Accompanied by pianist Cory Smythe, Hahn will perform a wide-ranging recital program of works by Telemann and Mozart, Schubert and Schoenberg. But the most interesting may be the two short works that open the program.
The affecting "Three Sighs" by Anton Garcia Abril and the angst-laden "Shade" by Richard Barrett both were commissioned by Hahn for her latest album, "In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores" (2013).
A few years ago, Hahn decided that her repertoire for encore performances was getting a bit thin in terms of contemporary works. So she explored that genre, then personally reached out to 26 composers, asking each to write a work. For the 27th, she held an online competition that attracted 400 entries.
Since 2013, Hahn has sprinkled those works into her recitals, creating a new style of encore repertoire for the 21st century.
"There's an idea of the encore being a virtuosic showpiece," Hahn said in an interview with National Public Radio. "I found that a lot of the composers in this project wanted to redefine the term 'encore.' They wanted to create a different kind of virtuosity, and they wanted to create a lyricism or a thoughtfulness that they had missed in certain kinds of encores in the past."
In her recitals as well as her CD recordings, Hahn tends to contrast contemporary composers with more recognized figures: Brahms and Stravinsky Violin Concertos (2001), Barbara Higdon and Tchaikovsky Violin Concertos (2010).
After teaming up with singer-songwriters Tom Brosseau and Josh Ritter in 2005 and 2007, however, Hahn moved outside the box completely, creating an album that was entirely improvised. Recorded mostly in Iceland with German pianist Volker Bertelmann, "Silfra" (2012) provided Hahn with an chance to explore new styles.
"Other musicians cross genres all the time," Hahn told the Seattle Times. "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."
After starting violin lessons at age 4, Hahn was admitted to the Curtus Institute of Music in Philadelphia at age 10, where she trained under violinist Jascha Brodsky.
Through Brodsky, who studied with Belgian violinist Eugene Ysaye, Hahn became inspired by the legendary violinists of Europe, including Fritz Kriesler, Jascha Heifetz and Nathan Milstein.
Although her taste in violinists is decidedly Old World, Hahn maintains a modern social-media presence. She connects with fans on her website through chatty "Postcards from the Road," interviews with musicians and musings on her "favorites." She also keeps running totals of how many concerts she has played (currently 1,437, including 311 recitals).
Inevitably, Hahn has encountered critics who find her fiercely serious approach to music-making a bit off-putting.
Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle described her as a "strong but somewhat chilly soloist" when she performed with the San Francisco Symphony in February 2013. That same month, Zachary Woolfe of the New York Times opined that her recital started "with an authority that felt cool, even chilly."
But when Hahn finds the perfect vehicle for her prodigious technical and interpretive gifts, her reserve melts away.
"Now that was vintage Hahn," wrote Dulak Thomson, of the San Francisco Classical Voice arts website, about her 2007 encore, Prokofiev's March from "The Love for Three Oranges."