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Raphael Klayman

My Meeting with Hilary Hahn!

June 25, 2012 at 9:06 PM

On the evening of June 20 I went to hear Hilary Hahn play some unusual music in an unusual venue - the City Winery down on Manhattan's Varick Street (in New York City). It was in the midst of a terrible heat wave, and I almost didn't go - but I'm glad I did. It was a program of semi-improvised music for prepared piano (where all kinds of objects are put into the piano to get unusual sound effects) and amplified violin. There were some nice things here and there, though I wouldn't make a steady diet of it. This will give you an idea:

To play with a prepared and electrified piano, it makes sense to have your violin a bit "prepared", too. No, I don't think that Hilary placed any dimes or ping pong balls in her precious Vuilliaume! But her violin was wired to an amplifier, and she ocassionally pressed a lever with her foot to further alter the sound a bit. As I say, the balance made sense - yet I missed the pure, beautiful Hilary Hahn acoustic sound that I've come to know and love.

Unlike at say, Carnegie Hall, where she would be mobbed backstage by literally hundreds of admirers, there were only about a dozen lined up to see her, and I was first on line. I found her to be quite nice, and completely unaffected. I told her what a big fan I am of hers, asked her to autograph her DVD, and then told her that I was a violinist myself, and asked her if I might share some of my work with her. She was very gracious and said "Sure!" I gave her a copy of my 2nd CD, for which she thanked me and enthusiastically said "congratulations!", and I even gave her a copy - my first hard-copy - of my first printed-up piece "Twinkleiana". I'm glad I had this window of opportunity. And, not that I notice these things, (not much!) but she's even prettier in person than in her photos and videos!

From Tyrone Wilkins
Posted on June 25, 2012 at 10:12 PM
OMG YOU ARE THE LUCKIEST GUY ON THE FACE OF THIS EARTH! I know that was the most amazing thing ever!I can only wish to meet her...she wouldn't come to my city anyway...not very famous :(
From Raphael Klayman
Posted on June 26, 2012 at 2:05 PM
I'll come to your town - and won't charge so much! lol! Seriously, I do recitals, master classes, etc.
From Tyrone Wilkins
Posted on June 26, 2012 at 6:05 PM
I'm just a student. You'd need to talk to the orchestra teacher at my school about that.
From Christopher McGovern
Posted on June 27, 2012 at 1:22 AM
Review of the City Winery gig on The Glass:
Hilary Hahn and Hauschka at City Winery (A Review)
From Paul Deck
Posted on June 27, 2012 at 5:07 PM
I'm a fan of Hilary Hahn. She takes a very fearless approach to music that I admire, and she has a distinctive sound that appeals to me. I like her Schoenberg Concerto CD very much, and her Mozart. I don't know how to describe it perhaps but there is a certain finely focused center part of her tone that makes you feel that the notes are drilling through you.

Thus it is with some disappointment that I find her web site to be badly out of date. Surely her managers can do better at updating tour dates and other time-sensitive material. There is a rule in web development: Don't build what you cannot maintain.

I smiled when I noticed also that you can no longer view photographs of Ms. Hahn on her web site -- surely this has decreased her server bandwidth by a significant factor! Evidently she does not want to be known as a "violin beauty" or "fashion plate" in the same way as some others (including some male violinists), and she insists on keeping her private life to herself. That's perfectly understandable. But on the other hand there will always be public fascination with people who are simultaneously talented, accomplished, and attractive.

From Jonathan Frohnen
Posted on June 27, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Will you post a recording of your Twinkle variations soon? Sounds like fun!
From Raphael Klayman
Posted on June 28, 2012 at 2:44 AM
Maybe one day. Meanwhile I'm worried whether I'm that guy who the reviewer said kept clapping too soon! ;-D
From Christopher McGovern
Posted on June 28, 2012 at 6:10 PM
@Paul--I agree that her website should be updated more frequently, but I think she's really the person that deals with it, not her team.
I think her team could stand to make some changes in their ethics as well.
While I really enjoy Hilary's work and that she doesn't adhere to the "diva/goddess" imaging that other soloists are always doing and keeps her music true to her beliefs, it does sometimes seem like she's a bit more aloof from the public than most classical musicians are these days--Not good for the brand--maybe she doesn't want to be a brand, but if she's on a label like DG that caters to a more mainstream market, she doesn't have much choice but to embrace that, especially since classical music isn't a huge seller these days.
From sharelle taylor
Posted on June 29, 2012 at 10:51 AM
Paul said " there is a certain finely focused center part of her tone that makes you feel that the notes are drilling through you" - I hear / feel that too, even in her young playing - is it due to finding some absolute centre of the pitch do you think? I have difficulty listening to some other players like Yehudi Menuhin Joshua Bell, because their pitch just scrapes something - not saying JB plays with poor intonation (I should be half so lucky to have that sort of intonation), but maybe he adjusts intervals differently or something, but Hilary I can always listen too.
From Paul Deck
Posted on July 2, 2012 at 2:34 PM
@Sharelle, while intonation is certainly important to tone, I think it's her tone production (bowing) and her violin that cause this "drilling" sound. She's said in an interview that there is something very special/unique about the tone of her particular violin.

@Christopher, for a violinist like HH to be updating her own website is a tragic waste of time, especially when obviously she's not very good at it. And when a prominent musician becomes too reclusive, at some point the public will start wondering what they're trying to hide.

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