Hahn’s recital, featuring Bach’s first sonata and the first and second partitas, was an exhibition of state-of-the-art violin performance. She combined the best of old-school qualities — seamless legato phrasing, a muscular tone and a majestic sense of line — with more modern ideas about voicing, but without the breathy mannerisms that can afflict period performance. With her command of large-scale architecture and her subtle shadings, Hahn conjured into being a cathedral of sound: spacious and full of dazzling beauty.
Compared with the tightly coiled performances on her recent studio album of these works, Friday’s recital, presented by Washington Performing Arts, seemed to catch Hahn in a more ruminative mood. In the slow opening movements of the G-minor sonata and B-minor partita, Hahn’s phrasing felt more relaxed and elastic, with a quieter, introspective quality.
No allowances needed to be made, though, for the scintillating fast movements, whose daunting chords and fiendish runs emerged just as technically secure in concert as on record. Hahn’s meticulous readings were as much acts of illumination as of interpretation, revealing the structure of these dense works with astonishing clarity.
Hahn’s traversal of the famous Chaconne, which concludes the D-minor partita, displayed all the qualities that have launched her to stardom: the rich sonority, intense concentration and instinctive command of drama. Hahn sustained an epic sense of line through cycles of harmonic tension and release, driving the music to its ecstatic climaxes with utter inevitability and retreating inward with doleful whispers.
In the wake of the Chaconne’s tragic wreckage, Hahn left the audience with a parting gift: the Andante from Bach’s A-minor sonata, a serenely meditative close to a memorable concert.