Antón García Abril’s Solo Violin Partitas

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 8

Composer Antón García Abril is best known in his native Spain for his extensive work in film and television, not to mention a prolific catalogue of concert works. In fact, my colleague David Hurwitz rightly praised his large-scale Concierto Aguediano for guitar and orchestra in an earlier review. Abril also wrote a piece called “Third Sigh” that became part of Hilary Hahn’s Grammy Award-winning encore project. Subsequently, the violinist commissioned six solo partitas from Abril, citing his gift for polyphonic violin writing.

For whatever reason, Decca has issued her recordings of the partitas only on LP and via digital download. I was able to access CD-quality WAV files to compare with the vinyl pressing. I found the WAV files to have more presence and detail, along with more ambient artifacts masked by the mellower LP. Then again, I could adjust the WAV files using my stereo tuner’s graphic equalizer in order to replicate the LP sound, more or less.

The first letters of each Partita’s title spell out “Hilary”, the titles being (in order) Heart, Immensity, Love, Art Reflective, Art, and You. Not that the titles reflect what actually happens in the music. The musical language of No. 1 is similar to the controlled rhapsody and harmonic ambiguity that one finds in the Ysaÿe solo sonatas or early Hindemith. Aggressive and declamatory passages in double stops provide No. 2’s most memorable and powerful moments. Some of the central lyrical sequences wander, but I like how the composer delicately alternates arco and pizzicato articulation.

However, No. 3 is a real masterpiece of expressive violin writing. Abril’s introspective long lines build upon the tradition of Falla and Rodrigo with purpose and originality, and organically build into powerful, urgent climaxes. Hahn must like No. 3 as much as I do, since she clearly revels in the slithery nuances without betraying a trace of vulgarity.

No. 4’s relatively relaxed linear discourse, however, seems more like academic note spinning, while No. 5’s similar trajectory invites more opportunities for tone painting, such as the hushed pedal point at around the six-minute mark. Perhaps No. 6 most overtly showcases Hahn’s impressive virtuosity, from the rapidly twisting lines that bracket the composition to the intense chordal outbursts and songful pizzicato episodes. However these works withstand the test of time, there’s no doubting Hahn’s total mastery and fervent commitment to this body of work.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: This one

  • Hilary Hahn (violin)
  • Decca - 483 4832
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