully alive in phrasing and rhythm, and she and her colleagues are alert to matters of tempo . . . balance and articulation. Hahn's infectious artistery spills over to her fellow soloists.

The booklet features an engaging foreword by Hahn herself, stressing the 'unique sense of community inherent in Bach's music'. She and her colleagues play it like that too, with superb technical class, plus an emphasis on unflashy interplay and poise that appeals strongly.

Especially when faced with music at this exalted level, it is not very often that a recording achieves and sustains such sublime standards. Technically speaking the playing on this disc is virtually beyond criticism. Hilary Hahn's dead-centre intonation, tonal purity, deftly articulated bowing, dynamic control, subtle use of vibrato and portamento, and control of the violin's natural resonances are such that one can only sit and listen in amazement at this astonishingly gifted 24-year-old.

Hilary Hahns absolut sichere Intonation, die Tonreinheit, die geschickt artikulierte Bogenführung, die Kontrolle der Dynamik, der subtile Gebrauch von Vibrato und Portamento sowie die Kontrolle der natürlichen Resonanz des Instruments sind von einer Art, dass es einem den Atem verschlägt und man dieser ungeheuer begabten 24-Jährigen nur noch wie gebannt lauschen kann.

L¿intonation parfaite de Hilary Hahn, sa pureté sonore, l¿habile articulation de ses coups d¿archet, sa maîtrise dynamique, son emploi subtil du vibrato et du portamento, et le contrôle des résonances naturelles du violon sont tels qu¿on ne peut que s¿asseoir et écouter avec émerveillement cette jeune musicienne de vingt-quatre ans étonnamment douée.

Hahn's feeling for Bach's dance rhythms is strong and infectious, as she demonstrates with technical brilliance in the closing movements of the A minor Concerto . . . Hahn and the ripieno strings of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra under the spirited direction of Jeffrey Kahane inflect the music incisively and punctuate it in a manner that makes the most of Bach's animated dialogue. It is in the limpid phrasing and delicately wrought nuances of the slow movements, though, that Hahn's distinctive sensibility is at its most beguiling. The melodic lines are effectively shaded and notes are placed with consummate delicacy . . . An outstanding release.

In short, the broad principles of Hahn's approach, her expressive agility, intelligence and natural feel for musical line, "do" Bach proud.

. . . Hahn's new set is something special. With her honey-smooth tone and rhythmic finesse, Hahn brings a refreshing buoyancy to these works.

Hilary Hahn's début recording of several of Bach's solo Sonatas and Partitas revealed a remarkable mature musical sensibility as well as a gigantic technical assurance . . . Unlike more mannered performances, which almost certainly will sound dated in a few decades, hers promise to reveal their virtues enduringly through repeated listening now and in the future. Recommended for the long haul.

In her first, astounding CD six years ago, the then-teenager wowed the world with amazingly mature performances of some of the solo Bach partitas. Now 23, Hahn has recorded the complete Bach violin concertos for DG, and the result is nearly as spectacular.

There is much to praise -- her bright, propulsive, fluid and accurate playing, and her vision . . .

Es gibt vieles zu rühmen ¿ ihr strahlendes, vorwärtsdrängendes, flüssiges und exaktes Spiel, ihre Vision.

Il y a beaucoup à louer ¿ son jeu brillant, énergique, fluide et précis, et sa vision.

. . . It is simply spellbinding.

This is Bach with singing lines, full of life, elegant rallentandi halting the motoric flow . . . This is Bach seen from a very different perspective . . . Exhilarating Hilary . . .

Nein, sie leistet sich keine emotionalen Ausbrüche, keine Manierismen, keine Schwelgereien, kein Barock-Kitsch. Hilary Hahn spielt nur: streng, akkurat, fast protestantisch. Bach eben. Emotionslos ist das nicht. Sie treibt die Violinkonzerte auf iher neuen CD (mit dem Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra und Jeffrey Kahane, DG) mit Dynamik voran, vibriert im Subton des Understatements und lässt die raffinierten Formen Bachs offen stehen. Zum Nachhorchen. Noten pur. "Ich spiele einfach", sagt Hahn gern, wenn sie nach ihren Interpretationen gefragt wird. Die Unschuld ist ihre wahre Größe.

