I blew this month's paycheck seeing Hilary Hahn 4 times with the CSO

Edited: May 20, 2019, 11:33 PM · I can post an update after tomorrow, but I thought I'd get this thread started and see if anyone else had gone to a performance.

Interesting things of note:

She did not play an encore Thursday or Saturday (too tired from touring? Or from playing Sibelius 3 days in a row?). On Friday she played the Gigue from the Bach E Major Partita No.3 that was marvelous. I wonder what she will play tomorrow...hopefully more Bach. And I will sacrifice a small goat if it means she plays Ysaye.

Maestro Mikko Frank who was supposed to conduct, but fell ill with an ear infection at the last minute. Since I assume ears are important to a conductor, Marin Alsop from the Baltimore Symphony filled in with a slightly truncated program. I get the feeling that the last minute conductor change really effected the presentation of the music due to lack of familiarity. For example, on Thursday, it felt as though Hilary played it safe, but started to take slightly more musical risks on Saturday.

On that note: I don't understand why people say Hilary plays too austere or too cold. She actually moves a lot, and spits fire when she wants. Plus, due to the conductor change, it felt sometimes that she was driving the orchestra more than the conductor, especially on Thursday, where she was cuing everyone. On Saturday, after 2 performances, it felt that the concerto was edgier and she was taking more freedoms the notes.

Hilary Hahn put a little insert in the program that she would be signing CDs after the concert, every day. I can't remember anyone else ever explicitly doing this, and as a fan it is really touching to see her show this level of care for the supporters. There was a really long line every day and they sold out of CDs Saturday night. Symphony staff were pretty "she is only signing CDs and programs", but I am a rebel who doesn't care, and also a shameless fanboy, so I brought my copy of her Bach on vinyl, plus the sheet music for Solo Bach and Solo Ysaye, a copy of her encores book and a copy of the Sibelius Violin Concerto (which may be out of my reach for this lifetime. Should have kept up violin during college, but I had no money and fell out of love with playing. C'est la vie). I don't know if she finds this endearing, or considers me a stalker. Furthermore, according to my teacher, getting my copy of Solo Bach signed has not improved my playing.

I can post a picture of my swag after tomorrow.

Chicago Symphony hall is actually kind of annoying acoustically for solo violinists, so bear with me on this next point. I feel like she was giving her instrument all she had to get it to reach all the way to the upper balconies. I sat in 3 different places each day (lower balcony 1st row, main floor about 10 rows back, then lower balcony about 20 rows back). For example, on the main floor up close you can hear her really crunching the strings (although her crunching sounds very different than when I do it) down during the 3rd movement, but up in the "best seats in the house", the crunching is harder to perceive. Her bow changes (like in the final minutes of the 1st movement) can be heard if you really pay attention up, and you can also hear her body movements, where as in the balconies you can't. Must have something to do with how sound attenuates in Symphony Center, but I don't know much about acoustics. Anywho the point is that Symphony Center as a venue will do different things to sound depending on where you sit. While the lower balcony has the best blend of sound, I actually enjoyed sitting sort of middle/back on the main floor because it let me hear the raw instrument better, at the cost of blending the orchestra's sounds together. I also wonder if her violin's reputation as a "copy of the del Gesu Cannon" is more urban legend than fact, or maybe the 2 violins have just changed over however many hundred years, or maybe she needs to buy a Needham violin to punch through the upper balconies at the CSO.

Speaking of her bowings, Hilary Hahn generates a ridiculous amount of power on long bows, more than any other artist I have seen in recent memory in this same venue. When she played Bach, it was insane how much the sound carried. And the Gigue is supposed to be a type of dance.

The CSO strings section needs to punch harder. Depending on seating, I can clearly hear the first two stands play, where the rest of the section seems lost. Not that they aren't fantastic violinists of course, but I wish I could hear more than the concert master/asst concert master playing without the rest of the section, and it kind of "shrinks" the soundstage when the power is only concentrated at the middle, especially because the horns play with an arch behind them that can really diffuse their sound. The violinists on the wings get swallowed up sometimes.

During the opening of the Sibelius VC second movement, the clarinet and the bassoon play "solo". On Friday night, one of the instruments absolutely BUTCHERED the opening. My musical sense isn't strong enough to be able to tell whether it was the clarinet or the bassoon, and while I understand that this kind of solo would be more than enough to make ME shit my pants, but come on. That was pretty terrible.

One final note. Since I stalk Hilary's instagram and am the king of reading too much into what girls say on social media, I saw an Instagram story where Hilary talks about the importance of the number 6 in her life. 6 pieces of solo Bach of course kick started her career and she plays them every day. Then she commissioned 6 partitas from Anton Garcia and newly released a recording. I naturally took this to be code for "I'm recording the 6 Ysaye sonatas next". I obviously had to ask about this to show that I pay attention to every aspect of her life she shares on the internet.

