2011 Gala: Hilary Hahn

The Bach Choir’s Gala Concert is this coming Saturday, October 15th, beginning at 8:00 pm, at the Central Moravian Church of Bethlehem.  Tickets are available on The Choir’s website, and by calling the office.  The artists for this year’s concert will be violinist Hilary Hahn and her accompanist, Valentina Lisitsa.  The entire Bach Choir family is excited to have artists of their caliber on the bill for our Gala.  In years past, we’ve presented such diverse artists as The Bach Collegium Japan, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, English soprano Emma Kirkby, and Tiempo Libre – our programming is ambitious, and brings artists at the very heights of their profession to our local audience.

The appearance of Ms. Hahn continues this tradition, and also continues the tradition of bringing fantastic string players to Central Moravian under our auspicies.  Though I was not here to hear it, friends in the organization still speak in rapt tones about Yo-Yo Ma’s appearance during The Choir’s centennial year.  I have a feeling the same will be true after Ms. Hahn’s performance, this Saturday.  Wally Vinovskis kindly allowed me to join him on air this past Friday morning on WDIY to discuss the upcoming concert.  We had a listen to several pieces, and he made the insightful observation that it’s very telling about Ms. Hahn’s artistry that a recording of the Bach partitas and a sonata that she made in 1997, when she was 17 years old, is now part of CBS’s (now Sony’s) Great Performances series of recordings.  I gave a couple of her recordings a more thorough listening on a road trip this weekend, and I think that we’re in for a real and rare treat this coming Saturday evening!

Ms. Hahn is now 31 years of age, and her playing demonstrates the maturity and artistry of someone many years older.  I’m delighted that she’ll be beginning the program with an unaccompanied Bach sonata – her Bach is particularly accomplished.  Bach’s solo works for unaccompanied string instruments are limited to the cello suites and his partitas for violin.   These pieces use often only a single line (with some exceptions for double-stopping, or playing two strings at once)to create an entire universe of sound.  Bach at Noon audiences have often been treated to our principal cellist, Loretta O’Sullivan, in the solo repertoire for her instrument, and the revelations will continue with Ms. Hahn’s performance of the G-Minor Sonata.

Also on the program are a Beethoven sonata, for which she’ll be joined by her accompanist, Ms. Lisitsa, and a scherzo from an interesting sonata that was composed collaboratively by Johannes Brahms, his good friend, Robert Schumann, and one of Schumann’s pupils.  Never published in their lifetime, the movement composed by Brahms is now extracted and frequently performed on its own.  This is one of his earlier compositions, and it has all of Brahms’ trademarked elegance, along with a dash of youthful zest.

The program will also include 13 short pieces from a project of commissions that Ms. Hahn commenced, and, at its completion, will birth 27 new encores for violin and piano, all written by contemporary composers.  Some of the names on the list, I recognize, and some I don’t, but I’m quite excited to hear these short compositions, composed for Ms. Hahn.  They come with tempting titles, such as:  Memory Games, Levitation, Echo Dash, Two Voices, Whispering, and Mercy, by such luminaries as Jennifer Highdon, and the rising star, Nico Muhly (I hope Bach Choir audiences will get to hear his Bright Mass with Canons sometime in the not-too-distant future).

This is a program with something for everyone, from canonical pieces of the repertory to new delights, played with extraordinary polish by one of the great violinists of our time (and her fantastic accompanist).  In particular, I think this would be a fantastic concert to which to treat young string players (the organization has reached out, in particular, to regional string teachers and orchestras, with a very positive response).  If your child or grandchild studies any of the string instruments, what a wonderful gift it would be to have them hear Ms. Hahn in person, and to meet her after the concert.  She’s graciously agreed to sign programs and recordings at its conclusion.  That having been said, audience members of all ages are in for a wonderful evening of music – please join us!

In the media:

Steve Siegel had an interview with Ms. Hahn for the Morning Call.

David Osenberg was joined by Ms. Hahn for an interview on his WWFM show, Cadenza.

Photo Credit: Peter Miller

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