hilary hahn tackles 10 questions

*please note, hilary hahn is a rockstar in the classical music world, plain and simple.  i could list her awards and professional accomplishments (i.e. 2-time grammy winner, over a dozen albums, her own youtube channel), but let’s just say, when you buy a ticket for the concert, her name is on it, and when you walk up to the schnitzer this weekend, it’s gonna be her name up in lights.  needless to say, all of us at the classical beaver are extremely happy and proud to present this first musician interview of the season.  thanks hilary!

you’ll be playing tchaikovsky’s violin concerto with the oregon symphony.  how would you describe this piece to someone who doesn’t listen to much classical music?

It is a piece that can be romantic yet vulnerable, lush yet sparse, exciting yet calming, beautiful, it can stop still or rocket ahead – it’s a really neat combination of so many elements.  And the listener gets to be in the middle of it all; it’s an absorbing work.

why is the violin so awesome?

I like all of the things a violin can do, all of the different voices it can convey, the range, the way it changes personality so completely from one player to the next.  I also happen to love the violin repertoire.  Most composers have written something interesting for violin; there are enough pieces to keep one occupied for a very long time but not so many that the options are overwhelming.  For me, as a traveler, I am glad to play this instrument, because it can be carried on an airplane and put in an overhead compartment.  That is a logistical plus.

if i had two grammys, i would build an addition onto our house and enshrine them with spotlights and velvet ropes.  what did you do with yours?

I think one of them is in the closet and the other is somewhere else in safekeeping!  I kind of don’t know what to do with them, because they are special and one-of-a-kind and I want to protect them but much as I appreciate them, I feel funny spotlighting them.  I find the paraphernalia related to them fascinating: the sharply laser-carved half-Grammy-shaped foam cutouts that pad the statuettes in transit, and the certificates of invitation to the Grammys, as well as the signed documents confirming nominations and wins.

what’s so great about experiencing classical music live?

It is a completely acoustic experience, so that what you are hearing is really what the musicians are doing.  You get to sit in comfy seats, surrounded by people who are experiencing the same performance and really paying attention to it in a contagious way.  Your mind can wander off in any direction because there are few distractions from the listening experience, and you’re not being interrupted by anything external.  Some people fall asleep because it is relaxing, other people get caught up; everyone has different emotional reactions to the same thing.  And it’s all equally valid!

are you stoked by any non-classical music?

I enjoy all kinds of music.  What I listen for is time well spent; so, a performer who has put in their time mastering their instrument; or a lyricist who has come up with something really thoughtful; or a singer who knows how to get across what he or she is feeling by a simple change of tone; or a songwriter who has clearly studied the craft.  I listen for those things, probably because I am a musician.  But it is great sometimes also to just hear miraculous noise.  Music is amazing in the way it comes together from seemingly random sounds.

what’s it like having such an independent violin case and how long has it been twittering?

I’m not sure how long my case has been tweeting.  It is rather opinionated, but it’s good for it to have a voice; otherwise, it could be very much in the background.  It has an important job and never fails to do it well.

how do you feel at the end of a concert?

That depends on the concert.  I feel great if it has been an exciting collaboration, I was well prepared, and the performers were committed to the work.  I feel crummy if I didn’t prepare properly, so I try to avoid that situation.  I always learn something, even from concerts that went terrifically well.  There is always a way to improve.  After recitals, which are a lot of playing for me, I am worn out, especially at the beginning of a tour.  But that is resolved by a good night’s sleep.

if i were to buy you a drink, what would you order?

I am on a sparkling water kick.  Boring, I know.  But to me, it’s like champagne!

what composer really rocks your world?

I don’t have favorites; there is so much great repertoire out there that I am always forgetting about or some piece or composer that I later return to and am pleasantly re-surprised by.  It’s easy to settle on one or two favorites, but I feel that if I do that, I will miss out on everything I don’t know about or take for granted.

this will be your debut with the oregon symphony – what are you expecting?

I have spent time in Portland in the past, and I love the Pacific Northwest.  This will be an interesting combination of a familiar place and a new-to-me group of colleagues.  I am expecting to have fun!

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1 Response to “hilary hahn tackles 10 questions”


  1. 1 Chris McGovern September 27, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Well done, but next time ask her if she knows who Oliver Hardy is. 🙂


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