Die Aufnahme ist sehr dicht und kompakt, ohne dabei die nötige Leichtigkeit vermissen zu lassen. Hilary Hahns Spiel ist ausdifferenziert und zeugt von einem großen Verständnis der Musik Bachs.

Endlich mal wieder eine ernstzunehmende Einspielung jenseits der "historisierenden" Darmsaiten-Kargheit. Die noch immer sehr junge Amerikanerin Hilary Hahn (Jahrgang 1979) etabliert sich nach exzellenten Darstellungen der klassisch-romantischen Standards jetzt mit dem barocken "Meister der Meister" Bach endgültig in der ersten Liga. ... Überhaupt, ihr Ton: In seiner mal breiten Fülle, mal sprudelnden Frische, mal verhalten verschattet, mal kräftig aufblühend, passt er sich perfekt den unterschiedlichen "Stimmungen" (oder Redeweisen) der stark an Vivaldi angelehnten Konzerte an. Selten hört man die Kopfsätze des a-Moll und des E-Dur-Konzertes so deutlich anders gefärbt. Schnell fällt der auch auf der G-Saite der Vuillaume-Violine (1864) markant-saubere Ton auf. In nie überzogenen Tempi lässt die Brodsky-Schülerin die Melodien fließen, ohne mit zuviel Überbinden romantische Langeweile zu verbreiten oder mit krampfhaft abgesetzten Tönen nervös zu stammeln. Das hat eine innere Logik und klangschöne Stabilität, die an die ganz Großen erinnert.

Eine innige, gereifte Interpretation der amerikanischen Solistin, die den Vergleich mit Größen wie Gidon Kremer oder Isaac Stern keineswegs zu fürchten braucht.

Das Bach-Spiel dieser jungen Weltklasse-Geigerin fasziniert gerade dank einer Balance von Spontaneität und Beherrschtheit. Makellos auch das Zusammenwirken mit dem Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, sowohl in bezug auf die technische Perfektion als auch auf die geistige Durchdringung des Stoffes.

. . . die Essenz des Geigenspiels . . .

Violin-Solistin Hilary Hahn spielt die "Bach Concertos" spritzig und leichfüßig, legt hauchzarte Melodien über den sonoren Orchesterklang.

...ernsthaft und nicht zu süß ist ihr Spiel auf dem Album...

Ses mouvements vifs possèdent beaucoup d'allant et de luminosité et l'on oublie parfois la tonalité mineure de certains d'entre eux (preuve, s'il en était besoin, que "mineur" ne signifie pas forcément "triste" ou "nostalgique"), et elle joue superbement les mouvements médians des BWV 1041 et BWV 1042.

Alors, pourquoi cinq Diapason? Parce que l'on rest pantois devant ce violon si sain, qui méprise les effets de manche et assume des tempos prestissimes sans rien truquer, devant cette main gauche toujours sûre, toujours en "plein dans le mille", devant cet archet qui ne se crispe sur aucun trait (pas même dans la Gigue du La mineur et ses bariolages !), prodigieux de souplesse et de mordant (on pense plus d'une fois à Heifetz), devant cette sonorité limpide, homogène.

Because the listener is left speechless by such unaffected violin playing, by playing that eschews all dramatic effects and manages the fastest tempos without ever fudging, by a left hand of such total security, always right in the centre of the note, by bowing that never tenses up on any stroke . . ., tremendous in both suppleness and bite (one thinks more than once of Heifetz), by such limpid, homogeneous tone.

Weil man völlig verblüfft ist angesichts dieses geradlinigen Geigenspiels, das wohlfeile Effekte verachtet und die schnellsten Tempi nimmt, ohne etwas zu verwischen, angesichts dieser stets absolut sicheren linken Hand, angesichts dieser Bogenführung, die an keiner Stelle verkrampft wirkt . . ., ein Wunder an Geschmeidigkeit und Energie (mehr als einmal kommt einem Heifetz in den Sinn), angesichts dieses reinen, homogenen Tons.

Hilary Hahn s'impose à chacun de ses nouveaux enregistrements comme une très grande dame du violon. ... Hilary Hahn est dotée, par-delà une incroyable technique, d'une musicalité hors pair. ... alors que l'abondante discographie de ces oeuvres ne connaît que très peu de versions lumineuses, que ce soit sur instruments modernes ou selon un jeu «à l'ancienne», voici la version qui ravira tout le monde! ...Hilary Hahn provoque un engouement si communicatif que le triomphe final, pour ce disque marquant son entrée chez DG, est éclatant. L'accompagnement orchestral est d'ailleurs au diapason, privilégiant une pulsation très dansante et offrant un tremplin à la moindre intervention de la soliste. Une grande référence moderne de ces oeuvres, en priorité pour les BWV 1041 et 1042.

