Violinist Hilary Hahn was one of a crop of teen violin prodigies who emerged in the late 1990s. Thirty five years old when this album appeared in 2015, she seems to have made the transition to maturity better than any of the others. The rather odd pairing of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219, with the little-known Violin Concerto No. 4 in D minor, Op. 31, of Henri Vieuxtemps is explained by Hahn as personal: she learned both works early in her education. As it happens, she welds the two works together into a program that might have been heard in Paris in 1880, and her playing has the same distinction. Hahn turns the Mozart into a kind of curtain raiser, with the gentle introduction of the violin soloist in the first movement used to display the breathtaking purity of tone of this musician who is the last student of Ysaÿe and carries a deep sense of tradition in her playing. The Mozart hints at wonders to come, and indeed they are here: the four-movement Vieuxtemps concerto is filled with incredible virtuoso challenges married to a quasi-symphonic form. The way the first movement sets up a strong thematic contrast between an almost pastoral opening and a stormier second subject group, and then lets the violinist transcend this contrast, is superb; it would not work without an absolutely top-notch player, and that is what Hahn has become. She gets able, alert support from the Kammerphilharmonie Bremen under Paavo Järvi, and the only thing that's just adequate is the sound: the program wasn't recorded all at the same time or place (although Hahn has clearly thought it through as an entity), and the splice is audible.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K 219|
|Violin Concerto No. 4 in D minor, Op. 31|