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VOL. 126 | NO. 45 | Monday, March 7, 2011

Violin Prodigy Hahn Brings Talents to GPAC

JONATHAN DEVIN | Special to The Memphis News

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The Germantown Performing Arts Centre will continue its tradition of offering musical performances in which two is company and three’s a crowd, with the recital performance of a Grammy-winning artist.

Award-winning recital violinist Hilary Hahn brings striking contrast to GPAC’s stage for a Sunday performance to include works by Bach, Beethoven, Tartini, Ives and Antheil. (Photo: Courtesy of Peter Miller)

Violinist Hilary Hahn will perform works by Tartini, Beethoven, Bach, Ives, and Antheil at GPAC on Sunday at 3 p.m.

Hahn, who had her international debut in her mid-teens, plans to shake up what audiences think about the familiar names of classical music.

“I like changing the context of what you think you know,” she said.

Hahn first picked up a violin just before her fourth birthday, taking a Suzuki program at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, a music conservatory in Baltimore.

“My dad and I took a walk around the neighborhood and there was a sign in front of a building we hadn’t really noticed before,” Hahn said of the conservatory. “I thought I’ll try that. It was a Suzuki program, so I started with a bunch of little kids.”

But Hahn wasn’t immediately a prodigy. She went through the “scratchy phase” most beginning violinists endure, pacing herself through her school years and eventually developing into her current sound.

“I really think that hard work is more important that initial talent,” she said. “Talent doesn’t always work out, but a lot of people’s hard work will work out. Having both is helpful, but I’ve noticed a lot of people who make progress quickly, and still don’t know how they got there. They wind up having to learn things later. If you learn things fully and steadily from the start it’s easier to maintain.”

Hahn studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia until she was 17, completing her university degree requirements at age 16.

In about a dozen years of recording, Hahn released 11 solo albums with Deutsche Grammophon and Sony, plus three live-performance DVDs, many of which have floated across Billboard’s classical albums Top 10 list.

Last September, Hahn recorded the Higdon Violin Concerto with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, a piece that was written for her by her teacher Jennifer Higdon. The concerto won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for music.

Hahn plays a Vuillaume violin made in Paris in 1864.

Now she divides her time between performing concertos and recitals. While it is sometimes more difficult to gain popular momentum through recitals, playing the stage alone just naturally suited her better than the alternative career jumpstart: competitions.

“I didn’t really want to do competitions, because for one thing I don’t like being competitive with people and I have really great mentors who helped me start my career,” Hahn said. “For other people, that really works well for them.”

Both her recitals and her recordings have one element in common – juxtaposing composers of vastly differently periods and genres, not so much to show how they are different, but to show how they are alike.

For example, the second half of her GPAC recital will consist of Antheil’s Violin Sonata No. 1 and Bach’s Partita No. 1 in B Minor. Antheil was born in 1900, long after Bach died in 1750.

“I think the Bach transitions really well into the Antheil,” Hahn said. “Bach has a really great rhythmic drive and people don’t really think of that even though it’s inherent. The Antheil has melodies that keep coming back and it has this strong terrific pulse, so the Bach leads Antheil well and they can still be different from each other by virtue of the fact that the Bach is solo and the Antheil has piano.”

Hahn performs with her recital partner, pianist Valentina Lisitsa. The first half of the program again has her hopping from century to century with Tartini’s “Variations on a Theme by Corelli,” Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 5 in F Major, Opus 24 “Spring,” and Ives’ Sonata for Violin & Piano No. 4 “Children’s Day at the Camp Meeting.”

Tickets for Hilary Hahn in recital are $30, $40 or $50, plus handling fee, and can be purchased by calling the GPAC box office at 751-7500 or visiting www.GPACweb.com.

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