Review: Augustin Hadelich Plays Brahms And Ligeti : Deceptive Cadence Augustin Hadelich dazzles in an album of odd bedfellows, which pairs Johannes Brahms' romantic war horse with György Ligeti's modernist stunner.
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Opposites Attract: Two Violin Concertos In The Hands Of A Master

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Opposites Attract: Two Violin Concertos In The Hands Of A Master

Review

Opposites Attract: Two Violin Concertos In The Hands Of A Master

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/730695331/735510461" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

A new album of violin concertos combines unlikely bedfellows. One is romantic and tuneful.

(SOUNDBITE OF AUGUSTIN HADELICH PERFORMANCE OF BRAHMS' "VIOLIN CONCERTO, OP.77")

KELLY: The other is audaciously avant-garde.

(SOUNDBITE OF AUGUSTIN HADELICH PERFORMANCE OF LIGETI'S "VIOLIN CONCERTO")

KELLY: Our reviewer, NPR's Tom Huizenga, has been listening and says this odd couple makes for a compelling album, and also a great introduction to a violinist who has persevered through tragedy.

TOM HUIZENGA, BYLINE: Augustin Hadelich is among today's top violinists. And one of the pieces he's chosen to record with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra is the Brahms "Violin Concerto." There are already over 100 recordings of the work to choose from, though, so who needs another? But Hadelich makes a solid case for the music, allowing his instrument to sing as sweetly as any of his peers.

(SOUNDBITE OF AUGUSTIN HADELICH PERFORMANCE OF BRAHMS' "VIOLIN CONCERTO, OP.77")

HUIZENGA: Hadelich is an intimate communicator with his 1723 Stradivarius, but he also has a secret sauce for this Brahms, and it's in the cadenza. That's a passage in concertos where the soloist gets to show off with a solo. For this recording, Hadelich has composed his own cadenza. Like building a house in a historic district, the violinist respects the architecture of the neighborhood, but his design is fresh.

(SOUNDBITE OF AUGUSTIN HADELICH PERFORMANCE OF BRAHMS' "VIOLIN CONCERTO, OP.77")

HUIZENGA: Hadelich is 35 years old and makes it all sound easy, but his road to success wasn't. He gave his first concert at age 7. But when he was 15, an accident on his family's farm in Italy left his face and his right hand badly burned. Some doctors doubted he'd ever play the violin again. But after surgeries and physical therapy, he won a prestigious competition.

His career was launched with a technique that blends lyrical elegance and flexible strength, and that's what you need in spades to play the other concerto on this album by the modern iconoclast Gyorgy Ligeti.

(SOUNDBITE OF AUGUSTIN HADELICH PERFORMANCE OF LIGETI'S "VIOLIN CONCERTO")

HUIZENGA: Ligeti's concerto from 1992 is a ferocious and fascinating ride. The composer filters old musical formulas through his kaleidoscopic lens, pushing the soloist to the brink. Hadelich masters all of Ligeti's tricks, every nuanced color and ethereal sound the instrument can make. And the chaos is followed by moments of serene beauty.

(SOUNDBITE OF AUGUSTIN HADELICH PERFORMANCE OF LIGETI'S "VIOLIN CONCERTO")

HUIZENGA: Hadelich brings his secret sauce to this concerto, too, with another brand-new cadenza. This one was written for Hadelich by Thomas Ades, the masterful British composer, and it dovetails perfectly into the concerto's slam-bang final note. It's the most astounding passage of the entire album. When Augustin Hadelich first saw the score, he thought it was unplayable, but it became just one more roadblock the singular violinist has vaulted over in his blossoming career.

(SOUNDBITE OF AUGUSTIN HADELICH PERFORMANCE OF LIGETI'S "VIOLIN CONCERTO")

KELLY: The album features violin concertos by Ligeti and Brahms. Our reviewer is NPR's Tom Huizenga.

(SOUNDBITE OF AUGUSTIN HADELICH PERFORMANCE OF LIGETI'S "VIOLIN CONCERTO")

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