The Queen of the Earl King

November 8, 2007 at 03:26 AM · It is amazing how someone can master Der Erlkonig to such a degree that neither the tone or interplay of melody are compromised in any way. Most people make it sound tortured; sweating and scratching till the bitter end. Her technique and phrasing are to be envied.

Replies (45)

November 8, 2007 at 04:48 AM · Yes, especially. However, I do think her interpretation, etc is even better in her Verbier Festival video. Does anyone know which video this is from?

November 8, 2007 at 06:59 AM · Sitting here watching her play this is such an experience! The fluidity from which her control emanates, is ingeniously detached from the awesome result of her playing. She is truly playing, and the balance of expression is fully present.

I consider her, when I return to center mustering everything I can, particularly for some reason her light geometry of bowing. She creates a little concern for me though, in that I have an ability to mindlessly detach when playing piano.

This detachment may never be completely mine on violin, but I'll get plenty of warm fuzzies. But just watching her shape melody among all those double stops, makes me completely speechless. But I see her detachment as encompassing the breadth of focus required for mastery of violin at the same time. Watching her wore me out... And at the same time, instructed me.

November 8, 2007 at 08:24 AM · How could she be so many places at once?

She has some kind of superhero powers, that's what.

If I could play like that, I would never stop, because I would be so in love with the sound of my own violin. As it is, I had plenty of excuses to give it a rest this evening.

November 8, 2007 at 01:34 PM · Watching her gives you a sense of hopelessness if your goal is to be on top like her. But I cannot help but be inspired to practice even still! She truly has flawless technique and she remains very musical.

Brava Hilary!

November 8, 2007 at 02:22 PM · The top is very high up there . . . thanks for giving me a glimpse of it!

November 8, 2007 at 03:27 PM · Absolutely fantastic technique, brilliant differentiation of melody and accompaniment (and apparently, she has six fingers on each hand.) But I'd like to hear so much more fear and Gothic-Romantic angst in this piece! It's about a father and his son on horseback on a dark and stormy night, and the boy sees the elf king calling to him and trying to steal him away, the father doesn't see anything but when they make it home, the boy is dead.

Eh, but who am I to criticize Hilary's's not like I could even play one measure of that piece, Romanticism or no.

November 8, 2007 at 05:09 PM · I find myself agreeing with Mara--although her playing is unbelievably clean, I wasn't sure she captured the storminess and angst of the text.

November 8, 2007 at 04:18 PM · Yeah, agreed. Her interpretation is a little to calm. The Elf King story is like the boogeyman horror. The story is quite scary and sad. Especially in the end when the father finds that the child really did see a monster and now the child is dead because the Elf King killed him. Hilary makes this piece so beautiful that you kind of forget the story behind it.

But nevertheless, that technique still has my mind reeling.

November 8, 2007 at 04:24 PM · Hahn's clean technique is faultless. Thanks for providing the link.

My high school humanities teacher, also one of the acting teachers at the school, introduced my class to Jessye Norman's "Der Erlkonig". She sings it really well, of course, and gets all the personalities of the characters. Creepy stuff!

November 8, 2007 at 05:09 PM · She never ceases to amaze me.

November 8, 2007 at 05:16 PM · I have to wonder who else is noted for doing this?

Almost forgot>Josh Bell did some cool stuff with this on guitar trying to get at that storyline.

November 8, 2007 at 05:19 PM · The way this piece is arranged it might be impossible to get the same feeling you would get from the original piano and voice version. It is almost a different piece. If you want to capture more of the frightening quality with the violin, one would probably loose some of the clarity that Hilary achieves. It could be a valid interpretation to play it in a more frighting way but I don't know if any violinist is capable of of being frightening and so clean. The voice and piano have an advantage because they have the color qualities of two instruments and a much greater dynamic range.

November 8, 2007 at 05:55 PM · That reminds me Michael--The violin as a reflection of voice rather than an instrument of storytell'n.