She said no.

Replies (41)

May 20, 2019, 11:44 PM · I haven't (knowingly) heard Hahn's new Strad-model Vuillaume, but I have no doubt that she can produce power enough on either of her two violins to easily carry more than a Needham. And she's probably got the best carrying power, in terms of sheer ability to produce sound, of any current living violinist I've heard.

Every renovation done to Orchestral Hall has made the acoustic weird in new ways, with quirks to many seats, as far as I know.

May 21, 2019, 3:37 AM · "The CSO strings section needs to punch harder. Depending on seating, I can clearly hear the first two stands play, where the rest of the section seems lost."

I don't understand this. Most of the time the whole section plays the exact same stuff, so why do you think you're only hearing four violins playing?

May 21, 2019, 4:55 AM · Lydia,

Isn't her "main/first" violin a Vuillaume copy of Il Cannone?

I think she is using the strad model here:

May 21, 2019, 5:52 AM · I’m jealous, would love to see her live.
May 21, 2019, 6:10 AM · Great read, thanks for posting it.
May 21, 2019, 6:40 AM · Wow! I really hope to see her just once, it's great that you are able to do this and pass along your impressions. Thank you!
May 21, 2019, 8:08 AM · Seeing her live would ruin my life. I think I would stop to have any appreciation for any other woman, or man.
May 21, 2019, 8:23 AM · You can sometimes hear the front of the section more clearly than the back few stands. Whether that is the result of timidity in the rear, or some philosophy of the conductor is not always easy to tell.
May 21, 2019, 8:26 AM · And (off-topic), I'd be interested to put a Needham against a Vuillaume or other good antique. I haven't been able to get another player to make the comparison at some distance. I just had my HN adjusted this spring, and the difference is quite startling. Not tons of raw power, but wonderful (if fragile in a Strad-like way) balance that probably carries better than you'd think.
May 21, 2019, 8:50 AM · @Lydia and @Stephen regarding violins

I had read an article about Hilary getting a new violin for the Bach album, but it hadn't crossed my mind that she would be using one or the other to perform with. And when it comes to her, my impression has always been that her right hand has more magic than the instrument.

My best friend lives in Potomac, and I had the fortune of calling Mr. Needham to let me try a violin. I'm not the most knowledgeable on fine instruments, and of the big boys I've tried a Strad (and I've heard it is one of the better ones), and Gagliano, and a few Vuillaumes (although I believe only one of them was made by Mr. Vuillaume, the rest were made in his workshop). The Needham was from 2017 I believe. I felt this one had a ridiculous amount of power and a lot of color that was easy to pull from the instrument, but perhaps it wasn't a dark, warm, chocolatey tone that some of the antiques are known for. Then again, every violin and every set up can be tuned for different purposes. In any case, my initial impression was that the Needham wasn't as "refined" a tone, but had a lot more raw projection, at least under my ear. I have not had the fortune to play the "Il Cannone" del Gesu to compare it to. Aside from going to dealers, where do you all get to try different fine violins?


I don't "think" I only hear the first 4 violins playing. I actually hear them cut through the rest of the section. Whether this is due to acoustics or due to the first 2 stands carrying the section I do not know.

May 21, 2019, 9:10 AM · projection is not measured under ear, it is measured at a distance.
May 21, 2019, 9:23 AM · She is really amazing and so personable! I also attended / will attend all four concerts. I really enjoyed how she brought something new every concert. The crowd she brings is on the younger side as well--- many high schoolers and young professionals. I enjoy talking to them and hyping them up to talk to her. Hilary is really so sweet in the meet & greet line. She listens to you and gives you thoughtful responses.

The best seats in the hall would be in the main floor, 1M, in my opinion. I attended last Thursday at 2M, and I had to strain my ears to hear her. It really is a pity since I brought three other friends with me then. This time I upgraded to 1M again. Putting all in for the last concert!

Are you doing the meet & greet later as well?

May 21, 2019, 9:47 AM · @Carl S

Of course! Although I was considering going to a bar to grab a beer during Rachmaninov Symphony (really don't feel a pressing need to hear it 4 times).

My experiences with solo violinsts match yours in terms of seats. I think the lower balcony has a better acoustical character "overall", but for solo violinists, the floor provides a better sound from the soloist, plus the string section "blocks" the brass from that position as well. When I saw Perlman play earlier I had lower balcony seats about halfway back, which are priced "better" than main floor, but it wasn't really working for me sound-wise, especially because Perlman's right hand is letting him down these days.

She posted on Instagram she was practicing in the Grainger room. Man I hope she plays something cool.

May 21, 2019, 9:51 AM · Do you want to meet up outside the hall? I too have been skipping the Rachmaninov Symphony and re-entering during the signing. I have a friend with me, maybe we can all grab a drink.

