What would you ask Hilary Hahn?

January 26, 2009 at 09:28 PM ·

It's been a few years since I've talked with Hilary Hahn, and I'll be interviewing her again this weekend. She's up for a Grammy for her Sibelius/Schoenberg CD, and so I'm sure we'll discuss that. Please me know if you have more questions for her!

Replies (40)

January 26, 2009 at 09:33 PM ·

I would like to know what keeps her going... Being a musician is such a touch thing and I'm wondering if she has times where she is so sick of the violin that she wants to throw it at the wall! Does she get frustrated?

I guess the main thing being, what motivates her to keep going?

January 26, 2009 at 09:59 PM ·

I'd be interested to hear some non-musical things: Favorite TV show, best movie she's recently seen, what book(s) she currently is reading, favorite kind of pizza...

January 26, 2009 at 10:19 PM ·

My standard question for your interviews. What does a mega talent like her recommend for us amateurs to improve our skills.

January 26, 2009 at 11:02 PM ·

^ I second Tommy Atkinson :) 

January 26, 2009 at 11:15 PM ·

Good grief, has it already been a couple of years? Time flies. I don't have a question, but just wanted to say that I enjoy her home-made YouTube vlogs. She comes across as such a genuine person with all of the packaging stripped away.

January 27, 2009 at 12:17 AM ·

I'd like to tweak Ray's question and ask what someone asked of Ricci:  "What is the one exercise or practice technique that you would choose if you had to pick only one?" (Maestro Ricci's response was scales in thirds, saying it was the best way to learn proper hand position.)  

January 27, 2009 at 01:42 AM ·

I would be interested in her daily practice regimen. 

I would also like to know what she listens to.

How often she is asked to play the Meyer concerto, and if she knows of anyone else who has added it to reportoire.


January 27, 2009 at 02:19 AM ·

Any tips for the first movement of the Barber violin concerto? :)


Do you plan to record the Higdon Violin Concerto?

Coming to play with the National Symphony anytime soon?

Favorite memories of Baltimore/Maryland in general?


January 27, 2009 at 03:53 AM ·

I'd love to know whether she is considering to record Ernst's "Erlkonig" for release on CD and if so, when can we hope to see such a CD. If she doesn't want to do this piece on CD, I'd like to know why not.

In my opinion, nobody plays this piece as musically as her, anybody else rushes through it at maximum speed to show off how fast they can play and the music becomes a casualty. That's just my personal opinion and I know many violinists have a different opinion on this. However, many non-violinist music lovers I know, share the opinion I hold and I believe it would be very appropriate for Hilary to release it on CD so that the public gets a chance to learn that this piece can be played without turning it into a formula 1 race.

January 27, 2009 at 04:00 AM ·

Hi Laurie!

I would love for you to ask Hilary if she could explain a little more in depth regarding the article she wrote on her website about "slow practice for string players" (http://www.hilaryhahn.com/favorites/fav_05.shtml) specifically regarding connecting slow work in the left hand connecting to performance tempo.  I'm a little bit confused about the statement:

"...once the player is familiar with the technical challenges inherent in a particular piece: Practice the notes slowly but move between them at the speed required at full tempo."

If she could clarify and maybe go into a little more depth (maybe with some sort of example) that'd be really awesome and helpful!!!

January 27, 2009 at 04:13 AM ·

David, it means that you should practise the piece at a low tempo, but while doing so you should not also slow down the speed with which your fingers change between notes. In other words, rapid changes between notes, but holding the notes longer in order to play at an overall lower tempo.

January 27, 2009 at 04:26 AM ·

As a constant world traveler, how does she keep organized for her travel schedule and juggle all the related concerns? Any tips on how to pack/travel more effeciently? Have any airlines given her trouble about bringing her violin on board? How does she re-organize during her brief returns home? A minor point: what are those cross straps around her cushy case cover? I haven't seen those before.

I love all the CD's I have of her. I've been especially delighted with my recent purchase of her DVD, "Hilary Hahn - A Portrait". To any HH fans who don't yet have it, drop everything and order it!

January 27, 2009 at 05:02 AM ·

I second what Benjamin said about Der Erl Koenig. It's a beautiful piece especially from her and I want it on a CD. Maybe add to what he said by asking if she'll be doing an album of smaller pieces like Tzigane, Ziguenerweisen etc.

January 27, 2009 at 08:51 AM ·

To the aspiring music teacher, what would she have to say on the matter?  Does she percieve that music will make a "come-back" in the public education system (besides "band")?

January 27, 2009 at 10:19 AM ·

Another vote for "Elrkönig" on CD along with other not often recorded works. There are usually a lot of good interpretations available of popular works. Could she do something similar to what Cecilia Bartoli does? Bringing out CD's with little known music, everybody buys them because of the high quality of the interpretation.

January 27, 2009 at 11:33 AM ·

Incidentally, .... Laurie, could you please tell Hilary that she is mistaken when she tells her audience that Goethe did not like Schubert's "Erlking". What happened was that Josef von Spaun, a friend of Schubert had sent a selection of Schubert's songs, including the "Erlking" to Goethe, UNSOLICITED! Goethe, already a famous celebrity at the time, was inundated with fan mail from hopeful writers and composers, more than he could handle. The letter was returned to von Spaun unopened. However, many years later when Goethe heard the "Erlking" performed, he was very moved and asked to be introduced to the composer. Unfortunately, Schubert had already died by then. Very sad story, but nevertheless, Goethe did like Schubert's "Erlking" very much.

