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Tommy Atkinson

Hilary Hahn/NSO

May 9, 2008 at 5:04 PM

One of my old roommates from college now works in the subscriptions department at the Kennedy Center, and can sometimes get free tickets for concerts there, and last night I got to see the NSO with Hilary Hahn playing the Paganini first violin concerto.

This is the second time I've seen her live (the first was the Barber concerto with Philly a couple of years ago), and my impression of the way she plays is really similar to the first time, despite the remarkable differences in repertoire. Overall, a few things really stuck with me:

-Her bow control is AWESOME. The way she can conserve it or be super liberal in her bowing is crazy. The degree of control she exhibits, especially in a piece like the paganini which has such a variety of bow issues, is astounding.

-Her intonation, as to be expected, is nearly flawless. But that's not all. During the first movement, her violin went fairly out of tune, but her intonation was still sparklingly good. Playing in tune on an out of tune instrument is so incredibly difficult, and it was great to not even notice that she had to adjust for it (the only reasons I noticed were the tuning after the first movement, and a unison open D and a D on the G string that wasn't perfect, not due to her fingers, but because her D had slipped).

-Her approach to the concerto seemed more like a piece of chamber music than a solo concerto with orchestral accompaniment. Throughout the tutti sections, she was jump in and play the orchestral part for a few bars, which was really cool and refreshing, especially when she played the second violin part for a couple of measures. She also seemed to have a really palpable connection with the orchestra, which I certainly appreciated.

-WHAT A GREAT ENCORE. After several minutes of standing ovation from the audience, she decided to play the Sarabande from the d minor Partita. I really admire violinists who are willing to play a slow movement of Bach for an encore, which can be a tough sell after something as technical and flamboyant as the Paganini, but it was the perfect ending to her performance. Even after the finger-bending concerto, her Bach was pure and not overly extroverted.

Well, back to practicing, I guess....

From Terez Mertes
Posted on May 9, 2008 at 6:22 PM
Great comments! Thanks for sharing.
From Karin Lin
Posted on May 9, 2008 at 10:45 PM
Sounds like a great concert! I have Hilary's Paganini recording and absolutely love it. She does often play solo Bach as an encore, which I also admire. It's so exposed that it's risky, but she pulls it off like no other violinist I know.
From Neil Cameron
Posted on May 10, 2008 at 12:29 PM
Excellent review. Thanks!


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