Maybe she will considering this concert will start half an hour earlier. She did release a video of the Gigue though. She apologized for not giving an encore despite having to go out five times for the crowd's applause.

I understand why she doesn't do an encore. Aside from it being entirely optional, the orchestra has to play another entire hour after she plays.

May 21, 2019, 9:59 AM · @Carl S

Sure. Not entirely sure how to get in contact with each other, since I don't BELIEVE there is a PM feature on this site.

Edited: May 21, 2019, 11:42 AM · Ah, I am having problems putting my email in my account.

Edit: received it! Will reply in a bit.

May 21, 2019, 10:42 AM · Yes, HH now has two JB Vuillaumes -- the Cannone del Gesu copy, and a Strad model. The second violin is a fairly recent acquisition. (Note to James: The workshop instruments aren't even considered in vaguely the same class as the actual JBVs.)

In addition to trying instruments at dealers, throughout the course of a musical life, you'll get a chance to try stuff that your acquaintances own or are considering buying.

I own a JBV. My teacher owns a Needham. He's the luthier I usually go to (he's a terrific adjuster). He does make powerful violins, and as far as I can tell, his work is getting better with every passing year. But I have direct experience with the comparison, across multiple violins.

Under the ear volume is not the same as projection at a distance, especially the ability to cut through an orchestra in a concerto.

May 21, 2019, 11:01 AM · @Carl S

Email sent


Her vibrato during the opening bars is actually very restrained compared to what I expect "the Hilary Hahn" sound to be. What recital did you see in the past? I'm wondering how often she comes around to play live.

Yeah found that first part out very quickly. The Vuillaumes made in the workshop (which aren't labeled Jean Baptiste, but maybe the name of his son?) cost like, $15k-$20k and the "real" one was quoted at $300k. Too bad, because I really liked that instrument, but it was a tad bright compared to some others. Perhaps I use the wrong term for "projection". When playing I was listening for the reflections around the room and the resonances in the wood. I have really terrible pitch so I "feel" intonation much more than I can "hear" it. I actually got the same feeling as you, that his ability to tune an instrument is where he really "brings home the bacon", so to speak. Can you recommend a good way to find acquaintances that own fine violins? Are community orchestras a place to start, or maybe a young professionals classical music meetup group?

You say he's getting better with each passing year, but my perhaps too-morbid question is that, given that he's not that young, how long should I be waiting to commission a custom :)?

May 21, 2019, 11:30 AM · A $15k-20k one is probably Nicolas Francois Vuillaume, JBV's brother.

For an amateur: Community orchestras, chamber music meet-ups, basically anywhere that players congregate. In general, peers are happy to share. If you go somewhere there are pros, unless you're viewed as a peer, they're unlikely to get into a conversation with you about instruments that would lead to a chance to play their violin for a moment.

If you're going to commission a violin, you should find a chance to play the work of a lot of contemporary makers. Remember that many makers have waiting lists, which can stretch years.

May 21, 2019, 2:44 PM · "I don't "think" I only hear the first 4 violins playing. I actually hear them cut through the rest of the section. Whether this is due to acoustics or due to the first 2 stands carrying the section I do not know."

You can't "cut through" a section if you're IN the section and you're all playing the exact same stuff. Unless you're playing badly, which doesn't happen if you're in the CSO. Or if the listener is sitting too close to the string section, like on row 1.
Maybe what's happening is you;re playing close, visual attention to those first stands in the 1st violins, and that's why you imagine you're hearing them over and above the rest.
You seem rather focused on "projection" anyway.

May 21, 2019, 3:01 PM · "My son has extreme opinions on how the first movement of the Sibelius, particularly the opening, should be played, and thus far no one has met his expectations so we will see if she does. To paraphrase my son, Sibelius is from Finland--you have to imagine Sibelius looking out over an icy landscape...." (Susan)

As a Finn I hear this description a lot about Sibelius' music and for good reason. But perhaps due to my life experience the concerto paints a picture of someone struggling inside their head, trying to move on - change! The main motif is the cornerstone, something that is always there, no matter how the person approaches, it is constant. The self-reflecting and reminiscing of the second movement is too much to bear and the person finally "loses their marbles" in the third movement. My favorite recording is Ferras with Karajan, but I understand many would consider it overphrased by Ferras.

May 21, 2019, 3:30 PM · @James the recital must have been about 5 years ago. I think she was pregnant at the time if that helps figure out when. I know only my son and I went because my little one (now 9) was still too little. I'm pretty sure it was the first recital my son ever went to!
May 21, 2019, 3:51 PM · Her latest recital in Chicago was in 2016, when she played Mozart Sonata with Cory Smythe, if I’m not mistaken.

@Susan I do hope your son enjoys! Like what James mentioned, sometimes the seating makes or breaks the experience. But as a violinist, I’m sure your son can discount those factors and take her skills as they really are.

