Anticipation builds for Hilary Hahn concert (w/video)

  • 26-year-old Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel directs the Sudwestrundfunk (SWR "Southwest Broadcasting") Symphonic Orchestra and violinist Hilary Hahn, from Lexington, Virginia, at center, during a concert in the Paul VI Hall, at the Vatican, Monday, April 16, 2007, on the occasion of Pope Benedict XVI's 80th birthday. Benedict XVI marked his 80th birthday on Monday by lunching with cardinals and attending a concert , a relatively low-key celebration in line with the quiet pace of what he has said would be a "short'' papacy. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

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.

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