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Laurie Niles

Recital with 2006 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis Laureate Augustin Hadelich

September 22, 2010 at 1:40 PM

I'll just say it: they picked a true winner in 2006 when the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis awarded Augustin Hadelich the gold medal.

On Tuesday evening violinist Augustin Hadelich, collaborating with pianist Rohan De Silva, performed a recital in Indianapolis for those gathered for this year's International Violin Competition, which has entered its final week. The program included Beethoven's violin sonata No. 8 (Op. 30 No. 3); Schnittke Sonata 1; Ysaÿe solo Sonata No. 4; the Poulenc Sonata and Zigeunerweisen.

Certainly I'm speaking of Hadelich's playing as “winning” – so well-calibrated, engaging and clean. But I'm also speaking of his four-year commitment to the immense work required of being violin soloist and taking advantage of the opportunity given him by that gold medal, as evidenced by the long and growing list of orchestras with whom he has performed, including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra and way more; as evidenced by his release of two CDs in that time.

Tuesday I noticed something else, Hadelich's engagement with his audience, which I believe has also grown steadily since I first heard him play in 2006. I started noticing it in the middle of the Beethoven: He plays with a generosity toward his audience, demonstrative and communicative. Serving the music, and serving it to the audience.

Photo by Denis Ryan Kelly, Jr.

Tuesday evening Hadelich was performing with his new violin, having relinquished the “ex-Gingold” Stradivarius for the competition's 2010 winner, which will be decided over the next four days. (You can see and hear the action here, it's being liveeamed from the IVCI website and performances are immediately archived.) Now Hadelich is playing the 1723 “ex-Keisewetter” Stradivari, on loan to him from Clement and Karen Arrison, through the Stradivari Society. At times I wished the violin were a bit louder, though I'm not sure if the acoustics of the Ruth Lilly Hall in the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center at the University of Indianapolis were a factor, or perhaps the fact that he's had just six weeks to adjust to a new fiddle.

For me, one of the most enjoyable pieces of the evening was the Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 1, by Alfred Schnittke, a piece which draws on a well-organized tone row. The first Andante begins with thin line of sound from the violin, with barely any vibrato, then “pling!” from the piano. It proceeds in gestures: a super-quiet pizzicato chord, a rhythmically driven passage, a dance and much noise. The Largo began quietly, with long, pitch-bending notes, no vibrato. In one moment Hadelich had it sounding like a prayer, but somehow impoverished. Then vibrato – a ray of light. Hadelich and De Silva had the audience in a spell by the end of the Largo, after which there was utter stillness and silence in the hall – I dared not move my pen. There were a number of moments like these.

Photo by Denis Ryan Kelly, Jr.

The evening seemed to demand a piece by Eugene Ysaÿe – Ysaÿe being Joseph Gingold's mentor and Joseph Gingold being the founder of this competition. Hadelich played solo Violin Sonata in E minor, No. 4, in which he negotiated the multiple voices expertly and worked with many layers of dynamics.

Something I noticed, as Hadelich swept through the introduction of Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen, was his acuity with the bow – the sun can rise and it can set, and the birds can chirp in between, all in one bow.

The latter half of Zigeunerweisen was a joy ride, maybe on an Indy car. It was just fast, baby. About 148 mph. Maybe more.

Fritz Kreisler's “Liebesleid” – Love's Sorrow – ended the evening with simplicity and grace.

I'm looking forward to hearing this year's finalists over the next week.


From Marc Villeneuve
Posted on September 22, 2010 at 3:09 PM

Laurie,you are so lucky!!! I enjoyed the rarely played Poulenc sonata created in France during the war by Ginette Neveu and the composer at the piano. Had the opportunity also to see the original score in Boston library with all the annotations of Ginette Neveu. After her tragic death, Poulenc changed the very end of the sonata, in which you have a reminescence of the tragedy, with a terrible chord, sort of crash chord and a picture of a violin drastically falling, with descending sounds,like the legend of "Icare"...

All the recital was a feast. Thanks for your wonderful comments and pictures about the event. Marc

From Laurie Niles
Posted on September 22, 2010 at 4:58 PM

 And thank you for those program notes, Marc, very fascinating!


From Anne Horvath
Posted on September 22, 2010 at 6:46 PM

I've heard Hadelich live, and I agree that he has a wonderful stage presence.  Thanks for the recap!

From Samuel Thompson
Posted on September 22, 2010 at 6:59 PM

 Thank you so much for this one - your insights are beautiful, as well as your perspective on the responsibilities that come with the prize.    

From Alayna Faulkenberg
Posted on September 22, 2010 at 8:35 PM

I've gotten to hear him  live several times now, and I just ADORE his playing. His Paganini is incredible.

Posted on September 23, 2010 at 11:00 AM

I have heard Hadelich live too, he is such a fine musician indeed!

From Alice Kowalski
Posted on September 23, 2010 at 10:56 AM


I absolutely agree about his Paganini. I admire people who are capable of playing them well, but had never heard a caprice that sounded like music before I heard him play. Outstanding.



I think the loudness issue is not the "new" violin. I noticed he does not produce a lot of sound when watching him play live on the "old" instrument. On the other hand, the quality of sound he produces is so good, quantity became irrelevant to me...

From Janis Cortese
Posted on September 23, 2010 at 4:57 PM

That kid is so good ... he plays with such sweetness and total sincerity.  There's just nothing "ulterior" about his sound, for want of a better way to say it.  It's real "heart on your sleeve" playing.

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