May 21, 2019, 4:03 PM · @Lydia

She's doing another meet and greet today, so I will make it a point to ask which instrument she is using and maybe ask some of her performing opinions on how it is different from her old one. However, in this Q&A setting and given your experience, I cannot promise anything revelatory on this topic. I will say that this instrument sounds warmer on the E string, and noticeably edgier and coarse on the lower registers compared to recordings, but this could just be the difference between an edited recording and the "glorious imperfection" of live music, as long as the woodwinds don't botch the 2nd movement again tonight :). I don't have any cool insider knowledge, I can only offer observations and speculate on the "whys".


I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. I can promise you that I can hear individual instruments from the first 2 desks over the section. Now the cause of this is a whole other story. It could be due to what maestro is hearing vs what the audience hears. It could be due to the way the hall attenuates sound depending on source and sitting position. It's definitely a possibility that in a different position I would hear the last desk more. I don't know because I'm not an acoustical expert or recording engineer. It just stood out to me as noteworthy.

See you all with an update tomorrow!

Edited: May 22, 2019, 1:13 PM · Ok, so Carl and I grabbed a beer since neither of us had any particular desire to Rachmaninov for the 4th time in a week. It's always interesting to meet online people in real life, and we had a great time.

Hilary's performance on Tuesday may have been the best of the bunch. It was a pretty awesome return to "Vintage Hilary" form. You know,the one where she plays every note as if it was the last note she's ever going to play. Much less coarse pressure on the lower registers, but the tone definition and consistency had the "Hilary Hahn" magic. Perhaps as a result, overall dynamic power was less. I was sitting on the main floor, so it was fine for me, but I can imagine people seated in one of the balcony covered areas having trouble hearing.


She is playing her Strad pattern Vuillaume. I actually asked her about this during the Q&A session and she gave a really good answer about how she chose the instrument, how she tested it, and how she tuned it to performance spec. She explicitly pointed out that it has a quite similar bright tonal signature to her del Gesu pattern, but is slightly dimensionally different (which I guess proves that JBV can make consistent instruments as long as you have a good setup), which helped reset some playing technique. She devotes much time talking about instrument setup as well as the right hand.

My new best friend Carl actually recorded the session so I'm going to see if I can get my hands on a copy and transcribe it to post here. Perhaps I should ask Hilary's permission to do so as well. As predicted, much of the Q&A was fluff questions, but I'll go through the recording and try to at least find the "good" ones that may be of interest to people on these boards.

May 22, 2019, 2:13 PM · That would be pretty cool to see.

My experience trying JBVs is that they can vary fairly significantly. I was pretty fascinated by Hahn's purchase of a second one, though, since she could afford to be playing an actual Strad. However nice a JBV is, it's not the equal of a great Strad. (Not all Strads are great, of course.)

May 22, 2019, 2:34 PM · One thing which perhaps our older members can clarify-- when I was much younger, JBV was deemed to be basically OK, but not especially interesting to anyone who could get a decent Italian. Too "French" sounding.

So my query is, are we only now making the effort to find the best examples and set them up properly? In times gone by, it might not have been worth the effort, or at least, people were more likely to accept mediocre results. Or maybe the good ones were all held by players who knew better, and not the people I met who had one.

Edited: May 22, 2019, 3:38 PM · Interesting to read your comments James on what Hilary said about her violins. My teacher Sidney Harth, who was Concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra also had a very nice J.B. Vuillaume. I know Fritz Kreisler made many recordings on a J.B. Vuillaume with a Tubbs bow. I play on a Nicolas & a JBV. Their best examples don’t take a back seat to most great Italian makers in my opinion. As Lydia said the instruments do vary. I compared with Gaglianos and Testores. In my hands, the Vuillaume did better sound wise. I think some of the really good ones even compete with certain del Gesus I’ve tried..

An interesting quote I found from Tarisio discussing Kreisler’s Il Cannone del Gesu model by J.B. Vuillaume: ‘Charles Beare, of J. & A, Beare in London, tells of a del Gesu sale unwittingly sabotaged by Kreisler and the Vuillaume. A Wurlitzer customer had nearly decided to purchase a del Gesu offered by Wurlitzer, but returned it immediately after hearing Kreisler at a weekend concert. The customer told Wurlitzer that after hearing Kreisler play he realized that Kreisler's 1733 del Gesu was far superior to the one he was considering, and asked Wurlitzer to let him know when a better example came along. Wurlitzer subsequently mentioned the incident to Kreisler, who responded that for the concert in question he had not played the del Gesu. The Wurlitzer instrument had lost to the Vuillaume -- and to Kreisler's artistry.’