. . . magnífica interpretación de Hahn (sin duda, ya, una de las grandes) [Mozart]
. . . su sonido es brillante y su técnica es tan segura como convincente . . . una madurez sorprendentemente precoz pues ya no impresiona al público y a la crítica por su juventud, sino por su talento musical más allá de su edad.

La violinista, sin embargo, ha evolucionado; especialmente en lo que se refiere al timbre, no tan afilado pero igual o más hermoso que antaño. Además de por el redondeamiento de los colores, los resultados se benefician asimismo de la conservación y aun incremento de la precisión rítmica, la justeza de los ataques, la solidez de las líneas, la seguridad de la afinación . . . una contribuci´n muy estimable a la discografiá bachiana.

El imparable ascenso de un talento ... "Ritmo" trae a su portada a una niña-prodigio que ya ha dejado de serlo; trae a un músico y a un instrumentista excepcional que contempla una perspectiva de enorme e ilusionante proyección futura. Que todos lo veamos.

Quello che colpisce è il suo suono sempre limpido e pulito, la sua tecnica assolutamente inappuntabile e la sua linea interpretativa sempre estremamente chiara.
Foreword Hilary Hahn

While I was warming up in a dressing room recently, a piece of artwork on the wall caught my eye. In the center was the following excerpt from T. S. Eliot: “... The past experience revived in the meaning / Is not the experience of one life only / But of many generations ..."

Had Eliot been describing the music of J. S. Bach, he would have hit the nail right on the head. As with many other works of classical music, countless interpretations of these four concerti have been passed from generation to generation, from teacher to student, from legendary musician to admirer, and from colleague to colleague. In Bach's case, this continuation of tradition has lasted well over two centuries. The world has changed greatly since he composed these works, but through it all, his music has remained unsullied, a touchstone of emotional purity.

Sometimes I'm asked, “What sets Bach apart from other great composers?" It's a difficult question to answer. There are so many details that one could point to, yet, like the famous Mona Lisa's smile, the most distinctive elements are the most elusive. Some people emphasize that Bach's music captures the essence of humanity, that it brings together complex elements of light and shadow, solitude and communion, elation and the depths of sorrow. The listener is led through conflict to beautiful resolution, but satisfying as the resolution may be, another layer of expression is constantly waiting to be uncovered. I feel that this is true of all of Bach's compositions.

I must say, however, that what impressed me most while preparing for and making this recording was the unique sense of community inherent in Bach's music. In the year or so leading up to the sessions, I worked on these four concerti intensively with numerous orchestras, conductors, and fellow soloists. As always, each musician and each audience member brought his or her own thoughts to the process - but instead of clashing, those different ideas and opinions inevitably contributed to an organic whole. Experiences combine well in Bach; meaning is garnered from collective history, while memories are dusted out of the smallest corners and put to affectionate use.

My memories of these pieces are happy ones. My first performance of the E major concerto, outside of Philadelphia, was the only time my aged but beloved and spirited teacher, Jascha Brodsky, saw me play with orchestra. Several generations of his family joined him; it was the sole occasion on which I heard him called “Papi". A few years later, I performed the second-violin part in the Concerto for Two Violins, with Jaime Laredo, who was my coach at the time. Shortly thereafter, I was introduced to the Concerto for Oboe and Violin by a Russian oboist whose violinist grandfather had been the long-time, previous owner of my violin. The oboist's family and what seemed like Baltimore's entire Russian community attended that concert, to hear him perform next to his grandfather's violin. I also remember receiving the music for the A minor concerto; the notes were so familiar, and I enjoyed the opportunity to play them at long last, after years of singing and dancing to recordings of the piece and, in concert halls, annoying my neighbors by quietly tapping my toes to the quick movements. In essence, the meaning that these four pieces hold for me is greater than the notes alone; it is deeply entwined with my experiences, which would not have been possible without the influence of many past generations.

