Violinist Hilary Hahn makes her long-awaited return to the stage
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Hilary Hahn — Eclipse (DG)
Every 10 years or so, violinist Hilary Hahn takes a one-year sabbatical from performing. It’s a way for her to remove herself from the whirlwind of professional music-making, and re-evaluate what’s working, and what’s not. When she began her most recent sabbatical in September 2019, she had no idea what lay ahead. She’d always thought, as a creative person, she’d always find some creative outlet if she found herself unable to perform.
It turns out that playing onstage with an orchestra for an audience fills her tanks. The absence of that emotional outlet wasn’t the only loss. She said she’d also lost her connections with colleagues around the world, her sense of self as a musician and her confidence. Her latest album, Eclipse, is a testament to facing that challenge with vulnerability and the support of trusted colleagues.
The introduction you wrote for your new album revealed a vulnerability that artists haven’t always shared.
“I made a huge change in how I perceived the way we communicate as artists with our audiences and our fellow musicians with the project 100 Days of Practice. In this project, I shared my practice, read the comments, and realized that there was a certain relationship to practice that was very vulnerable. When people also saw that vulnerability as normal for a professional, they felt much more connected to their own practice. That's what cued me into the idea of finality presented in our field as we learn the way to do it. But music is an art form about emotions and people. When we don't tell our emotions, we don't tell stories about people.”
Why do you consider playing the Dvorak concerto as coming home?
“The joy of playing together again was similar to being away from your home country, and then you come back. It’s as if you have an extensive lively family you haven't seen for two years, and you're all in the room together. That was the homecoming aspect. That was something that I had missed that I hadn't been able to replicate, and suddenly we were all in it together. It was great. The room's energy was dimensional. They were also returning to a format they hadn't had for a while. They didn't have to sit apart from each other. The return to the big stage with the home audience was significant in ways I don't think we had challenged before, so it was nice to be part of that.”
Why do you describe Pablo de Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy as finicky?
“You think you have the piece figured out and then practice it the next day. You're like, ‘Where did it go?’ In that sense, it is finicky. You have to play with a lot of accuracy, but also with a lot of spatial freedom around the instrument. That's a complicated combination. It's like walking on a balance beam that isn't just one balance beam. You're walking and then suddenly you're over in another area on another balance beam and then suddenly you're back. At the same time, the music is very free. You're trying to be a singer and virtuoso violinist at the same.”
To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.
Hilary Hahn — Eclipse (DG Store)
Hilary Hahn — Eclipse (Amazon)