The 'reel' is pretty famous, as is the string line, solo work, others and etc. But, it seems a pretty tough endeavor to expect it to be as flexible as other instruments in achieving complex multi-voice images.

When Josh does his thing with it, it is very clear that both he and Hilary were 'all in' to the imagery mentioned. She in fact, if my memory is correct, tells part of the story as part of Josh's effort.

November 8, 2007 at 07:52 PM ·

here is a different interpretation

November 8, 2007 at 07:53 PM · and here is another hilary hahn version

November 11, 2007 at 01:53 AM · This is quite incredible.

I have the music so I got it out to follow along. For those who have never seen the music just let me say that it is unplayable as written. The editor of my edition (Franz Schmidtner) says that "the [Erlking] contain[s] many notes, which cannot be played to their full value. This mode of writing was intended by the composer to stress the leading notes or to accentuate the singing part."

One of the geniuses of this performance is Miss Hahn's performing edition. I would love for her to publish it or for some keen-eared violinist to publish it. It wouldn't be easy by any stretch but it would sure contain a clue or two that may help others play this.

On the other hand it is so hard even in a playing edition that it is probably best that only those who have a chance to play it make their own playing edition. The rest of us are better off with our Kayser and Kreutzer.

November 11, 2007 at 03:15 AM · Out on YouTube there is a version by Kristof Barati that is equally commendable. His personal performing edition is somewhat different from Miss Hahn's

November 11, 2007 at 03:48 AM · ^that guy's performance is so much better than hilary hahn's boring version

November 11, 2007 at 04:22 AM · Who is Kristof Barati and why have we never heard of him before??

November 11, 2007 at 04:46 AM · Here is Kristof Barati.


November 11, 2007 at 05:16 AM · is barati's video sped up

the people in the background are movign pretty fast

November 11, 2007 at 12:28 PM · How would one speed it up and not raise the pitch?

November 11, 2007 at 12:39 PM · "How would one speed it up and not raise the pitch?"

It´s possible with modern technology

November 11, 2007 at 03:16 PM · "Is Barati's video sped up?"

No offense, but good Lord! Not only a stupid question but rather insulting to Mr. Barati, don't you think? Some people really ARE capable of that kind of virtuosity, no tricks or fakery required...

November 11, 2007 at 04:37 PM · Maura...take a look at the people in the background. Their motions are very fast and un-natural. I think it's possible that the video was sped up, of course, it could also just be a bad camera.

November 11, 2007 at 05:31 PM · They don't look strange to me.

So basically you people, unable to believe that someone really could play that damn FAST, choose instead to accuse Mr. Barati of, essentially, fraud. *sigh*....

November 11, 2007 at 05:49 PM · First of all, Barati didn't put up the videos. Secondly, i never commented on his playing. I was just wondering if anybody with a better knowledge of recording could discern if it had been altered from real time. Maybe he can play that fast, maybe he can't; I have no way of knowing.

but i guess it doesn't make that much of a difference. Its an impressive performance at any speed, especially considering he had just played paganini 1.

November 11, 2007 at 06:26 PM · I was going to refrain from posting on this site, but I feel I must say something...

That's the tempo he plays it at. The fact that you're so bored that you look at what the people in the background are doing... and really, they aren't moving that fast. They're just skittish after sitting for that long, and they're behind him, trying to get a view of what he's doing. Watch a news reporter that's out in public, see how fast the people move behind them in an effort to get some camera time.

It's strange, people here take the advise of "pedagogues", much of it is of poor quality, and when someone actually DOES something amazing, they're questioned... you guys have your priorities very much out of whack.

November 11, 2007 at 07:59 PM · I think that the problem is that the frame rate for on-line videos is a little less than normal video and that every now and then there is some flicker.

I certainly believe that that any artificial "speeding up" would be quite evident in the sound even if the pitch was preserved. Mr. Barati is an incredible player.

