Following the widely celebrated release of Hilary Hahn Plays Bach on Decca Classics last fall, Hilary Hahn returns with a world premiere recording of Antón García Abril’s 6 Partitas, commissioned by Hahn for solo violin—her first-ever solo commission and her first of a set of pieces from a single composer. Each movement has a different theme, displays its own personality, and is deeply tied to the performer for whom the work was written—so much so that García Abril chose to name the movements after Hahn in acrostic: HEART, IMMENSITY, LOVE, ART, REFLECTIVE, YOU.
There is a longstanding tradition of great composers writing six polyphonic works for the violin. Perhaps due to the creativity that arises when a composer is limited to a single unaccompanied instrument, and the challenge of creating a set of diverse but cohesive material within that framework, these pieces rank amongst the most iconic, progressive compositions in the repertoire. Hahn commissioned these 6 Partitas from García Abril both to continue this tradition as well as to amplify this important contemporary composer outside of his home country. Likewise, García Abril found inspiration in Hahn’s technical proficiency and interpretational skill, writing her personality and mastery of the violin into the music itself.
“This commission led me to an enthusiastic and long-meditated work,” said García Abril. “I had the great fortune to compose them directly with Hilary… [her] generosity and interest in the work makes her one of the all-time greats, unique and powerful—not only artistically but at the same time intellectually, placing her in a higher musical state.”
Hahn discusses the new material in relation to her technical practice in a series of masterclass videos, which will be released weekly alongside each of the 6 Partitas. Additionally, in a series of interview clips with García Abril, Hahn introduces each track individually, explores the nature of the artist’s role in interpreting new compositions, and contextualizes the 6 Partitas within the tradition exemplified by Bach.
García Abril elaborates on the connection between his Partitas and the traditions that informed them. “In each of the Partitas, I don’t use dances [as Bach did],” he says, “but I do use the rhythms from our Spanish folklore. I’m one who still thinks music is global, it always has to reflect the background of each composer… The concept of the writing is that there is a cultural essence, which has a lot of weight in Bach and my own Partitas.”
Hahn first formed a working relationship with García Abril through her Grammy-winning project In 27 Pieces: the Hilary Hahn Encores, a series of 27 pieces for violin and piano that Hahn commissioned from 27 different composers. She began by cold-calling composers she admired, setting out her goal of creating a showcase for contemporary music for the violin. Hahn held an online contest to find the 27th composer that attracted more than 400 submissions. The resulting works were recorded for Deutsche Grammophon in 2013. Boosey & Hawkes released the encores as a collection of specially annotated sheet music earlier this month; the collection sold out immediately, and new books have been printed.
It was following their collaboration on this unique project that Hahn approached García Abril to compose this set of Partitas for her. Co-commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts and Washington Performing Arts with additional funding from Dr. Gary Mather and Ms. Christina Co Mather, the final score was completed in 2014. Hahn premiered the Partitas in two concerts presented by Washington Performing Arts, as well as on solo recital tours in the US, Europe, and Japan during the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons.
“Before these pieces existed,” said Hahn, “I knew they needed to be written. Antón García Abril deeply understands the violin, and he epitomizes a musical tradition that has never before been expressed in the solo violin repertoire. His voice is romantic and impulsive, abrasive, beautiful.”
Three-time Grammy® Award-winner Hahn has released twelve albums on the Deutsche Grammophon label and five on Sony, in addition to three DVDs, an Oscar-nominated movie soundtrack, an award-winning recording for children, and various compilations. Her first Grammy came in 2003 for her Brahms and Stravinsky concerto album, followed by a Grammy for her pairing of the Schoenberg and Sibelius concerti, which spent 23 weeks on the charts. In 2010 Jennifer Higdon’s Violin Concerto, which was written for Hahn and which she recorded with Tchaikovsky’s concerto, went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.
García Abril’s musical portfolio covers opera, works for orchestra, cantatas, and film music, and his song cycles inspired by the most prestigious Spanish poets are significant to his output. He is the recipient of many honors, including the Andrés Segovia Award, National Music Award, Guerrero Foundation Award, Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts, Tomás Luis de Vitoria Ibero-American Music Award, Madrid Region Culture Award, and the Gold Medal from the Royal Academy of Film. Born in Teruel, Spain in 1933, García Abril studied in Valencia, Madrid, Siena, and Rome. He was a member of the group Nueva Música, along with Cristóbal Halffter, Luis de Pablo, Manuel Moreno-Buendía, and others. From 1974 to 2003, he taught as Professor of Composition at the Real Conservatorio Superior de Música de Madrid.