Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hilary Hahn Has Commissioned a Shitload of New Encores

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-Zadeh
Post-Soviet, Mugham-influenced, prepared piano–playing Azerbaijani lady

David Del Tredici
Neo-Romantic American gay

Jennifer Higdon
Pulitzer-winning composer of concerti for Hilary Hahn and eighth blackbird

James Newton Howard
Bigshot Hollywood film composer dude

David Lang
Pulitzer-winning Bang on a Can person

Edgar Meyer
Bluegrass/jazz/classical bassist (you may remember him from such Yo-Yo Ma collaborations as APPALACHIA WALTZ)

Michiru Oshima
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

Krysztof Penderecki
If you're reading this you already know who Penderecki is (actually I'm sure that goes for David Lang too, but)

Einojuhani Rautavaara
If you're reading this and know who Penderecki is you should probably also go find out who Rautavaara is

Max Richter
Pianist/composer, formerly of Piano Circus, who has also put out some pretty boss solo records—think "ambient"?

Somei Satoh
Extremely awesome Zen-influenced Japanese composer guy

Elliott Sharp
Improv guitarist and experimental composer

Valentin Silvestrov
Arvo Pärt's favorite composer, one of my favorites too, you REALLY REALLY need to get into him
And the rest:
Lera Auerbach
Richard Barrett
Mason Bates
Tina Davidson
Avner Dorman
Søren Nils Eichberg
Christos Hatzis
Bun-Ching Lam
Paul Moravec
Nico Muhly
Mark-Anthony Turnage
Gillian Whitehead
Du Yun
Going 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.

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Blogger Chris McGovern said...

I'm sure it will all sound incredible within the context of the project, which, btw, I still don't know if these are all going to be on the same album or not (or spread over 2 or 3 CDs). Hilary has a way of spurring interest for roads not previously taken, and she's proven this twice with the success of both her recording of the Higdon and the otherwise-neglected Schoenberg Concerto.

I'm especially looking forward to the David Lang piece!

January 17, 2011 at 11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Higdon concerto is
run of the mill and will
mercifully be forgotten
once Ms. Hahn leaves the fiddle world . The Ernst
work is a
circus stunt written by an idiot trying to outdo
Paganini and that Ms.
Hahn spends time mastering it does not
speak well to her
taste in music other
than trying to show she can master technical difficulties and impress
the great unwashed who view the violin as a circus act .

February 18, 2011 at 11:28 PM  
Blogger Dan Johnson said...

Yes, Hahn has devoted her career to recording such frivolous fare as Bach, Schoenberg and Stravinsky—what a waste! She's almost as bad as that philistine Gidon Kremer, who not only mastered the Schubert-Ernst 'Erlkönig' caprice but committed a thrilling recording of it to disc. When will they learn that the violin is meant to enlighten, and never, ever to delight?

February 19, 2011 at 8:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Johnson what is your point ? That Mr. Kremer
also playing the Ernst work makes it somewhat
more respectable ? Or that this put Ms. Hahn in exalted company of
"serious" violinists .Why
you would label Mr. Kremer a philistine even
in jest - Ms. Hahn and Mr. Kremer are both
serious accomplished violinists and play at times wonderfully well,
the only problem is most of the time they play the violin but make
little music - -
To drag in the name of Bach is an old ploy to
let us know "hey this is a serious artist" even if they play circus stunts .
It is akin to some jazz pianists being insecure as to their standing letting us know
early on that they have had a "Classical " training ,whatever that
means to their audience.Of course music should also
"delight" but there is a great difference between delight and
amazing difficulties
overcome circus act.
For your curiosity you
may want to hear Repin play the Paganini "Carnival" all delight
and charm and show bizz but forgiveable .
As Chopin wrote "we always remember the delightful, barely remember the amazing"
Every so called great violinist always called on Kreisler , most could play circles around him
but he was the master in a way they were not,
for while playing the violin the best he could
he also made music , Ms. Hahn, Mr. Kremer
could play circles around Kreisler but never
in their wildest dreams
could they command the
audience he did .The
Ernst work would have been totally beyond him .And he may have wondered why would any "musician" want to play it in the first place ..

February 19, 2011 at 2:31 PM  

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