A performance without self-expression was unthinkable for Schoenberg and yet he was prone to dismissing the results, to use his own wording, as ‘deviating’ from his ‘direct orders’. During his lifetime even ensembles he admired greatly, such as the Kolisch Quartet, didn’t escape uncriticized. But I think Hahn may have pleased: sharp edges were smoothed off while remaining true to Schoenberg’s angular articulacy, each phrase was a poetic idea – in the Schoenbergian sense – without being too self-contained, and the work’s technical demands were met with unshowy ease – no mean feat for one of the most difficult concertos in the repertoire which, according to the Schoenberg anecdote you choose to believe, requires either a sixth left hand finger or a lengthening of the fourth. Hahn stopped short of embracing Schoenberg the stylistic post-Romantic – her tone row, as Schoenberg wished, was too understated for that – and knowing this score in all its serial detail, I could only admire her understanding of the structural strides Schoenberg makes with the twelve-tone technique in this concerto, some of them looking forwards, some back.
I’m putting Hilary Hahn’s Schoenberg up with Jean-Yve Thibaudet’s Liszt as a candidate for the concerto performance of the season so far. Do click through to Bachtrack to read more about this unusual programme (well, unusual for the Musikverein). As my nom de plume et blog should indicate, I quite like Schoenberg – though for sheer infectious enthusiasm about the große Entdecker I can’t hold a candle to Hahn. Knowing she was active on Youtube I checked out her channel for Schoenberg, though not quite expecting to find all this:
Hahn answers questions posed by Schoenberg to violinist Louis Krasner in a 1945 letter:
And as charmingly kooky as this is, I’m slightly disappointed it isn’t twelve-tone: