Hilary Hahn interview

March 3, 2009 at 09:44 PM ·

Here's a link to an interesting interview with Hilary Hahn in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. It's definitely worth reading through to the end, for a charming punchline.

Replies (29)

March 3, 2009 at 10:20 PM ·

She gave the same concert she is giving in Phili in New York last friday. It was magnificent! 

March 3, 2009 at 11:05 PM ·

Yeah, I was at the Purchase College gig in Ny too! The Ives stuff is beyond beautiful (OMG, he's from CT!), and the Bartok Romanian dances at the end were exciting!

Great interview, btw--Thanks for the link!

I saw her talk about busking in Seattle in front of Starbucks in another online article. I'd probably give her all of my money if I saw her busking anywhere! :)

March 4, 2009 at 04:39 AM ·

I wonder if she has ever played Erlking out busking. 

March 4, 2009 at 01:33 PM ·

We've been following her YouTube page (in which she talks directly to fans from her MacBook.) I've always been impressed by how grounded and real she is, despite her phenomenal talent and success.  

March 4, 2009 at 01:44 PM ·

Thanks for the link, E.  This is the second (recent) interview that Hahn has discussed how various managements are trying to negotiate her soloist fees down, and how she is resisting any attempts to lower her fees.  I am surprised her PR agent allows her to discuss such matters with the media.

It could be me, but I don't think she is coming across as very sensitive to the current economic situation...



March 4, 2009 at 02:16 PM ·

Also thanks for the link.  This was a really interesting interview.

I've been wanting to see Hílary Hahn play for sometime now, and just now saw that she is playing in Berlin on the 23rd.....yippee!

March 4, 2009 at 03:36 PM ·


Yes, very interesting. She words that so delicately, "Certainly when a presenter is in trouble, no artist wants to be the one who breaks the back of a presenter. A lot are asking for reduced fees and a lot of artists are considering them. You don't generally offer to reduce your fee - artists are already doing a lot in terms of outreach and being involved in the community."

Notice the calculated use of the second person. Of course most artists do reduce their fees; a few stars don't have to. I think, however, that this is exactly what her management would wish to portray, whether or not it is true. 

March 4, 2009 at 04:06 PM ·

E, I hadn't thought about it that way...if it really her PR strategy to present her as worth every penny she gets, then why don't they just publish her fees?

(Insert smiley face here).

(On second thought, maybe not).

March 4, 2009 at 09:53 PM ·

Well, I don't think that it's going to do any good judging Hilary for not being "sensitive" enough or media savvy when it comes to discussing performance salaries in lieu of the economy. Do you think any of these big stars of pop music you see out there today (Much like the ones Hilary described at the Grammys) would ever lower their fees for any such purposes (Like I know how it works, but still, could you see them do that if it's done that way)?

Of course, if Hilary still busks every now and then, she might still be feeling the pinch herself---We really don't know, do we?

March 4, 2009 at 10:00 PM ·

I don't think either of said that Hilary should reduce her fees. We were merely interested in how she chose to respond to the interviewer's question. 

March 6, 2009 at 05:21 PM ·

Here is a review of the Wednesday night recital in Philadelphia, with a discussion of her provocative, highly unusual program. Ms. Hahn has such a beautiful, distinctive sound. We have heard her in concert in various halls many times, and even in our poor-for-sound seats (front row, all the way to her left), in a hall where I always feel as if my ears are wrapped in cotton, her sound came through as golden and rounded.

The program was exhausting and she did seem tired afterwards when she signed CDs for the crowd. It's the end of a long tour for her, but touchingly she still came out to meet with the hundreds of faithful followers who assembled to greet her afterwards. 

March 6, 2009 at 06:22 PM ·

I didn't think the Purchase show was overlong at all, but maybe I'm just biased and I'm a huge fan and everything. There were some elderly people that needed to leave, either not knowing she was going to play an encore or just too impatient to wait and listen to it first--They were being shushed as they milled through the exits while the ladies had already started again--so maybe for some folks it was long.

I really enjoyed the program and the concept of the music's connection to folk music and dances.

E. Smith: just out of curiosity, did they play Paganini's Cantabile in Philly or was it a different encore?


March 6, 2009 at 09:08 PM ·

It was the Paganini Cantabile. 

March 6, 2009 at 07:07 PM ·

I love the part about the busking. :) It sounds like she's no stranger to doing it, like it's fun for her.

