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Hilary Hahn (Violin)

Born: November 27, 1979 - Lexington, Virginia, USA

The American violinist, Hilary Hahn, began playing the violin one month before her fourth birthday in the Suzuki Program of Baltimore's Peabody Institute. She participated in a Suzuki class for a year. Between 1984 and 1989 Hahn studied in Baltimore under Russian émigré Klara Berkovich (1984-1989). In 1990, at 10, Hahn was admitted to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where she became a student of Jascha Brodsky. Hahn studied with Brodsky for seven years and learned the études of Kreutzer, Ševčík, Gaviniès, Rode, and the Paganini Caprices. She learned 28 violin concertos, recital programs, and several other short pieces.

In 1991, Hilary Hahn made her major orchestral debut with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Soon thereafter, Hahn debuted with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1995, she made her international debut in Germany with a performance of the L.v. Beethoven Concerto for Violin with Lorin Maazel and the Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphonieorchester. The concert was broadcast on radio and television in Europe. A year later, Hahn debuted at Carnegie Hall in New York as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

By 16, Hilary Hahn had completed the Curtis Institute's university requirements, but elected to remain for several years to pursue elective courses, until her graduation in May 1999 with a Bachelor of Music degree. During this time she coached violin with Jaime Laredo, and studied chamber music with Felix Galimir and Gary Graffman. In an interview with PBS in December 2001, Hahn stated that of all musical disciplines, she is most interested in performance.

In 1996 when she was 16 years old, Sony Music signed Hilary Hahn to an exclusive recording contract. She made two recordings under her exclusive contract for Sony, “Hilary Hahn plays Bach”, and the L.v. Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade, both critical and commercial successes. After Hahn completed her part of the contract with Sony, which was for five recordings over six years, she decided against renewing the contract as she and Sony did not agree on her future projects. Instead, Hahn signed with Deutsche Grammophon in 2003 after her contract with Sony expired in the year before. Her first album for Deutsche Grammophon, “Bach Concertos”, again was devoted to her favorite composer.

Hilary Hahn’s probing interpretations, technical brilliance, and commitment to new music and the commissioning process have not only made her one of the most sought-after artists of our time, but also brought her love of classical music to a diverse audience. She is one of those rare artists who possess both a colossal technique and interpretive acumen to set them apart from most of their rivals. Hahn had a major recording contract at 16, was named Best Young Classical Musician at 21 by Time Magazine, and by her mid-20s was generally ranked as one of the finest violinists in the world. Her repertorire s broad, taking in many of the standards by J.S. Bach, Mozart, L.v. Beethoven, Spohr, Paganini, Felix Mendelssohn, Johannes Brahms, Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Igor Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Samuel Barber. But she also plays a few works from the byways of the repertorire, including the concertos of Arnold Schoenberg and contemporary American composer Edgar Meyer. Hahn declares a preference for J.S. Bach, expressing a deep reverence for his music while playing many of his works for solo violin, as well as concertos.

In 1999, Hilary Hahn said that she played Bach more than any other composer and that she had played solo Bach pieces every day since she was eight.

Bach is, for me, the touchstone that keeps my playing honest. Keeping the intonation pure in double stops, bringing out the various voices where the phrasing requires it, crossing the strings so that there are not inadvertent accents, presenting the structure in such a way that it's clear to the listener without being pedantic – one can't fake things in Bach, and if one gets all of them to work, the music sings in the most wonderful way.
- Hilary Hahn, Saint Paul Sunday

In a segment on NPR entitled "Musicians in Their Own Words", Hahn speaks about the surreal experience of playing the Bach Chaconne (from the Partita for Violin No. 2) alone on the concert stage. In the same segment, she discusses her experiences emulating a lark while playing The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Hilary Hahn has played with orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Singapore Symphony Orchestra. She debuted with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in March 2007, and played in Vatican City as part of the celebrations for Pope Benedict XVI together with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra and conductor Gustavo Dudamel, also in 2007.

In addition to being a solo violinist, Hilary Hahn has also performed as a chamber musician. Since the summer of 1992 she has performed nearly every year with the Skaneateles Chamber Music Festival in Skaneateles, New York. Between 1995 and 2000 she performed and studied chamber music at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont, and in 1996 she served as an artist and a member of the chamber music mentoring program of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

In an 1999 interview with Strings Magazine, Hilary Hahn cited people influential on her development as a musician and a student, including David Zinman, the conductor of the Baltimore Symphony, and Hahn's mentor since she was ten, Lorin Maazel, with whom she worked in Europe with the Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphonieorchester. Hahn sometimes feels that classical-music admirers "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." During concerts she does hope for absolute quiet from the audience during the music. "Not out of snobbishness or holy respect for the music, but just so everyone (including the performers) can hear it. Great music can be quite comfortable and relaxing, and you can sleep - as long as you don't snore."

Hahn appears regularly with the world’s elite orchestras and on the most prestigious recital series. During the 2010-2011 season, she embarked on a demanding recital tour covering 56 cities across four continents. After a planned tour in Japan in April 2011 was canceled due to the March tsunami disaster, Hahn organized four benefit concerts in the USA to help aid the recovery, continuing her constant efforts to heighten the relevance of music to contemporary culture and world events.

