Hahn captivates in informal concert

November 14, 2006|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,Sun Music Critic

The morning after a long trip from Austria, and a day before facing a tonsillectomy, stellar violinist Hilary Hahn captivated an overflow house in the intimate recital room at An die Musik. Sunday's informal two-hour session found her in engaging form as she played demanding works for unaccompanied violin, then fielded questions from the audience, which included several small children sitting at the front on the floor.

"It's perfectly normal not to like practicing," the 26-year-old, Baltimore-based Hahn told one young violin student, after describing how she had done little else but practice when she was growing up.

Relaxed and articulate, Hahn discussed details of her 19th-century French fiddle, the interpretive process, and the value of playing second violin. She also explained how she dealt with making mistakes. "I just say `bleh' and start over," she said - exactly what the audience heard her do after a little derailment earlier during her otherwise bravura account of a tough transcription of Schubert's Erl-King.

Hahn, who usually stops by An die Musik whenever a new CD comes out, stayed around to sign copies of her latest recording, a collection of concertos by Paganini and Spohr.

In a quick chat backstage, Hahn talked about her next recording project - concertos by Sibelius and Schoenberg. She plans to treat the latter "like Beethoven or Brahms, and play it at tempo, which pulls everything together. I try to bring out all the emotion in it," she said.

A recording of Bach cantatas with prominent solo violin parts is also in the works. Meanwhile, Hahn will be back on the concert circuit as soon as she gets over this week's tonsil surgery. "I'm lactose intolerant, so I don't even get to enjoy the ice cream afterward," she said. "I guess I can get soy ice cream."

Hahn had no complaints about the food in economy class on her flight from Vienna the night before. A violin star flying economy?

"I don't feel I fit in with business-class travelers," she said. "And if you travel first class all the time, you start to feel you're an important person - but you're really not."


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