There must be something wrong with my ears. I have heard John Adams's wildly popular Violin Concerto numerous times, and it has already been recorded at least three other times. But I hear little in it that appeals to me; it does not touch me at all emotionally. I can admire the skill and the complexity of the writing, but for me it doesn't really add up to much. That said, Chloë Hanslip does a bang-up job of playing it and if you already know this piece and want a recording of it you could certainly do worse, particularly when you consider its budget price. Hanslip's playing may not be quite as intense as that of Gidon Kremer on the first recording of the work or that of Robert McDuffie on Telarc, but it comes a close second. Her tone is a bit more slender but also perhaps more lyrical than that of the other-mentioned violinists.
The more positive parts of this CD for me are the accompanying pieces. I had not heard any of John Corigliano's music for the movie 'The Red Violin' but know it was quite successful and that Joshua Bell's recording of the music from the movie was a best-seller. The present work, the 'Chaconne from The Red Violin', a sixteen-minute confection based on a recurring melody from the movie, is altogether more compelling for me and is played beautifully here.
The other two pieces on the CD are from the pen of the great movie composer, Franz Waxman. First is his arrangement for violin and orchestra of Enescu's Romanian Rhapsody No. 1. It is actually primarily music from the orchestral original's fast middle section, and Hanslip plays the fireworks with requisite heat and sparkle. Waxman's 'Tristan and Isolde Fantasia' is from the 1940s movie 'Humoresque' (a Jean Negulesco soap opera about a violinist, played by John Garfield, pursued by a rich woman, Joan Crawford). It is for violin and orchestra (with a prominent piano obbligato part played expertly here by Charles Owen) and is essentially a paraphrase of the love music from Wagner's opera. It accompanies the climax of the film and carries much of the emotional freight of that scene. Hanslip and the Royal Philharmonic under Leonard Slatkin do it proud.
My recommendation, then, is that if you already know you are fond of the Adams Violin Concerto and don't have a recording of it, this might be for you. If you are curious about the Adams but aren't familiar with it, its budget price might appeal, although this performance is not quite as effective as those by Kremer and McDuffie. I can recommend the CD for the other, briefer pieces (they do add up to about 30 minutes of music, though). One small caveat: on my system the orchestral sound seemed a bit recessed with the violin in a bright spotlight.