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CD Review

Guro Kleven Hagen Debut

Guro Kleven Hagen, violin
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra/Bjarte Engeset
Simax PSC1206 49m
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The Prokofiev Second and Bruch First Violin Concertos make a fine coupling, especially in performances as compelling as these from young Norwegian violinist Guro Kleven Hagen (b. 1994). She was nineteen at the time she made this recording and is obviously a talent to watch: she has technique to burn and the interpretive skills to capture the essence of each of these colorful, lyrical and very different works by Prokofiev and Bruch. She infuses the rich post-Romantic music in the first two movements of the Prokofiev Second with both warmth and passion, and delivers the propulsive finale with a scorching, driven manner that calls to mind performances by Heifetz and Perlman.

Hagen plays up the more sumptuous and Romantic lyricism of Bruch with just the right mixture of lushness and darkness, seeming to show the work as heralding the violin concertos of both Tchaikovsky and Sibelius. Her performance of the beautiful first and second movements is as good as any I know of, and her finale is brilliant and brimming with energy and sunlight.

The Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra plays splendidly for conductor Bjarte Engeset and the sound reproduction by Simax is clear and powerful. The competition in these works is plentiful: there are fine performances of the Prokofiev Second by the likes of Heifetz (Naxos 8.510942), Jansen (London 4783546), Steinbacher (PentaTone PTC5186395), Papavrami (Naxos 8.553494), Perlman, and many others, and you can also find excellent accounts of the Bruch First by Heifetz, Perlman, Stern, Fischer, and countless others. Thus, not only is the competition fierce but most of these artists appear on recordings offering more content. This Simax CD contains only 49 minutes of music and could well have accommodated the Prokofiev First Violin Concerto or the Bruch Scottish Fantasy. Still, if you are interested in exploring the work of a young virtuoso violinist and find the repertory to your liking, you won't be disappointed by this disc. Indeed, Guro Kleven Hagen, who was awarded Norway's Young Musician of the Year in 2008 and won prizes in several major international competitions, possesses the talent to become one of her generation's greatest violinists. This is her first recording and it is a major achievement.

Copyright © 2014, Robert Cummings