So over my Xmas vay kay in Cali (don't you hate people who say vaykay) (or Cali) I had a nice conversation with my violinist brother about Hilary Hahn's playing, possibly because both I AND a student of his bought him her recording of the Tchaikovsky/Higdon concerti for Xmas. I told him he has to watch this
and he talked about how he heard from a friend about how even when she was just a kid her work ethic was utterly ridiculous, like just HOURS spent in a practice room, and now that's probably how come she has some of the strongest, cleanest technique in the biz. Now I played violin for many years, but if you ever heard me drag bow across string you'd understand that I don't necessarily have a terrific grasp of the finer points of violin technique, so it was gratifying for me to hear somebody who knows more about these things than I do say that yup, she has an incredibly strong left hand ("Just as I suspected!" —Einstein over here), and it was also interesting to hear his take on the Higdon concerto, namely that he did NOT believe, as I did, that it was likely to take off as a part of the violin repertoire, just because it's so damn difficult: "There are parts of that piece I listen to," (I'm paraphrasing) "and I think to myself, I could never play that! Which isn't a feeling I get when I listen to Ysaÿe or Paganini."
BUT ALL OF THESE SPARKLING INSIGHTS ARE JUST LEADING UP TO THE BIG ANNOUNCEMENT that following the awesome success of her Higdon concerto commission, Hilary Hahn has commissioned TWENTY-SIX MORE PIECES from twenty-six different composers, short works for violin and piano. There will also be a twenty-seventh commission later this year, to be awarded according to some unorthodox scheme yet to be announced; I hope that this scheme will be somehow YOUTUBE-related, because of course the one thing classical music needs right now is one more YouTube Symphony or YouTube Choir or some shit like that. Or maybe it will be Crowdsourced or Wiki'd or Tumblr'd or something similarly WEB TWO POINT OH. Hilary H: jackin' her strat.
I TEASE, but seriously, but no but seriously, what's really interesting here is not the HOW of the commissions but the WHO. I mean I don't even know who all of these people are, but LOOK:
Franghiz Ali-ZadehAnd the rest:
Post-Soviet, Mugham-influenced, prepared piano–playing Azerbaijani lady
David Del Tredici
Neo-Romantic American gay
Pulitzer-winning composer of concerti for Hilary Hahn and eighth blackbird
James Newton Howard
Bigshot Hollywood film composer dude
Pulitzer-winning Bang on a Can person
Bluegrass/jazz/classical bassist (you may remember him from such Yo-Yo Ma collaborations as APPALACHIA WALTZ)
Japanese composer for cartoons, which sounds like I'm being dismissive if you're not a total nerd for these things and therefore aware that they are a REALLY BIG DEAL in the enormous parallel universe that exists right next to the world of concert music but seldom overlaps it
If you're reading this you already know who Penderecki is (actually I'm sure that goes for David Lang too, but)
If you're reading this and know who Penderecki is you should probably also go find out who Rautavaara is
Pianist/composer, formerly of Piano Circus, who has also put out some pretty boss solo records—think "ambient"?
Extremely awesome Zen-influenced Japanese composer guy
Improv guitarist and experimental composer
Arvo Pärt's favorite composer, one of my favorites too, you REALLY REALLY need to get into him
Lera AuerbachGoing down the list, that's a pretty good breakdown, right there, of "serious" vs. "popular" traditions, ladies vs. gents, "Western" vs. non-, and so forth. This is a shockingly well-rounded commissioning program for a mainstream classical artist! Even if you hate 24 of these composers with a passion, there are gonna be two on here whose music you just live for. I'M GOING TO ALLOW THIS, y'all, and I am very much looking forward to hearing what comes of it.
Søren Nils Eichberg