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Hilary Hahn @ Carnegie


Last night, I went to see Hilary Hahn at Carnegie with the Orchestra of St. Luke's, a local chamber orchestra which plays an annual subscription series. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision: I bought the ticket when I was at Carnegie on Tuesday, after seeing Hahn's face on a lobby poster advertising the concert. For someone who looks like she's 15 (she's actually 26), she is impressively adventurous in taking on unfamiliar repertory: in upcoming weeks, she'll be playing not just Sibelius and Elgar, but also Schoenberg and Stravinsky.

At last night's concert, she offered Karl Goldmark's Violin Concerto (1877), which I'd never heard before. Goldmark was a Hungarian who lived in Vienna at the same time as Brahms and Mahler and wrote numerous works - including seven operas - but the Violin Concerto is the only work of his still played today (and not very frequently at that.) My first impression was that while it may have lacked the gravity of other 19th century masterpieces, I thought it was both lyrical and virtuosic. Hahn's playing was technically impressive, though seemed to lack deep emotion, which I suppose is a lot to ask of someone in their mid-20s, playing an unfamiliar piece which doesn't offer much emotion to begin with.

As if she had anticpated such a reaction, she followed it up with the slow movement of Eugene Ysaye's 2nd violin sonata, played solo. Sad pieces aren't often played as encores, but here the strategy worked brilliantly: she wore her heart on her sleeve (though she wore a sleeveless gold and crimson top), and the hall was absolutely riveted throughout.   

The concert concluded with Brahms 4th Symphony, conducted by Sir Roger Norrington, famous for his advocacy of "historically aware" playing, emphasizing articulation and pure tone without vibrato. Personally, I didn't care for the performance, which sounded flat and insipid after the Goldmark: this music screams for the power and bass only a full orchestra can provide. Still, most of the crowd seemed to enjoy it, and offered Sir Roger a warm ovation.

After the concert, they set Hahn up in the Rose Museum to sign copies of her CDs. Out of curiosity, I stopped by to check it out, and the line was literally out the door. Just as well: they didn't even have the one I really wanted.