Edited: May 22, 2019, 5:17 PM · @Lydia The fun anecdote she told us was, she was not actually for another violin. A smart seller (her own words) invited her to a private sale of Vuillames, and she went with no intention to buy one. She played with many of them and fell in love with the one she currently has.

@james T sending you the file via email!

@susan Agrawal so how did your son find it? I was low-key looking for a mother-son pair during the Q&A.

May 22, 2019, 6:35 PM · Stephen, a JBV is still a lot less expensive than the "decent" Italians you're probably thinking of from that time -- i.e. compared to a Rugeri or Guadagnini or the like.

A JBV can be obtained at a price point where, say, upper-middle-class professionals can buy one for their teenager, or a symphony musician or soloist can afford to buy one for themselves. (Or an amateur who earns a good living in another profession can afford to indulge themselves.)

May 23, 2019, 12:52 AM · I wasn’t even thinking of a Guad, although even lower-bracket good antiques did cost more. Obviously, though, at today’s prices, a 1.5x or 2x or whatever multiple makes a much bigger difference.
May 23, 2019, 1:31 PM · Ok guys, I haven't had time to go through the whole Q&A. I will at some point to pick out the good, non-questions (Why do you move the way that you move?), but here is my question and her response.

I guess I didn't notice it at the time, but she actually spent a longer time answering the question than I had realized. It almost took up a third of the session with her response. Maybe she thought it was an interesting question, or she likes talking about the process, or she was just trying to humor her stalked. In either case, I am thankful.

To Laurie:
I sent Hilary a message on Twitter asking for her permission to repost the transcript of the session and she didn't respond. If posting this here causes a problem between you and her/her management team, feel free to delete it, and I apologize in advance for any tension it causes you in the professional community. I can only offer that I am posting this, and maybe the rest of the Q&A, to earnestly share the responses with this board. I may caveat that this is her personal response to a question, and not necessarily her professional advice to musicians.

Anywho, here it is.

James T:
When you made your Bach album you talked about a new instrument that you purchased. Do you mind if I ask which one your were playing for these concerts, and acoustically, what differences led you to pick one instrument over the other or what do you like about one that the other doesn’t provide. I’m trying to get a new instrument myself so some wisdom would great if you could give some.

Hilary Hahn:
So a question about instruments. I made the most recent Bach recording on two different instruments, but it doesn’t really sound like it; also on two different bows, and the question was when you’re looking for an instrument, various tips or whatever. This week I played on…ok backup I have two Vuillaumes. One made in 1864 that’s a Gaurneri model and I have one from 1865 that’s a Strad model that I bought almost six years ago that I’ve been playing for the last three years. And so in the middle of making a record I switched violins and that’s why I played on two separate violins for the recording because I recorded over two periods about five years apart, so by the time I got into the second set of sessions I was very very familiar with the new violin, and I tried playing on the old one that I used to play on, and it just didn’t feel quite as natural to me because I wasn’t in that groove, so I just decided to stick to what I had, and had an amazing co-producer-slash-engineer who I knew could match the sound if there were any discrepancies, so that’s what I did.

I think with the violin it’s really important to, um, feel comfortable with the instrument, and with bows, it’s important that it brings out what YOU hear in the instrument. So with violins I don’t know if it’s as important, unless you have a specific goal in mind that has to do with how the sound carries, I don’t think it’s quite as important to have someone double checking everything and second guessing yourself. If you feel at ease with the instrument and it can do what you want it to do, or you feel there’s a potential for it to do what you want it to do, then I think that’s a good match. And then, find a bow that shows everyone else what you hear in that so it’s really helpful when you’re trying bows, which isn’t something people tend to do, they tend to get a new violin, you know, have everyone and all their friends come check out the violin because that’s a huge purchase, and then the bows, they just go into the shop and go “oh yeah this one bounces well and has, you know, it’s easy to play”, but the bow can actually negatively impact the way the violin [UNINTELLIGIBLE] or it can add a lot of tone color. So that’s something I discovered recently when I got my newest bow I did an intensive testing of it versus others and it really helps the violin that I’m playing on. And, you can kind of collect more bows than you can collect violins, [crowd laughter covers up what she says], so you can change your playing a little bit depending on how you want it to sound, IF you have a violin does what you want it to do.