Hilary Hahn begins her 2011-2012 season with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in its opening galaconcert performing F. Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto No 1 in E Minor. This year marks the 20th anniversary of her major orchestra debut. She will continue appearing with orchestras throughout the season, including the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, the NDR Radiophilharmonie de Hannover, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Camerata Salzburg, and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Houston Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Montreal Symphony, and Alabama Symphony Orchestra. Hahn will tour the USA in the fall, premiering the first half of her commissioning project premiere In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores with long-time recital partner Valentina Lisitsa at the piano. Hahn will then concertize through Germany, France, Spain, and Eastern Europe.

In the 15 years since she began recording, Hahn has released 12 feature albums on the Deutsche Grammophon and Sony labels, in addition to three DVD’s, an Oscar-nominated movie soundtrack, an award-winning recording for children, and various compilations. In repertoire as diverse as Bach, Igor Stravinsky, Edward Elgar, L.v. Beethoven, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Mozart, Arnold Schoenberg, Paganini, Spohr, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Korngold, and others, her recordings have received every critical prize in the international press, and have met with equal popular success. All have spent weeks on Billboard’s Classical Top Ten list. A recent concerto recording, which paired A. Schoenberg and Sibelius, debuted at No. 1 and spent the next twenty-three weeks on the Billboard classical charts. This acclaimed album brought Hahn her second Grammy: the 2009 Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance with Orchestra. Her first Grammy win came in 2003 for her Johannes Brahms and Igor Stravinsky concerto album. The comissioned concerto by Jennifer Higdon was released in September 2010, along with works by Tchaikovsky. In October 2011, Hahn will release her newest album, Charles Ives: Four Sonatas.

In 2009, Hilary Hahn commissioned a concerto from former teacher, the composer Jennifer Higdon, which earned the composer a Pulitzer Prize in 2010. She shows her commitment to contemporary music with her In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores. For this project, she has commissioned over two dozen composers to write short-form pieces for acoustic violin and piano. She will premiere these works over the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 seasons, recording them along the way for release in the 2013-2014 season. Hahn remains one of the few performers dedicated to recording every new piece she commissions. Nearly a decade ago, Hahn began to notice that new encore pieces were not being showcased as much as other types of contemporary works. Shorter pieces remain a crucial part of every violinist’s education and repertoire, and Hahn believes potential new favorites should be encouraged and performed as well. Twenty-six leading composers from around the world will be featured in the project, and the final, twenty-seventh composer will be decided in a non-traditional fashion later in the year.

In addition, Hilary Hahn has participated in a number of other musical projects and collaborations. In 2004, she was a soloist on the Oscar-nominated soundtrack to the film The Village. She began performing and touring in a crossover duo with singer-songwriter Josh Ritter in 2007 and with singer-songwriter Tom Brosseau in 2005. According to Hahn, "Other musicians cross genres all the time. 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." She has made guest appearances on two albums by the alt-rock band …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead and on Grand Forks by Tom Brosseau.

Hilary Hahn has appeared on the covers of all major classical music publications and has been featured in mainstream periodicals such as Vogue, Elle, Town and Country, and Marie Claire. In 2001, she was named “America’s Best Young Classical Musician” by Time. And January 14, 2010, Hahn appeared as guest artist, playing Béla Bartók and Johannes Brahms, on The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien, in support of her album, “Bach: Violin & Voice.” Shortly thereafter the album sold 1,000 copies, reaching #1 on a Billboard classical chart, officially peaking at #6 on the Billboard Classical Albums chart.

An engaging personality, Hilary Hahn is an avid writer and interviewer, posting journal entries and information for young musicians and concertgoers on her website. In video, she produces a YouTube channel, and serves as guest host for the contemporary classical music blog Sequenza21. Elsewhere, her violin case comments on life as a traveling companion, on Twitter: Her official website includes a section entitled "By Hilary". In the Strings Magazine interview, Hahn said that the idea for her "Postcards from the Road" feature originated during an outreach visit to a third-grade class in upstate New York. The class was doing a geography project in which the students asked everyone that they knew who was traveling to send postcards from the cities that they were visiting, in order to learn more about the world. Hahn decided to participate after receiving a positive reaction from her suggestion that she take part as well. Hahn enjoyed her first year's experience with the project so much that she decided to continue it on her new website. A few years later, she expanded the postcards to a journal format. Journal entries usually include photographs that Hahn takes while touring the city and during rehearsals. Since September 2008 Hahn's violin case's own Twitter account exists, onto which messages are posted on the road.

Her violin is an 1864 copy of Paganini's Cannone made by Vuillaume. Hahn uses bows by American bow maker Isaac Salchow and French bow makers Emile Ouchard[clarification needed Which one?], Paul Jombar, and Emil Miquel. As for her strings, she uses Dominants for the A (aluminum wound), D and G (silver wound) and uses a Pirastro Gold Label Steel E.

More Photos

Source: Hilary Hahn Website; All Music Guide (Author: Robert Cummings); Wikipedia Website (June 2013)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (July 2013)

Hilary Hahn: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Hahn plays Bach
Discussions of Instrumental Recordings:
Sonatas & Partitas BWV 1004-1006 - played by Hilary Hahn

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Alexander Liebreich


Selections from BWV 58, BWV 140, BWV 158, BWV 204, BWV 205, BWV 232, BWV 244 [w/ soprano Christine Schäfer & baritone: Matthias Goerne]

Links to other Sites

Hilary Hahn (Official Website)
Hilary Hahn on Facebook
Hilary Hahn Channel on YouTube

Hilary Hahn - Biography (AMG)
Hilary Hahn (Wikipedia)

Biographies of Performers: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Explanation | Acronyms | Missing Biographies | The Sad Corner


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