March 7, 2009 at 05:44 PM ·

Well, I'm sure she likes the instant response from the passers-by.

When Joshua Bell did it on TV, hardly anyone recognized him. I guess that's the way it is for the classical players. They have a lot of anonymity in the bigger picture. If Hilary came and busked in public out where I live, they probably wouldn't know who she was.

March 9, 2009 at 06:49 PM ·

BTW, after the concert, she told me she got the idea of underlining her name with the treble clef from a concert violist (who does his with the bass one), and she told me the name but I forgot--It's not Yuri Bashmet, is it?

March 9, 2009 at 07:44 PM ·

What's a "presenter" exactly?  If they're trying to get her for a gig, instead of her trying to get gigs, that's pretty good!

March 9, 2009 at 07:57 PM ·

A presenter is a sponsor of performing arts events.  

March 10, 2009 at 01:16 AM ·

Ah.  He's the bar owner. 

March 10, 2009 at 01:27 AM ·


Jim, try to own the -whole- piece.



March 10, 2009 at 01:42 AM ·

I'd rather just borrow, since I'm going to break it bad.

March 10, 2009 at 01:40 AM ·

When I was running the Stamford (Ct.) Symphony I found no big name artist would lower his or her fees. HOWEVER, many did play for nothing. There is a subtle difference there. And they still went outinto the community a day or so before the concert and gave more of themselves. The up and coming artists or middle of the road soloists in ability were almost always "what's in it for ME."

March 10, 2009 at 01:45 AM ·

Might be because they're wondering where their next slice of shortnin' bread is coming from.  The richer you are, the easier it is to be charitable.  You socialists need to understand that...


March 10, 2009 at 02:09 PM ·

I ran across an interesting article in the 3/2/09 issue of The New Yorker.  The article, by Rebecca Mead (who is a nice change from Alex Ross' incessant cheerleading, but I digress) is about star soprano Natalie Dessay.  This caught my eye:

"[Peter] Gelb, who recently announced that he and senior management have taken a ten-per-cent pay cut, owing, in part, to a thirty-per-cent drop in the value of the Met's endowment, has not asked Dessay to lower her rate of sixteen thousand dollars per performance."

16K a pop, WOW...that's what I call putting the "profit" back into "non-profit".


As for Miss Hahn, if she is not willing or able to cut her performance fee, it will be interesting to see what orchestras and venues will be able to actually afford her services.  Cincinnati just announced pay cuts, as many other groups.  I keep hearing rumors of more to come...

San Fransisco, on the other hand, is handing out good raises to their musicians.  I believe I read that even though $$$ are down there, the SFS is committed to the highest artistry possible, which of course comes with a price!   That is an interesting business strategy in this recession, and time will tell if it will work or not.  SFS management is willing and able to pay Miss Hahn's  fee, then she can surely spend the next 2-4 years performing the Stravinsky Concerto every week with MTT...

Initially, Miss Hahn's statement about the fees struck me as very Marie Antoinetteish.  But now that I realize that fee discussion is a business strategy, I am reminded more of the supermodel back in the 90's recession that said "I won't get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day."


March 10, 2009 at 02:45 PM ·

Please, let me eat cake! :)

Still, anyone know the answer to the question about the violist autograph?

March 10, 2009 at 02:51 PM ·

No autograph answers, but as for cake, I like German Chocolate.  Mmmmm....

(And really, I don't mean to sound harsh, and I am one of Ms. Hahn's admirers, but still...)


March 10, 2009 at 07:44 PM ·

Jim, you're a funny guy. Maybe you should try to understand socialism a little better! Think of taxing the wealthy as Ronnie Raygun's "trickle down done for you so you don't have to". A country fails as hard as its poorest, unhealthiest citizen.

Now, can we all get along and read interviews with the greatest living virtuoso?

She's probably so down-to-earth because she chooses to live in the place she grew up. It's another example of putting aside life's worries so you can concentrate on the real issues and work toward greater challenges.

March 10, 2009 at 09:50 PM ·

Richie, that ray gun you've been mocking since the 80s actually worked, best as I recall.

Anyway, greed isn't socialist or capitalist, but human.  Capitalism doesn't conflict with self-determination, which is the sole reason I prefer it.  That means you (yes you) do with the fruits of your labor as you choose.  The ultimate regard is for the individual.  Cowboy life.  Yehooo!


March 12, 2009 at 06:54 PM ·



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