That said, I got the second Vuillaume because I love my first one. I wasn’t actually looking to switch, someone invited me-a really smart salesperson invited me to a Vuillaume auction preview in London and this particular Vuillaume, I just had a feeling about it. I was just going to play to expand my horizons, I thought. I’m sure the guy was like “oh yeah, get her in a room with a bunch of Vuillaumes and see what happens”. But this particular one, I don’t know, it wasn’t set up the way I wanted, and didn’t sound the way I wanted, but I know a Vuillaume, I’ve live with a Vuillaume most of my life, I know how they play, and I just knew, I had a hunch that there was something in that one that could be brought out with the right amount of time, the right amount of playing. An instrument that hasn’t been played it doesn’t vibrate freely at first, so even if it had been played before, but hadn’t [UNINTELLIGIBLE] in ten or twenty years and no one really played it, it has a lot of room to open up, tonally. So I just, it was in great shape, I was like “okay and it’s a year younger and I wanted to have one more Vuillaume” and I wanted to do a sibling thing I guess, so I was like “they’re like one year apart, and they’re both in pristine condition and they’re both different models” and I thought “oh that’s so cool” and pretty soon I won’t be buying any more Vuillaumes so let’s get it now, so yeah. And then I had a person I really trusted work on it. It didn’t quite work out, so I put it aside as I was dealing with an injury at the time, so I didn’t want to rock the boat and I stuck with my old instrument. When I felt solid enough and I had a new person who was doing my adjustments, out of curiosity I brought this one to him and it became what it- what I imagined it could have been all along. So you just never know. I was-I had the luxury of an instrument I already loved so, I wouldn’t advise going about a main instrument that way, and I was very lucky because what I wound up with was an instrument that plays the way I always wanted to. I allows me to play the way I wanted, it’s familiar because it’s the same make, so it plays similarly and I can kind of drop all the technical baggage of everything I learned and every bad habit I was fighting since I was 13 and growing with the instrument, growing around it. Sometimes it’s just like a lot of body pattern memorization that you can’t quite shake so I was able to have a fresh start, um, without losing all the stuff I love about my older instrument, and someday when I return to the older one I think I’ll be able to also have a fresh start.

Just like a relationship.

Edited: May 25, 2019, 7:05 PM · To All here!! Re ~ Hilary Hahn's 4 CSO Sibelius Violin Concerto concerts ...

Truly, friends, I was most intrigued with Susan Agrawal's son's specific idea of How Sibelius' Violin Concerto 1st movement should sound, musically and interpretatively, especially having been to Helsinki, twice; firstly for Sibelius' International Violin Competition commemorating The Master's Centenery, & blessed playing a Guarneri del Gesu, one was deeply moved & inspired by the Finnish landscape in the depths of a bitter Finland Winter. Especially eerie was the drive from Helsinki to a town, Hameenlinna, FI, on the darkened Winter of December 8th, the actual 100th Birthday of Jean Sibelius! (Honoured w/ the Special Award for Best Unaccompanied Bach in the Sibelius First Int'l Violin Competition, & invited by the Family of Sibelius, All Five Daughter's + other Family Members, to perform the 2nd movement, 'Adagio di molto', of his Violin Concerto before Sibelius Family members, Competition Juror's, honoured Finnish musicians & The Finnish Minister of Culture - who after the televised Live throughout Finland, Scandinavia & Continental Europe performance w/Finnish pianist, Mary Lakos, Sibelius Academy of Music artist accompanying me in our Sibelius 'offering' in the Birth - House of Jean Sibelius - then inaugurated the Sibelius birth-home as the Finnish Government official 'Sibelius National Memorial Museum'!!

(Being honoured to meet & speak with All Five Daughter's of Jean Sibelius on their father's 100th Birthday, was magical & musically insightful!! The ailing Madame Sibelius, having sent a Bouquet of her own homegrown Flowers given to me by her eldest Sibelius daughter said the flowers from her Mother were a present for performing the slow movement of her husband, Jean Sibelius' Violin Concerto on his One Hundreth Birthday!! )

The experience's mentioned above enable me to praise the son of Susan Agrawal, who obviously 'feels' the Finnish landscape within his interior, because from my own view, the Violin 'Monument' of Sibelius IS Finland and Finnish soil IS Sibelius. My legendary Violin Mentor, Jascha Heifetz, championed the Sibelius, making it "famous" across the globe & through Mr. Heifetz' 2 recordings, especially his second in 1959, with yes, the great Chicago Symphony Orchestra & a last moment Assoc. Conductor to the ailing Fritz Reiner, Walter Hendl, on the podium, was recorded in Chicago's glorious Medinah Temple by Jack Phifpher, JH's trusted sound Engineer of RCA Red Seal ~ It is possible young Susan Agrawal's son has heard the Heifetz/CSO Sibelius which allows Heifetz to project right over & through a fully loaded CSO, no matter what dynamic markings or Live dynamics were employed despite encountered acoustic imperfections ~

