Hilary Hahn Speaks with The Times About Her Encores Project


Hilary Hahn, Photo Credit Peter Miller

Violinist Hilary Hahn was in the studio last week recording her epic Encores programme for release later this year.  Always a champion of new music, over the past few years Hahn has commissioned twenty-six encores from veterans like Antón García Abril to next generation wunderkinds like Nico Muhly.  A twenty-seventh encore, composed by Jeff Myers, was the winner of a competition and selected by Hahn for inclusion in the project.

Richard Morrison of The Times interviewed Hilary about the project around her Encores recital at London’s Wigmore Hall.

He says, “The 33-year-old American violinist has never been content simply to play the standard Tchaikovsky and Brahms concertos with jawdropping precision — though she does that with spooky frequency. Ever since she burst on to the scene as a teenage prodigy she has also premiered new pieces, reconnecting the world of the virtuoso violinist to contemporary composers with all the diligence and perfectionism that she brings to her playing. But her latest project… has an epic quality”.

Hahn explains, “We are taking 14 on this tour, but even that is a lot for the audience to process. My goal is that, after each concert, each audience member will come out with a new favourite contemporary composer. So we have to present a range of styles. But I didn’t want to overwhelm, so we do eight or nine in each programme, mixed with older repertoire. Mixing old and new changes your perspective on all the pieces.”

The feature continues, “So the usual notion of an encore as a showy and perhaps rather less profound bonus at the end of a serious concert isn’t applicable here? ‘Actually we do play a couple of encores as encores,’ Hahn says. ‘But I believe that the point of an encore is to create a little world of its own in a very short time, and that’s what all these pieces do.’ The average length of each piece is about three minutes. Who paid to create this substantial new repertoire of violin music? ‘I found a bunch of generous people, many of them in the San Francisco area, who each sponsored an encore — two in some cases,” Hahn says. ‘The idea of sponsorship was very important. I wanted to show that there is a belief in contemporary classical music and that people are prepared to support it financially.’…

“Based on the research she did before commissioning her 27 composers, what is Hahn’s view of contemporary music today? ‘What’s happening is rather beautiful,’ she says. ‘Classical composers have always been influenced by the past and the present. Now, thanks to the internet and recordings, there is access to so much stuff. I have found that composers are consciously choosing the influences that speak to them. They aren’t just confined to what they accidentally stumbled across when they were growing up…And I’m also fascinated by audience reactions. For a long time I’ve had a theory that there’s something in contemporary music for everyone. Now I know it’s true.’”

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For more information on Hilary Hahn and the Encore project, please visit: www.hilaryhahn.com

Hilary speaks with Jeff Myers - winner of her 27 Encores composition competition



Photo Credit Peter Miller

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