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CD Feature/ Chloe Hanslip: "John Adams - Violin Concerto"

img  Tobias

Outside of a concert hall, Chloe Hanslip comes across as the most normal person you could imagine. She enjoys dancing and listening to Pop, Salsa and R n B, always stays in touch with her friends through text messages and phone calls, loves reading three books at a time and fosters passionate fantasies about Formula 1 racing. After picking up her violin, however, she enters a zone (which, as she points out on her website, can last for 5-7 hours) and turns into a different being, a medium: Hanslip played a childhood prodigy in Hollywood’s take on “Eugene Onegin”, but she didn’t have to do all that much acting. Having said that, it is not her technique that characterises her most accurately, but the flexibility of her stroke and her way of communicating with the orchestra at eye level – absolute prerequisits for getting the intricate implications of the works at hand right.

Which applies just as much for a virtuoso miniature like George Enescu’s “Romanian Rhapsody” as for the heart and acme of the album. John Adams’ “Violin Concerto”. Adams himself has already pointed out that the realities of polyrhythmic subtleties are very different on paper than on stage and it takes more than just a good pair of ears to make scores of different, shifting time signatures (to the point of what the composer likes to call “time dissonances”) come to life in an unforced fashion. Hanslip solves the issue in a highly original manner: She virtually becomes a member of the ensemble again, taking full responsability as a soloist but frequently melting with the Royal Philharmonics in a continued game of entanglement and disengagement. In the second movement, the “Chaconne: Body through which the dream flows”, the deep, darkly futuristic strings of the orchestra pulsating in dreamtime almost cry for a shining, shimmering and otherwordly lead, but instead, her tone remains humane, filled with a sensous longing for resolution which will never come. There is no concept as such behind this work, but it resonates with alienation, disorientation, obsessive self-reflection as well as the love and solace one can find in oneself – and in Hanslip’s measured voice, these issues are probably more adequately presented than in a powerfully surreal scream.

This collaborative mode continues throughout the CD and works in the most diverse contexts. Franz Waxman’s “Tristan and Isolde Fantasia”, a lush, romantic work unfolding from a brooding introduction in string section, piano and violin, profits greatly from the dense sheets of sound, for example. The only exception may well be John Corigliano’s “Red Violin Chaconne”, which Chloe performs with a careful sense of tragedy and a composed degree of supremacy – which must be considered a necessity in a composition dealing with the topic of the greatest instrument of its sort ever made.

The biggest challenge presented here, however, lies in connecting the individual tracks, which only have a superficial red thread running through them, and of proving that music is indeed a universal language. Hanslip, after all, approaches these pieces across the Atlantic divide and as an “English girl in New York”. Maybe that is exactly what makes her approach seem so natural. As a Non-American on a disc centering around music written in the USA, she can take nothing for granted and needs to contact the score on a personal level. The translation process has resulted in a record which remains fluent and accesible despite obvious stylistic and biographical breaks. Hanslip really talks with the listener, instead of turning to artistic abstraction. As long as she keeps dreaming about Formula 1 cars, we can be sure she won’t loose contact with her audience either.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Chloe Hanslip
Homepage: Naxos Records

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