Knowing Ms. Hahn's 1st Sibelius Violin Concerto recording w/ Lorin Maazel on the podium, her interpretation has expanded in to a deeper introspective 'interior' reading on the posted recording here w/ Conductor Mikko Franck in Paris ~ She has matured as a Wife & Mother to 2 young one's plus a consistently majestically evolved into most thoughtful & armed w/ virtuosity Great Violinista!!! A fervent admirer, I do think her interest in highlighting the softer pianissimo's in both the 1st & 2nd + glimpses in even the 'Allegro ma non tanto' 3rd Mov't, may possibly not have been as far reaching going outward in to the large Symphony Center hall as she hoped? In one's many years of international concert performance/recording & listening to Great Violinist's, Live, including both my Mentor's, Jascha Heifetz & Nathan Milstein; Stern, Szeryng, Ricci, D. Oistrakh, Camilla Wicks & Ida Haendel, acoustics have very often & more frequently effected balance of or between the Violinist & Orchestra, but Not so much the Instrument ~ Many known Conductor's for fabled violinists named above, have enjoyed public concert authority to help or hinder many & being a soloist myself (w/orchestras as London's RPO, ECO, Bamberger Symphoniker, & Members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra), Conductor's usually do control the 'troops' - superb orchestras of great intent w/all wanting to accompany well (yet also hear a JH, NM, D. Oistrakh or Hilary Hahn) - w/Baton in hand & perception of what in a Violin Concerto Score seems worthier to highlight, & often irregardless of a Soloist's wishes ~ A critical factor in Live Violin Concerto w/Orchestra public performance is 80% + in the hand/ear perception of the Conductor, friends, & can be frustrating after agreeing in proverbial Conductor/Soloist rehearsal to then hear & feel an orchestra over-riding heartfelt expressions of sotto voce tenderness of a single violin ... With Heifetz, Sir Thomas Beecham, dared to 'Win' & because Heifetz was HEIFETZ, Sir Thomas couldn't quell Jascha Heifetz's Mt. Everest soaring Sound, Mastery & Innuendi! (A Story in and of itself ~ )

Thusly, in regard to which Vuillaume Ms. Hahn might've played here in her Chicago (can check to see) all 4 Sibelius performances, although a most intriguing topic, I'll hold my breath & venture saying her fiddle was in prime condition but from some descriptions on here of acoustics & blended CSO string sound sections, any dismaying signature of H.H. sound may not have been Hilary Hahn's fault or responsibility for 'blurred' sound of reproduction or seemingly not enough solo artistic nuance's heard?

Returning to the young son of Susan Agrawal, he seems to me (& after a second pilgrimage to Finland, Land of Sibelius, in Winter to guest teach a
Master Teaching Lesson + violin recital at the Sibelius Academy of Music) to be on exactly a right 'Instinct Track' which is in synced harmony with the Finnish disruptive landscape yet fragile birch trees covered in mountains of snow, Cold looking & forbodding in stark Finnish Winter's ... (A word: When Jean Sibelius came to America, & to NYC, he agreed to an Interview by a major music critic for I can't say which publication as it was so long ago, but the Interviewer was shocked by Sibelius' answer to his question of Sibelius moving to the greatness of America, saying, "I could never live in NYC or other cities because I love my 2 acre farm home in Finland, where I walk 2 miles each day in the cold & compose on beloved Finnish Soil ... ' )

(My own 'take' of 'Sibelius Five' is deeply formed by The Master's words & having played in his Hameenlinna tiny Birth - House, (an hour & 45 minute by sleek Finnish Bus ride from Helsinki), in the starkness of Finnish Winter, when one saw & felt the overwhelming rugged Earth Plates of the Finnish landscape ~ I deeply believe those visual images were composed straight into a bevy of Masterpiece Scores by the Greatest Moral Composer of the latter Nineteenth & first 1/3rd Twentieth Century Composition of Finland's Master Finnish "Author of Notes" ~ Jean Sibelius . . . )

If a true Sibelius Lover, listen to the fabled Finnish Conductor & Mentor to Esa Pekka Salonen & Osmo Vanska (to name but a few), Leif Segerstam, conducting symphonies of Sibelius, & for whom I give eternal gratitude for having watched-heard teaching/conducting the Sibelius Academy of Music Concert Orchestra in -25 degree below 0 weather in February, '99, & later writing for a String Magazine that Finnish Led Orchestral Strings had "a Northern European string Sound-Face" never before experienced nor the slowed tempi of Segerstam's Finnish Compatriot, Sibelius' Masterpieces, which the Finn's in their innate wisdom, perform From The Soil, not On Top Of!!!! If time, many will begin to laud Susan Agrawal's young son who has a God given ideal & is witness to the phrase, "Out of the Mouths of Babes", but for there go we by the Grace of God ~

Sibelius' Violin Concerto is part of the Glorious Fabric of All of Jean Sibelius
Masterworks, not Alone - yet special because The Master greatly desired to
be a Violinist, composing All Violin Dreams of what Could Be into his Mount
Everest Monument, aka, the Sibelius Violin Concerto in d minor, Opus 47!!!

Vuillaume I or II, Hilary Hahn is unquestionably a Violin Angel from God ...

With warmed greetings to All from Chicago ...