It is my hope that while listening to this album, you - in turn - will be inspired to hum to the slow movements, tap your feet to the fast, and dance to it all (at home, of course). Join in! I am sure Bach would be pleased.

    Hilary Hahn in conversation with James Keller

JK: You are now 23 years old and you have recorded the violin concertos of Johann Sebastian Bach, which many music lovers consider a summit of your instrument's repertoire. Do you worry that you are committing your interpretations to disc too soon in your career?
HH: No, not really. In fact, I was only 16 or 17 when I recorded a disc of Bach's solo sonatas and partitas, and those are also at the summit of the repertoire. I never worried about it, perhaps because Bach was the composer I'd played the most at that time. I'm very comfortable with Bach.

I remember that solo recording well, and although I was deeply impressed by your performance, I had to believe that it was just a beginning for you - that precisely because it was so good it was bound to open the door to further insights the longer you lived with the music.
I hope so! I don't believe in the idea that a recording is definitive. To me, a recording is a living document of a performer's interpretation at a certain point in time. The longer you've played a piece, the more interpretive options you uncover, though what you discover later isn't necessarily better or worse than what you've done before.
It's interesting: for a live performance, I'll seek out as many new ideas as I can find, to keep expanding my musical horizons and keep things interesting for everyone. By the time I get to a recording session, on the other hand, I've played the piece so often that my focus turns to organizing those ideas and solidifying my interpretation, so that the end result is as intriguing and organic as possible.

Who have been some of the violinists who have influenced your outlook on Bach?
I played the E major Concerto very early on, when I was 12 or 13. At that time I was studying with Mr. [Jascha] Brodsky at Curtis. He was my teacher from 1990 until 1997, when he died. Those were formative years for me, and he was hugely influential on everything in my playing. He was open to various ways of playing each piece he taught me, but if he didn't like what he heard, he'd say so. Basically, his approach was personalized; he was interested in helping find out what worked best for each individual performer.
I had already played my first solo Bach before I started studying with him. That was the Siciliano and Presto from the G minor solo Sonata, which I included in my very first recital, at the age of 10. From the beginning, I learned how much detail is called for in Bach and how much time and care it takes to prepare those works for concert.

Do you also seek advice from past masters by listening to their recordings?
I like old recordings. In the old times, the technology wasn't as developed, so the essence of those recordings is naturally quite different. People comment on how violinists' styles have changed over the generations; but I find it hard to compare, given the fact that I never had the chance to hear the older players live.
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to locate as many old recordings of Bach's violin concertos as I'd like. Lately, I've listened to some recent "historically informed" Bach recordings, because there are so many to choose among and I find the approach interesting. What I like about some "period" recordings is the spirit they convey - the upbeat tempos, the strong sense of motion throughout, and the dance-like quality. I tried to capture some of those elements on my recording, while taking advantage of the sustaining strengths of modern instruments.

Do you follow your Baroque colleagues in improvising a bit?
Occasionally, here and there, but I didn't receive such extensive training in it that I can improvise whole movements off a figured bass. The music as written conveys many things on its own, so I pay close attention to the score and try to let the notes speak for themselves.

What instrument do you play on this recording?
It was built in Paris by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, in 1864.

How does the experience of playing Bach concertos differ from that of playing unaccompanied Bach?
Really, all of Bach's music is chamber music, whether it's written for a solo instrument or a large ensemble. In solo works the performer creates chamber music on one instrument, by balancing and phrasing many different lines at once; therefore, in the unaccompanied sonatas and partitas, much of the inspiration comes from within. Conversely, when more musicians are involved, the chamber-music structure is more standardized, and interpretations are formed through interaction with the other instrumentalists. I am strongly influenced by the people I work with. I bring my own thoughts to the table, but when I'm working with other musicians there's a lot of adapting that takes place.
Whereas a large ensemble requires a fair amount of organization, Bach's solo works can be played in all situations. They only require one instrument, and the music is complete in and of itself. I play them in every recital I give and as encores after concerti, as well as in many other contexts. I present them at schools, for instance, to kids who have never even heard a violin before. The music always grabs people's attention, and it's a powerful experience. My cousin is a first-grade teacher in Los Angeles, so while I was there working with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra on this recording, I visited his classroom and played for the kids. I like seeing young people's reactions to the music. Often what they perceive is different from what I perceive, but their perception is honest and uninfluenced. On this occasion, I asked how a certain slow movement made them feel: one kid said happy, another said sad, but both observations are valid.

