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Norman Lebrecht is out of control.*


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Hey, look: HH posted the Chausson for us to form our own opinion.  Personally, I find it to be one of her more interesting interpretations.  I can really hear her searching.  As always, her control is the world's greatest.

I usually buy her albums, this one will be no exception.

But, seriously, where does someone get off giving this 1-star?

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Here's an example of her playing that is perfection itself, and yet, I find myself wanting something else (3-stars).  If I was going to choose something to criticize, it would be what her perfect control does in music like this Scherzo.  It's too tidy!  I like my Prokofiev to be a charming mess.  Her pulse is so predictable, the rhythms so steady.  Every note is tucked gently into its specific timbre; neatly organized musical phrases. Also, I think the orchestra's energy is too low and that's not helping.

If I saw it live, I might be concerned I'd died and gone to heaven, but on a recording, and in this era, I need my Prokofiev to sound weirder.

 

 

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15 hours ago, not telling said:

Because I enjoyed it, dammit. Sometimes I just want to call an asshat an asshat. I get it out, then I can go and try to act like a normal person and not say everything I want to say. Good comment though.  Before, I mean.

Ha well said. And I apologize again for thinking that you were calling him sexist. I should have read more carefully and I apologize profusely that I did not. Meanwhile, most of the time I ignore some thing with which I strenuously disagree because eh, life is short.

But sometimes, one does want to call a fool a fool.

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1 hour ago, Stephen Fine said:

Here's an example of her playing that is perfection itself, and yet, I find myself wanting something else (3-stars).  If I was going to choose something to criticize, it would be what her perfect control does in music like this Scherzo.  It's too tidy!  I like my Prokofiev to be a charming mess.  Her pulse is so predictable, the rhythms so steady.  Every note is tucked gently into its specific timbre; neatly organized musical phrases. Also, I think the orchestra's energy is too low and that's not helping.

If I saw it live, I might be concerned I'd died and gone to heaven, but on a recording, and in this era, I need my Prokofiev to sound weirder.

 

 

That is a very good review. I am constantly inundated with performances that are clean and perfect and say nothing. The review in question was a bad review because it said nothing about that it was just petulant. Written by a man who is jealous.

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47 minutes ago, Rue said:

Here's a very positive review (Anna Clyne)! 

https://thecritic.co.uk/anna-clyne-mythologies-avie/

Proof he can be "less mean".

Well, sure he can, and he often is. He will prop up someone to a point but he seems not to want women at the top of the classical scene or whatever. It's a predictable trait.

I absolutely do think he is sexist, but it's more insidious than insulting all women with talent and either ignoring CD releases and compositions by women or treating all women with derision. He has to show that he pays attention.

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Lebrecht is so opinionated and often so far from the general consensus, I doubt anybody reading his reviews actually believes them unquestioningly. Maybe his intention is to provoke and stimulate people into forming their own opinions?

This is a challenging program, for a player to demonstrate they're "inside" two such different composers. I'm thinking she might ideally have used two different violins. Nobody seems to do that, do they?

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Deux Sérénades (Written for Hilary Hahn) - Rautavaara 

Hilary Hahn, violin · Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France · Conductor, Mikko Franck

The two Sérénades by Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara are masterfully presented here by one of my favorite artists, the great American violinist, Hilary Hahn.  As usual, she has juxtaposed interesting pieces of the repertoire in her new album, Paris.  Some might question why an American artist waxing rhapsodic about connection to place would title her album after the French capital instead of something more poetic like The East Coast of the U.S.  It's no great mystery though for anyone willing to casually research the repertoire.  For example, the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1 was premiered in Paris at the Paris Opera in 1923.  The Poème of the Parisian composer, Ernest Chausson, needs no introduction or explanation to consumers of violin music.  And while Rautavaara is as Finnish as Sibelius (for whom he was a pallbearer), he titled these serenades in French (Sérénade pour mon amourSérénade pour la vie), explicitly tying them to the Parisian orchestra we hear on this album.

The Sérénade pour mon amour features the violin accompanied by string orchestra.  The tonal language is gentle, late Romantic; at times, the music sounds a bit like the famous Adagio from Samuel Barber's String Quartet as the orchestra moves in a gentle rocking counterpoint to the solo violin's wandering melodies.  The music's affect doesn't stray far from the language of dream or memory; there is a steady internal calmness.  It's somewhat remarkable that something so static doesn't come across as more minimalistic.  It didn't go anywhere, but it wasn't boring.  I heard what sounded like quotations, but I couldn't identify them.

The second serenade, the Sérénade pour la vie, was left uncompleted at the time of the composer's death in 2016.  The sketch (which included the completed solo part) was brought to life by Rautavaara's student, Kalevi Aho.  I was immediately biased in favor of the movement when I saw it was marked Andante assai.  I'm just a sucker for anything marked Andante assai.  This movement did not disappoint.  Right from the start, it is very andante in character.  The strings are no longer moving slowly underneath the solo voice, but rather, propelling it forward with 6/8 energy.  And the easygoing violin, no longer quietly navel-gazing, is in open discussion with every clarinet, oboe, and flute wanting to chat.  The melody soars higher and higher as the violin is joined in harmony by the horn, before a wild coda that cuts off abruptly.