Elisabeth Matesky *

* A colleague, Joel Quivey, pointed out interesting facts re string sound &
its (shall we say) 're-cycled' whereabouts in his just posted Reply. One
can personally attest to vast differences of famed professional recording
record company techniques vs. non recorded Live sound from 4 or 5 best
1st fiddle players on outside stands, yet on second thought, not amplified.

* Biography here on Violinist.com (performer/teacher)

* www.facebook.com (Elisabeth Anne Matesky) posting H. H. Sibelius &
this Violinist.com discussion ~ (Saturday, May 25, 2019 )

Edited: May 25, 2019, 7:02 PM · Post Script ~ Laurie Niles

Thank you so much for your superb coverage of Hilary Hahn in Concert here in Chicago, with our Chicago Symphony Orchestra, & the wonderfully titled "I blew this month's paycheck seeing Hilary Hahn 4 times with the CSO" by James T !!!!!!Great Job, Laurie!!!! I truly enjoyed it all on Thursday, May 23, 2019, & especially so being able to hear/see a recent performance of Hilary Hahn in Sibelius' Violin Concerto with Mikko Frank in Paris ~

Thank you again ~

Elisabeth Matesky in Chicago

Edited: May 24, 2019, 7:04 AM · so James, Hillary did not actually answer the direct question on which instrument she had been playing these four concerts? by the way note what she said about the sound engineering, editing, going on in producing a record, we kind of all know that, but she again confirms that nontrivial things are being done. for example, I've been attending a number of session of the Queen Elisabeth Competition that is going on in Brussels at this time, and most of the contestants play old Italians, yet these instruments, in real life, sound great but still sound more or less in line with "your and my violin" so to speak, they do not have this impossible sound that you sometimes hear on recordings.
May 24, 2019, 7:13 AM · Jean,

I'd guess the Strad model since she said she has used that for the last three years. The Il Cannone copy has a engraving on the tailpiece as well.

May 24, 2019, 11:38 AM · Yes she basically confirmed she has been using the Strad copy when touring the last couple years (the tone didn't come across in my transcription).


My feeling is that there are some pretty major acoustical differences between a competition and recording session. My violin definitely doesn't sound like an old Italian, under my ear, or from a distance when my teacher plays it.

Here are a couple of pictures from the concerts:


If I have time this weekend I might go back through the Q&A recording and post the more interesting questions.

Edited: May 25, 2019, 11:45 AM · re.:- "the first four violins cutting through the rest of the section". Some of that might be because of the Proximity Effect. The brain will assign the sound of the whole section to the source that is closest to you. There is a very small time delay. In less than fully professional orchestras you want to put your 4 or 5 most accurate players on the outside row of the first violin section. A soloist will stand in front of the orchestra, closer to the audience. A sound engineers' trick: when using light amplification of an acoustic instrument, put a very short time delay in the system. Then all of the sound seems to come from the player, not the speaker.
Edited: June 10, 2019, 6:44 PM · A Grand Pause since a few weeks back ~

For ~ Nate Robinson

What a Story of Kreisler's Artistry on a J.B. Vuillaume actually being preferred by "Fritzi" to a great Guarnerius del Gesu!!!! But, the innocent buyer truly lost out, or so one might presume ~ Having had an opportunity to record a Violin Concerto of Dmitri Shostakovich on a J.B. Vuillaume, and with a truly powerful Orchestra (Bemberg Symphony in Germany), the J. B. Vuillaume was great to me, pouring forth Strad sounding lushness & depth when I really needed it to convey such poignant emotions in both the first Solemn Opening movement and in the Third Movement, Passacaglia ~ It was a Dream Violin!!!!

Sending best musical wishes from Chicago ~

Elisabeth Matesky *

*Elisabeth Anne Matesky on Facebook (I posted a note to you about 8/9
days ago on my Timeline ~ it seems you haven't responded or known of
it ~ I was having a series of Computer Terror's that Friday!!! ) *I knew
Sidney Harth but my father, Ralph, knew him much better - engaging him
as his Violin Soloist in Utah, with Sidney staying as a guest at my parents
beautiful home in the mountains! Evidently, they got on ~ If my memory
serves me reasonably well, I think your teacher, Sidney Harth, was not
long in Chicago as Concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra?
I wasn't living here so really don't know the timing, but a feeling he came
and served well but for a short time ... Who was the Music Director? A
French Conductor, Martinon?? Or Rodzinski??? I'm puzzled!! EM ~

June 10, 2019, 8:48 PM · "She has matured as a Wife & Mother to 2 young one's plus a consistently majestically evolved into most thoughtful & armed w/ virtuosity Great Violinista!!!"

Strangely one never hears about male violinists maturing musically as they're having kids.

June 12, 2019, 3:20 AM · Some said that Kreisler’s sound became much more chaste after he got married. But that is an exception.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

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