Hilary Hahn at ease in classical, "jeans and chains" worlds
Hilary Hahn is back in town — good news for fans of great violin playing. The 27-year-old violinist, who has made a graceful and seamless transition from her prodigy...
Seattle Times music critic
Hilary Hahn is back in town — good news for fans of great violin playing. The 27-year-old violinist, who has made a graceful and seamless transition from her prodigy years (she made her major-orchestra debut at 11), is set to play a recital with pianist Valentina Lisitsa at Benaroya on Friday night.
Hahn's first performance here in two years will have some great works: Beethoven's "Kreutzer" Sonata and Mozart's Sonata No. 22 in A Major (K.305), the Janacek Sonata, Tartini's "The Devil's Trill" Sonata, and the Ysaÿe Sonata for Violin Solo No. 2 in A minor ("Obsession").
And from Benaroya, she goes on to the Tractor Tavern. Hahn teams up with singer-songwriter Tom Brosseau for a Saturday-night gig celebrating the release of his album "Grand Forks," on which Hahn plays. She also has performed with the Texas indie group And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, and is the featured soloist on the soundtrack of the M. Night Shyamalan film "The Village."
Hahn is nonchalant about her "crossover" activities. "Other musicians cross genres all the time," she said in a recent phone interview.
"It's just something you do if you're interested in music — how other people in other genres create music, how they build it from scratch, how they relate to audiences. When I challenge myself creatively that way, my interpretations are informed by what I have learned. People I get to work with aren't just winging it — they're very informed.
"It's also interesting because classical music throughout centuries has been informed by popular culture around it at the time," she continued. "Classical music influences everything that's written now in some way, just because it influenced the development of Western music anyway. For me it's not crossover — I just enter their world. It frees you up to think in a different way from what you've been trained to do."
As you might expect, Hahn's is no classical purist.
Violinist Hilary Hahn, in recital with pianist Valentina Lisitsa at 8 p.m. Friday, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle $22-$73 (206-215-4747 or www.seattlesymphony .org).
Hilary Hahn joins singer-songwriter Tom Brosseau at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., Seattle; $10 (206-789-3599).
"It's fine with me if people want to applaud between movements of a concerto," she said. "It doesn't bother me — it's part of performance experience. Sometimes when they applaud if I'm still playing it's not as good, but there's always a way around it. Actually the applause gives me a little rest and chance to stretch, too."
Sometimes, Hahn feels, classical-music lovers make it "hard for people who are just coming in. I think that if people show up in jeans and chains, it's great that all parts of culture are interested in music. People forget sometimes that it's about the music, not how you act and dress."
One thing she does hope for, however, is absolute quiet from the audience during the music. Not out of "snobbishness or holy respect for the music," she said — but just so everyone (including the performers) can hear it. Hahn adds that great music can be "quite comfortable and relaxing, and you can sleep — as long as you don't snore."
Snoring is not usually an issue when Hahn is behind the violin. In demand around the world, she plays between 85 and 95 concerts a year, which amounts to a concert just about every four days. The programs are often closer together than that, though, because the young violinist reserves the summers for R&R so she can get "a break to regroup." Sometimes those breaks include studying new languages as well as new scores, and spending some time with her parents. Hahn describes her wide-ranging interests on her Web site (www.hilaryhahn.com), which also gives accounts of her fondness for rowing (she has a shell) and running (she's training for the New York Marathon). The Virginia native grew up in Baltimore and Philadelphia, where she began attending the Curtis Institute of Music at age 10.
She's also posted interviews she did with several conductors. Questions range from ultra-serious to the somewhat more frivolous. ("Is chocolate a drug?")
So just what are Hahn's feelings on chocolate?
She gets plenty of it on the road, and she loves the stuff. "Especially the very dark chocolate ...
"But unfortunately it gives me a headache, like caffeine does. That's why I can't eat very much of it, and why I drink herbal teas instead of coffee or black tea. Last time I was in Seattle, I ordered a steamer without coffee, and when it arrived, I discovered it did have coffee. The server just couldn't understand that anyone would order a drink that didn't have coffee in it!"
Hahn has commissioned a new work by Jennifer Higdon, a successful composer who was one of Hahn's teachers at Curtis, "before she was overwhelmed with commissions. She opened my eyes to 20th- and 21st-century music. It is neat to be playing something new by someone I know, especially the person who showed me what contemporary music is about.
"It's also very humbling to be challenged to do something you're new to, whether it's running or rowing or a new concerto. I always feel I have a long way to go in my playing and my music."
Melinda Bargreen: firstname.lastname@example.org
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