I was fortunate to have another chance to see the final performance featuring Hilary Hahn at the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), led by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. Again, they played three pieces from Albéniz, Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade Symphonic Suite, Op. 35. I was very excited to hear this program again from my second balcony seat, because it was fantastic from top to bottom last week. I admit that I enjoy these pieces quite a bit, especially the Albéniz selections.
Flutist Elizabeth Rowe once again breathed life into the Granada from Suite Española, and from the second balcony I could feel the air being guided effortlessly throughout the hall. The lilting beauty of the melody dips momentarily into melancholy before being resolved. Something welcoming, almost akin to a church bell, rings overhead. It’s a peaceful, hopeful tune, being lifted up by the strings. Of course, the BSO performed with their usual gracefulness.
Hilary adorned the stage tonight for the second piece, the Prokofiev. She had no sheet music once again, and she proceeded to express the pensiveness that opens the piece. Slowly, as if to gain assurance, the violin climbs high onto the E string, and Hahn navigated this beautifully. In certain places early on in this movement, something I noticed on the previous performance as well, she used quite a bit of vibrato on certain notes that might not have needed as much embellishment, to my ears. About a third of the way into the first movement, the solo stirs about, and one can almost sense an explosion that manifests itself in short, technical progressions of runs. After a particularly harrowing attack on double stops, during her rests she pulled off the remnants of her broken bow hair, which occurred at exactly the same place in the music as the previous concert. The melody in parts is ghost-like, and the violin in its upper registers was reminiscent of the haunting sounds of the theremin. While her attack seemed nearly flawless on the previous evening, there seemed to be a few spots during the Scherzo in which a few notes were unwittingly muddied together, in the incredibly difficult passages that feature a blinding host of accidentals and potentially high positions on low strings, with slurred bowing. While the specific passages in question already blend together, I felt like I heard these notes more clearly on Thursday.
On recordings, Hahn sounds particularly amazing, and as I’ve mentioned before, she is supremely well recorded. Her recordings all portray a musician with a confident, full tone, and in the two concerts, I was surprised that I did not get a sense of that. It is difficult to tell to what extent it is player, instrument/bow, piece, or a combination of those and other factors mitigating this impression. This is in contrast to other soloists whom I have heard on this stage, whose instruments appeared to convey sound effortlessly. It was the completely absolving quality of her solo encore that convinces me that the sound is largely piece-bound in this case. The true treat for me in these performances was, by far, Hahn’s interpretations of Bach’s Violin Partita No. 3. I am not completely confident, but I think that tonight’s encore was the seventh movement, the Gigue, from that piece. I cannot help but think that (if this is in fact the piece I think it is) Hahn chose the Gigue as the final movement of the final partita as a fitting tribute to the end of her time here in Boston for this trip. Albeit shorter than the Loure she played on Thursday, to have heard her perform two movements from that piece on our stage is special. It was all too short and makes me wonder if she played other movements of the piece in the Friday and Saturday concerts that I was unable to attend. If only I had known she would play different movements of the Bach!
Our concertmaster, Malcolm Lowe, also performed outstanding solos tonight, throughout the Rimsky-Korsakov. Lowe achieves a tonal warmth and particularly a smoothness that carries throughout the hall, even as his bow arm appears weightless upon the strings. It could be in part that Lowe, in his home performance space, understands how to maximize his effect here. While I was happy to hear the Scheherazade once again, the repetitiveness of the main themes makes for a catchy tune (that the stage managers were whistling as they broke down the stage tonight!) but not among my favorite overall arcs of music in a symphonic form.
The BSO under de Burgos were wonderful for the two nights I attended, and I’m very much looking forward to the next series of performances that start this Thursday, which de Burgos will be conducting once again.