The OPRF under Mikko Franck has a warm distinctive sound with the precise rounded tones of the woodwinds matching Hahn's particular elegance with the bow, and, generally, complementing the rich harmonic language of these serenades. The string section favors the middle of the range, I think I could do with a bit more from the cellos and basses, but, overall, the sound is very luscious.  This is a first rate orchestra that plays with Hilary Hahn very well.  I was not surprised to learn that she was in residence with the OPRF the year before recording this album.

As for Hahn's playing, there's little left to be said at this stage in her career.  She is, as always, a remarkably clean performer.  There are a few moments when she pours on the schmaltz and those deliciously deep-fried nuggets left me wishing that she'd indulge us just a little bit more, but the overall result is so delightful that I am loathe to second-guess her.  Throughout, she gives a masterclass on vibrato for anyone listening closely.

★★★★☆

Four out of five stars - Excellent

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7 hours ago, matesic said:

Lebrecht is so opinionated and often so far from the general consensus, I doubt anybody reading his reviews actually believes them unquestioningly. Maybe his intention is to provoke and stimulate people into forming their own opinions?

This is a challenging program, for a player to demonstrate they're "inside" two such different composers. I'm thinking she might ideally have used two different violins. Nobody seems to do that, do they?

Actually, they do and pretty often, too. Good call !

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7 hours ago, matesic said:

 Maybe his intention is to provoke and stimulate people into forming their own opinions?

 IMHO, his intention is to sell copy.

 

1 hour ago, Three13 said:

He strikes me as a troll with a platform.

There's a lot of them out there.

1 hour ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Attention seeking character.

That too.

People, he's a journalist, which is a form of intellectual prostitute.  He can write trashy prose, fit to sandwich between a fast-food ad and a toilet-paper ad, to deadline.  That's all.  Journalists are neither saints nor savants, and most readers give their produce entirely too much consideration.  News is a for-profit business, which means, whatever you expect from it, it isn't really "free", in any sense.  Don't get too excited over it. :)

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On 4/3/2021 at 7:49 PM, Violadamore said:

IMHO, Lebrecht's persistently scathing reviews of certain habitually underdressed female soloists has probably done more to further their careers than anything else has.   :lol:

He seems to use his pen as a blunt instrument.  :D

Much more going on there than it meets the eye. MUCH more.

It also doesn't help that the habitually female has from time to time produced technically abysmal performances with complete ans ravenous :) disregard for pitch or time... 

Being nothing but a gossip monger in need of income and "recognition" and given that he knows about music what I know about Formula 1 it follows that one should not believe all the opinions he airs are his...........

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15 minutes ago, Violadamore said:

 IMHO, his intention is to sell copy.

 

There's a lot of them out there.

That too.

People, he's a journalist, which is a form of intellectual prostitute.  

You shouldn't use words such as "intellectual". This is a family friendly forum.

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I have no problem with Mr. Norman's writing. He is entertaining.  If it garners attention and stimulates discussion, all good. 

Regarding HH. She seems a lovely, genuine person and obviously a supremely talented violinist. Yet I find her overall performance style to be bland. Maybe it's not her though, maybe we can blame that on her Vuillaume. :ph34r:

 

 

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4 minutes ago, Rue said:

1. I have no problem with Mr. Norman's writing. He is entertaining.  If it garners attention and stimulates discussion, all good. 

2. Regarding HH. She seems a lovely, genuine person and obviously a supremely talented violinist. Yet I find her overall performance style to be bland. Maybe it's not her though, maybe we can blame that on her Vuillaume. :ph34r:

 

 

1. He's done a lot of nasty stuff, a lot from the usual perspective. Not an MN subject though.... You should've read his disgusting rubbish 30 or so years ago. Or, you should've been near the receiving end...

2.  She's a SERIOUS, DEDICATED artist and displays fundamental respect for the public and the composer. That's very commendable.Myself, like that a lot.  She's not "supremely talented" - that's in a different Galaxy altogether.   She IS bland and some claim, downward robotic. But now and then she showed she can get out of her shell. I think she should try more - at this stage in her career it can't hurt, it can only help. The violin she's using does not help, that's for sure. A good Strad would make a noticeable difference.  Here's why :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_Kg3vO8zgU

Some of her performances ( on CD or YT ) suffer of an affliction called abysmal recording... She should pay more attention.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgfyryZJES4

We may like her or not but we should acknowledge her professional, competent and honest service towards classical music.  

 

 

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2 hours ago, Carl Stross said:

 

Some of her performances ( on CD or YT ) suffer of an affliction called abysmal recording... She should pay more attention.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgfyryZJES4

 

 

 

Since we can't hear the original recording I'm not clear how you can tell - isn't this just low bandwidth Youtube dirt ...?

The balance seems very good for a live performance - that's the only element I would feel safe to judge here.

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