Was this recording with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra done in conjunction with live concerts?
Yes. I always like to do that, because if we were to go into a recording session cold, the orchestra and I wouldn't be in sync. I prefer to play concerts first, then rest for a day or two, and then do the recording.

Can the experience of the live performance be translated directly to the recording?
The effect may be similar from the one environment to the other, but the means of achieving it can be very different. Some things have to change in order to make a concert interpretation convincing in a recording. Certain articulations which work well in a hall might seem intrusive from three feet away, while subtleties of phrasing which would never come across in a large hall pop out under a microphone.

You sound like a "people person" when it comes to music making.
I guess I am. I like to meet audiences after my concerts. I mingle in the lobby, sign programs and CDs, and whatever else people bring along for me to sign. I love the social aspect of it. When I was little, I had friends who would take me backstage at the Baltimore Symphony, introducing me to many of the visiting soloists and conductors. It was a blast. As it turned out, talking with those people gave me a good feel for the life of a travelling musician - I knew what to expect later when I myself began touring. I try to return the favor now, being available to talk to audience members whenever possible. I enjoy the experience because I get to meet the people I play for, who are a pivotal part of any performance.

What do you do when you're not making music?
I read, I write, I play with animals, I take pictures, and I have a website with a travelogue journal. I took ballet lessons for a long time, so I like to dance. I also enjoy painting and drawing - any arts and crafts. And I love exploring the cities I visit while on tour.

If you could ask Bach a question or two about his violin concertos, what would you ask?
Wow. I hadn't thought about that. I might ask if he intended for his music to be played in a very specific way or if he imagined the many different interpretations that have arisen over the centuries. Also, I'd be curious to sit him down in front of a CD player and show him some music by composers he influenced. For example, I'm playing the Stravinsky Violin Concerto on tour with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony this spring, and in October I'm recording the Elgar Violin Concerto with Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra. Stravinsky always said he was influenced by Bach, as did Elgar. Edgar Meyer, who wrote me a violin concerto a few years ago, is also a Bach devotee. But what would Bach himself make of the violin concertos of Elgar, Stravinsky, and Meyer? I'd love to witness his reaction.

Our poor world has been going through some troubled times lately. Does a classical musician have a political role to play?
I think each musician enters the music world for a different, personal reason. I'm attracted by its virtue of bringing people together; it creates a circle of unspoken communication in the concert hall, and recordings extend that bond to listeners wherever they happen to be. I consider the concert hall to be a sort of refuge. People may listen, think what they want, talk about it later or not, even fall asleep and rest: it's all fine.
A lot of pop musicians and actors have been vocal about political issues. In a way, that's expected. During dramatic times such as these, when so many strong opinions are flying about, it would be odd to avert discussion if you're in a field based on words. In classical music, there is really no such expectation. The art is separate from speech. What you communicate arises from the quality of the music, much of which has already withstood the test of time.

(James M. Keller is program annotator of the New York Philharmonic
and San Francisco Symphony Orchestras)

