Have violin, will travel

Hilary Hahn's globetrotting includes Sunday stop at Strathmore

February 24, 2011|By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun

Globetrotting, Grammy-winning violinist Hilary Hahn will breeze through the region this weekend to play a recital.

Her appearance at the Music Center at Strathmore with brilliant pianist Valentina Lisitsa, presented by the Washington Performing Arts Society, is the closest Hahn will be this season to her old stamping ground. The violinist was raised in Baltimore from the age of 3, started her musical studies at the Peabody Institute, and made her orchestral debut with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in 1991.

"If I'm based anywhere now, it's the New York area," Hahn said by phone from Germany, in between gigs. "But I still very much like visiting Baltimore."

At 31, Hahn shows no inclination to change the pace or constant variety of her life.

"I've learned a lot," she said. "You have to spend a lot of time on the road to work out a personal way of making it all fit together. I've got it down to a pattern that works very well for me. I go to a lot of places in Europe. I've been to New Zealand several times. I go a lot to Korea and Japan. I went to South America for the first time last year. I'm very comfortable with the lifestyle. It's not boring."

Even during those rare weeks when she isn't giving recitals or performing as a soloist with orchestras or making recordings, Hahn tends to be on the move.

"For vacation, I like going to places I've never been before," she said. "I've gone to some remote places, like the Arctic Circle."

Hahn has headed into some fairly remote musical places, too.

Works by pioneering American composers Charles Ives and, especially, George Antheil, hardly appear on every violinist's repertoire, but Hahn will play sonatas by both on the Strathmore program. (She and Lisitsa recorded three Ives sonatas last year; the CD should be released soon.)

"I'm finding that a lot of people in the United States don't know Ives' music very well," the violinist said. "In Germany, he's considered really cool and fascinating; in Japan, too. He's not so new, of course, yet he sounds new. The music is logical, but then you also have to bend the logic sometimes and just enjoy it."

Hahn will round out Sunday's program with more standard fare, including a partita by Bach and Beethoven's "Spring" Sonata.

In the near future, Hahn will have a whole new pile of music to consider — all brand-new, all written expressly for a certain young violinist.

"I've organized a big commissioning project of 27 pieces," she said. "They'll all be 11/2 to five minutes in length. They'll be perfect for encores, but they don't have to be played as encores. Seven or eight have come in so far. Others are on the way. The 27th composer will be decided in a nontraditional fashion that will be announced later this year."

Why 27?

"I really wasn't thinking of a number beforehand," Hahn said. "I just decided I needed to stop now. I was getting so excited by all the composers I wanted to work with."

Someone of a nonmusical variety Hahn would enjoy interacting with again is Conan O'Brien. Not long before his controversial departure from NBC, the host welcomed her onto "The Tonight Show."

"Many times after concerts, I would be in my hotel room having a snack and watching Conan," Hahn said, "so it was really neat to actually be there on the show. Even if it never happens again, it was really fun and memorable. I like when things happen very quickly, just flash in and flash out. It keeps things interesting."

If you go

Hilary Hahn gives a recital at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. $35-$85. Call 202-785-9727 or go to wpas.org

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