January 27, 2009 at 12:24 PM ·

Here is one reader who enjoyed the previous interview very much.

January 27, 2009 at 12:28 PM ·

I would be interested in knowing if she has any plans to teach full time in the future. I'd also be curious to see what violinist she most enjoys listening to.


January 27, 2009 at 03:19 PM ·

My daughter would like to know if she would be kind enough to sign her new (as of yesterday) short arm cast :(

She will be coming to Indy in February and I promised my daughter we would definately go see her perform.

January 28, 2009 at 08:36 AM ·


Besides the music questions that were asked -- I am always interested to know what an artist's favorite violin was, and what bow she likes to use. Also her favortie rosin. I think she plays Dominants but perhaps her favorite E string too.




January 28, 2009 at 02:04 AM ·

Another one I just thought of.


What exercises besides yoga help you stay in shape to play the violin?

January 28, 2009 at 12:32 PM ·

How do professionals like her deal with freezing hands?  I am sure it happens to anyone one day, especially the tall and thin violinists.  I am sure that soloists often have to tour in nordic countries where it is cold...



January 28, 2009 at 01:58 PM ·

Someone in the backseat of my car last night, I'm not naming names, wonders if HH is dating Josh Ritter.

(We don't expect you to ask her, but that's what the hoi polloi is wondering...)

January 28, 2009 at 03:02 PM ·

Could you politely remind her that I asked her after a concert in Dundee a year ago ""What is the secret of playing Bach?".  She said she'd need a long time to think about that.  By my reckoning she has had about 25 years...

January 28, 2009 at 03:16 PM ·

Of course I don't know her secret, Mungo. I would say: humble and patient practice.

January 28, 2009 at 03:18 PM ·

is hilary game for conducting an online v.com masterclass via youtube?

January 28, 2009 at 03:50 PM ·

Can I have her autograph? Lauri can mail it too me.


January 28, 2009 at 09:00 PM ·

I noticed that HH plays the missing E in the Adagio of Bach's a minor solosonata as I suggested on this site some years ago. Did she follow my advice, to sometimes add or leave out some notes, or did she by herself reach the conclusion that Bach now and than can be improved upon?

January 28, 2009 at 10:32 PM ·


I am sure she followed your advice.  There is also are also a couple of movements  missing in the Schoen berg which I feel she will add over the next few years.



January 29, 2009 at 01:33 PM ·

I believe that she has also followed Heifetz' advice re the Schoenberg concerto. Looking at her DVD carefully, it looks like she's grown a 6th finger, proving that violinist evolution can be improved upon!  ;-)

January 29, 2009 at 06:27 PM ·

No questions.  Just wanted to share that when my son first started violin 8 years ago and I knew nothing about classical music, Hilary Hahn was the first violinist recommended to us and we fell in love with her Barber/Mayer CD and it continues to be one of the most beautiful classical CDs we have ever heard.  How lucky for you to get to interview her, Laurie!

January 31, 2009 at 11:26 AM ·

How would a typical day in her life go?

January 31, 2009 at 05:49 PM ·


What's the current situation right now with the previously-discussed Chris Thile collaborative album? Can't wait for it! :)

BTW, hope you get your grammys!

January 31, 2009 at 10:18 PM ·

Apart from her Vuillaume, does she own any other violins, and if so, what makers?

Could she please tell us what her warm-up routine is when she takes the violin out the case for her first practice session of the day?  Does she have any physical or mental exercises she always does BEFORE getting the violin out?

Any secrets for beating jetlag?  How does she cope with the change in timezones when travelling?

How long did it take her to memorise the Schoenberg Concerto and any tips she would be happy to pass on to us mere mortals about efficient memorising of complex pieces?

When is she going to record the complete Bach Sonatas and Partitas?

February 2, 2009 at 11:32 PM ·

Watching Hilary's DVD (Hilary Hahn...a Portrait) I see that she manages to use arm vibrato in extremely high positions while lesser mortals revert to hand or pure finger vibrato. I assume Hilary has average sized hands. How does she manage to extend this high so effortlessly and still have room to vibrate without hitting the body of the violin?

February 3, 2009 at 03:56 AM ·

Ask what her philosophy of pre-recording vs. playing in less than optimum conditons would be.  I saw a vid of her playing outdoors in Moscow, for real I assume, and it's my favorite playing of hers.  I think the temp was in the 30s.

February 3, 2009 at 01:52 PM ·

 Has she thought of extending her blogging to Twitter?

February 3, 2009 at 03:45 PM ·

 I would ask her how she feels modern violinists have advanced the art of violin playing over past masters. e.g. Ysaye, Kreisler, Heifetz, Thibaud etc.

February 3, 2009 at 03:55 PM ·

Would she play to a recording of herself like the Inauguration or the Super Bowl? Would she play the Super Bowl? On second thought may not ask her that... I have the hopes of an autograph (sigh....not going to happen probobly).

February 5, 2009 at 07:20 AM ·

Just saw Hilary play Friday at Disney.    She played the Glazunov concerto and then Erkonig for the encore.    I sat about 8 rows from the back of the orchestra section and her sound was as present and clear as if I were listening to a CD.    Amazing.   A very special concert experience to remember.

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