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Karl Hartmann Violin Works

2 suites & 2 sonatas for solo violin
Funeral Concerto for violin and string orchestra

Alina Ibragimova / Britten Sinfonia

Hyperion CDA67547

This disc might be sub-titled ‘Lament for Weimar’.

Karl Amadeus Hartmann (1905 - 1963) was a German composer who went into ‘internal exile’ under Nazism; his violin concerto, composed in 1939 (though revised twenty yeas later), is his most-performed work and reminiscent of Hindemith, even down to the slow march that finishes it. It is high modernism, tinged with nostalgia for a disappeared cultural humanity, rooted in traditional form and harmony, but aspiring to a new form of expression.

The solo works, though earlier, have that same, exquisite balance between new and old, between a vanishing romanticism and a make-do Gebrauchmusik that match the world’s fallen condition. At the same time, their modern plainness clearly recalls Lutheran roots, and the breadth and fluidity of their romantic lines do speak of the uncertainties of today’s world. They do indeed sound like Bach (their obvious models) for our times, times of literal as well as musical dissonance, times that are out of joint. Editor PGW has suggested a comparison with the recently reviewed Allgen solo violin works. Hartmann is of course far easier to assimilate (since he is consciously mainstream), but his polish and control make this disc a far easier listen. These pieces all have very clean writing, and very certain direction.

Although I am a grumpy reactionary when it comes to any music even marginally outside the canon, occasionally something pierces my defences, and this is such a disc. I am not surprised it won Editor’s Choice for Gramophone magazine in October. Ibragimova plays with deep feeling and excellent intonation. She sustains the listener’s interest throughout these far from easy works, and her conviction triumphs over the inevitable sense of sameness of texture.

The sensitivity of the orchestra and the balance on the recording are excellent. The presentation is good – down to avoiding my pet hate of putting the artist photo on the inside centre of the inlay tray as if it were a target on a dartboard.

Thoroughly recommended.

Ying Chang