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With three Grammys already on her mantelpiece, Hilary Hahn probably has nothing to prove to anyone. Yet, with every album, she raises her game just a little bit more, to the point where it’s difficult not to proclaim every fresh release her finest yet.
And so it is with Eclipse, a collection topped and tailed by Dvorak and Pablo De Sarasate, but dominated by Alberto Ginastera’s Violin Concerto Opus 30, a piece which legend insists is all but unplayable - and there’s several past recordings out there which do not disagree. Indeed, its reputation is well-deserved, but Hahn never once loses herself in its complexities, not even across ten minutes of the “Adagio for 22 Soloists.”
The opening Dvorak piece (Violin Concerto in A Minor) is more conventional, both in composition and execution, but Hahn electrifies it regardless, imbibing the piece's well-worn familiarity with a whole new passion and drama. Certainly it bears comparison with the established “best” of past recordings — Perlman, Stern, Menuhin — yet it seems to add more, too; a wordless sense of fresh adventuring, almost as if it’s deliberately priming the listener for the Ginastera treat to come. Which it might well be.
And finally, there’s De Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy, light-hearted, flirtatious and such a ridiculous conclusion to the preceding intensity that you cannot help but love it. Indeed, it’s played with such joy and ease that it could almost be the sound of the musicians kicking their shoes off at the end of the session, lighting a campfire in the center of the studio, and just letting rip for a quarter of an hour. With Hahn’s violin the irresistible instigator.