November 11, 2007 at 08:39 PM · ...and, maura, us people (who are sooo far beneath you, musically and intellectually) actually can believe that someone can play it that fast. I have a recording of Rachel Barton that is even faster and cleaner than this performance.

November 11, 2007 at 09:02 PM · Marty, there's no need for snide remarks.

November 11, 2007 at 09:32 PM · "I have a recording of Rachel Barton that is even faster and cleaner than this performance."

...and done in a studio, with multiple takes, and not after having performed Paganini 1 with full Sauret cadenza. Give the kid some credit, Ms. Barton-Pine certainly would.

November 11, 2007 at 09:45 PM · Yes, Maura, maybe you should take that same advice every once in a while.

Pieter, I'm not putting down his performance. I think it was terrific, and, as you said, after Paganini 1. He must have the stamina of a marathon runner.

I also think that Corwin's answer is probably correct. His Paganini video is of the same quality.

November 11, 2007 at 10:49 PM · Greetings,

i don`t know if he has recorded it but I think Zimmerman would probably play this piece superbly,



November 12, 2007 at 12:16 AM · Marty: fair enough. However, please be so kind as to spell my name correctly? I changed the spelling on purpose...

Incidentally, just for the record, I don't think of myself as "above" anyone else here and I don't believe I have ever said anything to that effect. If somebody feels inferior by comparison to me, that's their own issue.

November 17, 2007 at 06:27 AM · Being a proud graduate of the Brivati School of Spelling recently, I watched this yet again, as a reward of sorts.

Though I'm green, and know I don't know squat about violin yet, I get the greatest pleasure watching she, and Milstein. Ok--and Perlman playing at the heel!. Ok--and Janine playing Gypsy Bartok.

That basic being one with the bow and strings. Whew!

November 17, 2007 at 01:07 PM · Ok here is another one by one of my favourite violinists.

Frank Peter Zimmermann

This is just sublime. Not Ernst but Paganini though. Enjoy!

November 17, 2007 at 09:58 PM · This is an awesome version of the God Save the King Variations played by Frank Peter Zimmermann. The best I have heard, thanks for the link!

November 18, 2007 at 02:29 AM · Corwin, I'm not sure I follow you. I'm looking at the same edition as you and from watching both Hahn and Barati they seem to follow it exactly (except perhaps for the artificial harmonic in m. 43). The leading note figures that are abbreviated are no different than what's done in the Bach sonatas and partitas. Where do you feel they differ?

November 18, 2007 at 04:27 AM · It goes fast but just comparing the last page they each leave out notes of some of the chords (she much more than he does). At least that is what my eyes and ears tell me.

November 18, 2007 at 05:16 AM · Thanks for the Zimmerman link--I'm downloading it as I write. Actually I think this will be my first Zimmerman exposure.

I still love to watch Hilary become one with everything she's worked on all these years so gracefully and elegantly. Her subtle style keeps my feet on the ground, and bow on the strings--well most days! ;).

November 18, 2007 at 07:19 AM · Ok, I see what you're talking about. Especially with the triple stops. Little change in volume or texture when that triplet figure changes from double to triple stops.

November 18, 2007 at 07:55 AM · My first impression is that he had great fun with this.

My second impression is that I'd like to hear "America the Beautiful" expanded within it's context with such concentration.

My third impression is that fluidity and expressiveness can be congruent.

My fourth impression was: "Holy Articulation!"

My overall impression is that, 'throwing down for fun is what it's all about'.

December 30, 2007 at 05:48 PM · I must admit that I'm quite impressed with Hilary in the Ernst Erl King. She has a very different artistic viewpoint than the ones I've heard. Hers is special because of how she brings out the inner voices and makes them all sing like lieder singer.

The version by Leila Josefowicz for some reason has always captured my attention for a long time. Her version of the Erl King is like a rambo-like maching gun firing.

Both are very different yet very wonderful. It is also interesting that they are from the same teacher at Curtis--Jaime Laredo.

January 1, 2008 at 09:23 PM ·

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