The sacred line of the great Austro-German composers of the twentieth century goes Mahler, Berg, Hindemith, Hartmann -- and the common listeners' affection for those composers' music goes in exactly the same order. Most listeners like Mahler's music, a fraction of them like Berg's, a fraction of them like Hindemith's, and a fraction of them like Hartmann's. Despite its undeniable dramatic mastery, lyrical intensity, and compositional virtuosity, Hartmann's music remains little known outside the German-speaking homelands.
Perhaps the reason for this neglect is its extravagant expressionist emotionality. As this uncompromising disc coupling his Concerto funebre for violin and string orchestra with his pairs of suites and sonatas for solo violin shows, Hartmann's harmonies were sometimes at the dissonant edges of tonality, his melodies frequently on the far side of clarity, and his attacks as often as not over the top into blatant brutality. Still, as performed here with astounding technical brilliance and complete self-assurance by young Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova, Hartmann's music can be a transformative experience. With the enthusiastic support of the Britten Sinfonia, Ibragimova leans into the big tunes and the grand climaxes of the four-movement concerto, making the work seem nearly as compelling as Berg's concerto. And alone in the four- and five-movement suites and sonatas, Ibragimova persuades the casual listener to attend closely to the works' reckless daring, extraordinary beauty, and enormous musicality. Recorded in close, warm, and clean sound in Henry Wood Hall in London by producer Andrew Keener, this disc may do its bit to raise Hartmann's music in the pantheon of the great Austro-German composers of the twentieth century.