This review doesn't touch on the Schoenberg - almost without exception, all other reviewers praise Ms Hahn's recording of it, and I agree with them completely. It's the reaction to the Sibelius which fascinates me: very divided, with more tending to be negative. Too bland, cold and detached. I strongly disagree.
The Sibelius has always struck me as structurally disjointed, particularly the first movement. Musical ideas appear and subside, half-developed, with little sense of architecture. It was only when I heard the original version of the concerto, recorded (on BIS) for the first time by Greek violinist, Leonidas Kavakos, that I understood how these disparate ideas were in truth connected when originaly woven together. The substantially revised version of the work (invariably heard today) pared much of the music back to its stark raw material, which familiarity has helped us to smooth over.
Ms Hahn's reading of the work restores that greater sense of unity found in the original version. She achieves this by avoiding sudden extremes in mood and tempi. Her arcs are smoother and longer, allowing the musical ideas room to breathe, to evolve naturally from one to another.
Many ears find the result lacking in romatic fire and disappointing. On the contrary, Ms Hahn's reading is intensely brooding and contemplative in the first movement, wonderfuly melodic in the second, and naturally rhapsodic in the third. Her playing throughout is never harsh or forced, but radiant and lyrical. Which is not to say she never plays with fire: listen to the 2 notes that open the cadenza in the first movement at 7:15-7:20. They strike terror in me every time I hear them.
True it is that Ms Hahn's reading is slightly unorthodox, but it captures that quintessentially Finnish aura found in Sibelius' symphonies and orchestral works better than most other recordings. Her playing is of the highest order, the balance with the SRSO is spot on, and Mr Salonen's conducting is superb, revealing previosuly unheard nuances in the score.