What looks at first like it might be a potpourri of favourite showpieces turns out to be a whole lot more interesting – the 27 pieces in question are all new – 26 of them commissioned by Hahn herself, with the final one chosen from an international call for works. It’s a unique experiment and represents an admirable commitment to new music from the American virtuoso. Make no mistake, learning and recording 27 new pieces, each in a different style and with interesting technical challenges thrown in, is no mean feat, and that’s before you factor in the research and planning that went in to picking the composers.
They include Rautavaara, Turnage, Auerbach, Higdon, Muhly, Hatzis, and many names which are perhaps better known in the US than they are in the UK. A little essay could be written about each piece, but the real star is Hilary Hahn’s technique, never less than assured and committed across this big palette of styles. If you want to pick a couple to Spotify, try Kala Ramnath’s Indian inflected Aalap andTarana and Turnage’s Hilary’s Hoedown. Cory Smythe, something of a new music specialist himself, is the skilful accompanist.
This is definitely not background music. If you’re a violin geek this will make a fascinating addition to your collection.