I'm not sure such a comparison by a composer is a wise decision (because performers are the people who ultimately perform our music and comparing performers means one tends to be favored and so the other may feel slighted and 'less inclined' to perform comparing composer's works). But that said, this blog is all about discussing what comes to mind - and reviewing the various violin music I've heard recently it only seems natural a comparison of the performers styles would happen. So, here I go....
Hilary Hahn has several glowing comments from me about her playing. I've listened to most of what she has recorded and find her style fresh and energetic. She likes to attack pieces and plays some of the fast sections faster than her contemporaries. This is not done at the sake of clarity, because during the Szymanowski the clarity of notes is always present, and yet the notes seems to fly at inhuman speed. Although, I think her rendition of Korngold's Violin Concerto is perhaps my favorite. Hilary is still learning/growing as a violinist, so I am eager to hear what she can do in three to four years.
Anne-Sophie Mutter is an older violinist from Germany. I am not as familiar with her so my comments need to be taken with a grain of salt. I've just finished listening to her recording of Bach's Violin Concertos conducted by Valery Gergiev. There is vitality and pathos in this recording. It was on the top of the classical charts for five weeks with good reason. Anne-Sophie is extremely accurate, but also extremely passionate with performing. Looking at her rendition of Korngold's Violin Concerto 1st movement shows this passion in all its glory.
Joshua Bell seems to be the reigning darling, although I'm not sure either Hilary or Anne-Sophie would agree. However, in a clip working with Gustavo Dudamel the passion in both conductor and violinist is off the chart - and this is a rehearsal... Is Joshua the best violinist? I think at this level of performance there are nuances that differ from performance to performance, from performer to performer - but to actually say one is better than another is impossible for me to say. Just watching (listening) to any of them is a thrill.
Just a note, recordings of any of these artists would be welcome as Christmas gifts...
Perhaps I should include notes about some of the younger violinists out there. At the age of 25, Julia Fischer is reputed to be at the top of her profession, the youngest ever recipient of Gramophone’s “Artist of the Year” and that was two years ago. Since her debut album in 2002, she has released 9 more. Here she is playing Paganini's 16 Caprice.
Nicola Benedetti won "The Young Musician of the Year 2004" at age 16. Four years later and she has 3 albums out. Nicola is the only one of this group I've heard perform live and while her performance was stunning, her rendition of Tchiakovsky's Violin Concerto was not quite what I'd expected (not sure I knew what to expect). That said, she has poise, skill and time all in her favour. Here she is playing Szymanowski 4th Violin Concerto.