Hilary Hahn

Hilary Hahn on the violin

Maison symphonique de Montréal
Ticket Prices
$40* to $105*
Concert dates
Hilary Hahn, violinviolon
Cory Smythe, pianopiano

Presentation of the concert

SCHOENBERG, Phantasy for Violin and Piano, Op. 47
SCHUBERT, Fantasia for Violin and Piano in C major, D. 934
TELEMANN, Fantasia for Solo Violin No. 6 in E minor, TWV 40:19
MOZART, work to be announced

At the age of 33, this American violinist has already won two Grammys, multiple Diapasons d’or and Echo Klassik awards and the Classic FM/Gramophone artist-of-the-year title. Putting aside the concerto repertoire for this occasion.

A coproduction with Pro Musica

Born in 1933, the Spanish composer Antón García Abril received his musical training at the Madrid Royal Conservatory of Music and at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena. A highly decorated composer, Abril has composed numerous chamber, orchestral, and vocal works, as well as music for films and television shows.

Hilary Hahn commissioned García Abril to compose a work for In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores. The composer, who admires Hahn’s technical command of the instrument as well as her ability to communicate with her audience, wrote Three Sighs to fulfill the commission. These three works are incredibly brief, with hints of Latin rhythms that emerge from decorative melodic lines. While they can be performed singly, when taken together, audiences can sense the relationship among the three pieces.

The Welsh composer Richard Barrett (born in 1959) didn’t seriously consider a career in music until 1980, after he received degrees in genetics and microbiology from the University College London. Since this time, he has become a successful composer, renowned for his intricate notation as well as for his improvisational skills.

Hahn also commissioned a work from Barrett for In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores. This piece, Shade, features four brief movements that can be performed in approximately three minutes. Each of the movements explores a different relationship between the violin and piano, so that one instrument is always in the “shade” of the other. Sometimes the concept of the shade is reflected in the register, with one instrument playing high pitches and one instrument playing low pitches. At other times, the “shade” comes from textural density, with one instrument playing a melodic line that emerges from the shade provided by the other instrument’s accompanying figures.

The Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) abandoned the use of tonality rather early on in his lengthy career. In order to bring structure to his works, he developed the principles of twelve-tone, or dodecaphonic, composition, a device that he taught to his numerous students. When the Nazi Party gained power in Austria in the 1930s, Schoenberg moved to the United States, spending many years in the Los Angeles area.

It was here, in 1949, that Schoenberg composed his Phantasy for Violin and Piano, Op. 47. He worked quickly, composing the violin part between March 3 and March 22, 1949. The dedicatee, Adolf Koldofsky, then had ample time to rehearse the Phantasy before premiering the work at Schoenberg’s 75th birthday celebration in September of that year. The Phantasy features twelve sections grouped into four parts: an introduction, a slow movement, a scherzando section, and a coda. Schoenberg requires incredible virtuosity from the violinist, with numerous double-stops, harmonics, and glissandos. Though it lacks reference to traditional major/minor tonality, this Phantasy does refer to Viennese genres like the waltz through the use of dance-like rhythms and meters.

Although the Austrian composer Franz Schubert’s (1797-1828) career was brief, he left us with numerous works of outstanding quality. Even in the midst of illness and despair during the last year of his life, he completed the Ninth Symphony, Cello Quintet, two piano trios, and other chamber, orchestral, and vocal works. One of the pieces dating from this difficult period of time was his Fantasie in C Major for Violin and Piano.

Unlike his earlier works for this combination of instruments, Schubert’s Fantasie requires tremendous technical skill. The level of difficulty of both parts approaches that of a concerto; yet, as a piece of chamber music, this work requires intimate communication as well. Played as one continuous movement, the Fantasie offers four contrasting sections. It opens with a slow introduction, filled with piano tremolos. A faster section follows, offering marked rhythmic patterns and virtuosic figurations. For the third section, Schubert composed a set of four variations on his song “Sei mir gegrüsst” (Greetings to Thee). A faster section with a coda concludes the work on a note of excitement.

A contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) taught himself to compose and to play numerous instruments, including the flute, oboe, organ, and violin. During his long lifetime, he composed over 6,000 works including a large number of chamber works for either solo instrument with accompaniment or for solo instrument alone. His twelves fantasies for violin fall into this latter category. All of these works feature four movements, ordered slow-fast-slow-fast. They require considerable technique, as the violinist is charged with performing numerous double stops and contending with large leaps in register. Unlike many other Baroque solo works, Telemann’s fantasias are written for the violin specifically. Due to the idiomatic writing, they fall comfortably under the hands of the violinist and would lose some of their charm if performed by another melodic instrument.

Liz Blackwood

Concert series
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