In this week's Full Rotation, J.S. Bach's vocal music gets a fresh spin from Hilary Hahn. The violinist teams up with two of today's top Baroque singers in a program of arias and duets.
Any concert violinist worth his or her salt has spent some time with J.S. Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin. But the composer also wrote many pieces that combined violin with voices that are far less recognized. Enter Hilary Hahn, the multiple Grammy-winning soloist (and recent guest on the embattled Tonight Show) who has put together this varied collection of arias that present the violin and voice in dialogue. Joining her in the endeavor are two Bach authorities: the soprano Christine Schäfer and bass Matthias Goerne.
A violinist himself, Bach considered the voice and the violin as worthy partners. In his many sacred cantatas, the violin acts sometimes as an echo, mimicking the vocal line; other times it lithely bends and weaves its way through the voices in complete counterpoint. In the aria, “Die Schätzbarkeit der weiten Erden,” we are told that “Heaven is ever with him who can become rich in poverty" while violin figures encircle the soprano in ornamental fashion. Similarly, with the bass aria “Wenn Trost und Hülf ermangeln muss,” individual motifs are passed to and fro between violin and voice on the word “nirgend" (nowhere), with voice and violin combining to form a single melodic line.
Along with the cantatas, the collection also contains three numbers drawn from two of Bach’s other main works: the aria “Laudamus te" from the Gloria of his B minor Mass, and the St Matthew Passion, which is represented by two key excerpts: “Erbarme dich" for soprano and the bass aria “Gebt mir meinen Jesum wieder." Hahn and her colleagues are all well-matched and provide an intimate and very distinctive sound.
Voice and Violin
Hilary Hahn, violin
Matthias Goerne, baritone, Christine Schäfer, soprano
Munich Chamber Orchestra
Alexander Liebreich, conductor