    Hilary Hahn Timeline

1979    Born on 27 November in Lexington, Virginia, USA.
1983 Moves to Baltimore at the age of three; first violin lessons in a local children's program one month before her fourth birthday.
1985 At five, begins five years of study in Baltimore with Klara Berkovich, a native of Odessa who had taught at the Leningrad School for the Musically Gifted for 25 years before emigrating to Baltimore.
1990 In February, gives her first full recital, at Leakin Hall in Baltimore. Enters the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia at the age of ten to study with 83-year-old Jascha Brodsky, the last surviving student of Eugène Ysaye. Makes her first radio appearance, on classical WFLN-FM in Philadelphia.
1991 First engagement with a professional orchestra at the age of eleven; receives her first full-size violin; major orchestra debut with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in December. Grants her first television interviews.
1992 Appears on A&E's "The Gifted Ones." Begins full-time undergraduate studies at Curtis in music, liberal arts, and foreign languages.
1993 Debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Academy of Music. European orchestral debut in Hungary with the Budapest Festival Orchestra. European chamber-music debut in France at the Festival of Sully-sur-Loire, with future recital partner Natalie Zhu. Crosses paths with a Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume violin from 1864 and falls in love with it, buys it shortly thereafter.
1994 Debuts with other leading American orchestras, including the Cleveland, New York Philharmonic, and Pittsburgh Symphony.
1995 German debut in Munich at the age of 15, playing Beethoven's Violin Concerto in a televised concert with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Lorin Maazel. Tours throughout Europe during the next three years in an exclusive arrangement with Maazel and the BRSO. Spends her first summer (of four) studying and performing chamber music at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont, USA.
1996 Her first recording featuring solo Sonatas and Partitas by J. S. Bach is released, winning a Diapason d'Or. Carnegie Hall debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Debut in the Berlin Philharmonie with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Performs in Bach's six Brandenburg Concertos with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Completes bachelor's degree requirements at the Curtis Institute.
1997 Teacher Jascha Brodsky dies at the age of 89, while Hilary is on tour in California. In October she makes her Paris debut with a recital in the Salle Olivier Messiaen.
1998 Makes her orchestral debut in Paris in January at the Salle Pleyel, playing the First Prokofiev Concerto with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France under Marek Janowski. Her recording of Beethoven's Violin Concerto and Bernstein's Serenade with the Baltimore Symphony under David Zinman is nominated for a Grammy Award, crowned with a Diapason d'Or and, a few months later, an Echo Klassik Award. Makes tour appearances with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Vienna's Musikverein, London's Barbican Hall, and Zürich's Tonhalle; recital debuts in London's Wigmore Hall, Milan's Conservatorio Verdi, and Hamburg's Musikhalle. Appears on the "Harald Schmidt Show" on German television.
1999 Graduates from the Curtis Institute of Music with a bachelor's degree. Orchestral debuts with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and San Francisco Symphony; concert at Carnegie Hall with the Orchestra of St. Luke's. Makes a five-week tour of Australia. Performs and records the violin concerto written for and dedicated to her by Edgar Meyer.
2000 Her 1999 recording of concertos by Barber and Meyer wins the Deutscher Schallplattenpreis and the Cannes Classical Award. Makes BBC Proms debut as featured soloist at the "Last Night" in London's Royal Albert Hall. Tours Japan with the Berliner Philharmoniker. European tours with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester of Berlin. Makes her subscription concert debut with the London Philharmonic.
2001 Tours North America as soloist with the Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. An autumn tour brings recitals in Pittsburgh, Seattle, New York, Hamburg, Brussels, Berlin, Madrid, Paris, Lisbon, Tokyo, and Osaka. Returns to Munich and Vienna as soloist with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Makes her debut appearances with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France, and Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome.
2002 Signs an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon and makes her first recording under this agreement, four concertos by J. S. Bach with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra conducted by Jeffrey Kahane. Recital debuts at Carnegie Hall and the Vienna Musikverein as part of a tour stretching from California to Istanbul. Return engagements with the Zürich Chamber and Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestras. Her recording of concertos by Brahms and Stravinsky with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields wins the "Monde de la musique"'s Choc Award; a Grammy follows in 2003.
2003 North American appearances include the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Boston, National, Seattle, St. Louis, Honolulu, and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestras. Four-week European tour with the San Francisco Symphony. In addition, she makes orchestral débuts in Lisbon and Barcelona and returns to the Frankfurt Radio and Danish National Symphony Orchestras. Her album of Bach concertos will be released in the autumn. Her next CD for Deutsche Grammophon will be recorded in London: Elgar's Violin Concerto and Vaughan Williams's "The Lark Ascending", with Sir Colin Davis conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.

Bach Violin

Johann Sebastian Bach was renowned as a keyboard virtuoso, but he was also a skilled violinist. His father, Johann Ambrosius Bach, had been a professional violinist in Erfurt and Eisenach (where Johann Sebastian was born), so our composer surely grew up with the sound of that instrument in his ear. It was as a violinist that Sebastian obtained his first professional appointment, at Weimar in 1703, and when he died 47 years later in Leipzig, he left in his estate a violin built by Stainer - probably the luthier Jacob Stainer whose instruments remain prized today. In 1774, Bach's son Carl Philipp Emanuel recalled of his father: “From his youth up to fairly old age he played the violin purely and with a penetrating tone and thus kept the orchestra in top form, much better than he could have from the harpsichord. He completely understood the possibilities of all stringed instruments."

Bach supplied the violin repertoire with surpassing masterpieces, including eight sonatas with harpsichord accompaniment, six works for unaccompanied violin, obbligato parts in his cantatas and passions, and a handful of concertos. The violin plays an important solo role in three of the Brandenburg Concertos as well as in the Triple Concerto in A minor for flute, violin, and harpsichord BWV 1044. But his essential works for solo violin and orchestra are the four concertos presented on this recording.

Composing orchestral music was not really a principal focus of Bach's work. From 1717 to 1723 he was in charge of secular music for the court at Cöthen, but the 13-member instrumental ensemble available to him there fell short of what we would consider a modern orchestra. Thus his ostensibly orchestral pieces of the period, such as the Brandenburg Concertos and perhaps three of these violin concertos (BWV 1041-43), still stand with one foot firmly in the realm of chamber music. The ensemble supporting the soloist(s) consists here only of strings, with a harpsichord to realize the continuo line. In this connection Hilary Hahn has remarked: “All of Bach's music is chamber music, whether it's written for a solo instrument or a large ensemble. In solo works the performer creates chamber music on one instrument, by balancing and phrasing many different lines at once. On the other hand, when more musicians are involved, the chamber-music structure is more standardized, and interpretations are formed through interaction with the other instrumentalists."

In 1723 Bach moved to Leipzig, where his time was largely given over to composing and directing sacred music. But between 1729 and 1741 he also found time to direct the city's Collegium musicum, a semi-professional assemblage of students and music lovers who met regularly at Zimmermann's coffee house - or, in the summer, in its outdoor garden - for instrumental music making. Now Bach had an ongoing need for concerto repertoire, and accordingly he dipped into his own back-catalogue to resurrect works he had written in Cöthen years earlier. In some cases he refashioned them into versions that spotlighted the Collegium's specific forces.

Scholars have traditionally maintained that BWV 1041-
43 were composed in Cöthen and revived for the Leipzig Collegium musicum. The assumption is based on slender evidence at best, and recent thought favors
the possibility that they actually originated in Leipzig around 1730. There is no doubt that Bach's keyboard arrangements of these three pieces date from his Collegium musicum years, when he turned the A minor violin concerto into a G minor harpsichord concerto, the E major violin concerto in a D major harpsichord concerto, and the D minor double violin concerto into a C minor concerto for two harpsichords.

The Concerto for oboe and violin BWV 1060 has less certain origins. All of Bach's solo or duo concertos with orchestra exist in versions featuring harpsichord - in this case, as a C minor concerto for two harpsichords - but none is thought to have been created for that instrument initially. In the 1920s the musicologist Max Seiffert analyzed the tessitura and other musical characteristics of BWV 1060 and deduced that the piece had originally been a concerto for oboe and violin; he published an edition for those instruments, transposing the piece to D minor to fit the oboe's comfort zone better. (A 1764 catalogue from the publishing firm of Breitkopf lists a Bach concerto for oboe and violin; though it fails to mention the work's key, at least it confirms that Bach penned some piece for this instrumental combination.) Scholars' opinions vary, however, and this concerto also exists in a reconstruction for oboe and violin pitched in C minor - performed here - as well as versions for two violins in either key.

Variety is the hallmark of these four concertos. The Violin Concerto in A minor, densely concentrated and contrapuntally involved, is by turns dramatic and lyrical in its outer movements. But its central Andante is relaxed and pensive - though it, too, generates a good deal of tension by piling up dissonances over extended pedal points. In contrast, the E major is one of the most jubilant of Bach's concertos, positively ebullient in its first movement and its concluding rondo. Here the hushed middle movement is a freely treated chaconne in B minor. The Concerto for Oboe and Violin is a lively and intensely emotional work in its outer movements, especially the finale, which contains an exciting episode with great sweeps of triplets proclaimed by the violinist. These frame a luminous, introspective Adagio in which the two soloists spin out elegant contrapuntal lines above simple chords in the orchestra. The two violinists are equal partners in the D minor Double Concerto, often sharing their musical material in close alternation. The work's slow movement is a particularly fine example of Bach's ability to make time seem to stop while the players weave a magical tapestry from threads of poignancy, resignation and tenderness. Anything would seem an intrusion after such a movement, but Bach pulls no punches in the unusually energetic, even blustery, finale.

James Keller

James Keller is program annotator of the San Francisco Symphony and New York Philharmonic