Friday, November 04, 2011

musical kindness

Someone kindly sent me some recordings recently, Hilary Hahn's recent recording of the Charles Ives violin sonatas, as well as her seminal 1997 Bach recording.  I have been a happy camper in terms of listening to music. 

And since this post is pretty much just about Hilary Hahn anyway, Alex Ross' blog has an entry mentioning her.

"Do you have any advice for people who would like to become fish?" Hilary Hahn, having apparently sat through too many robotic interviews, has responded with a Cagean provocation.

It's deliberately drawn out and awkward and yet also dryly funny.  A friend took me to see Hahn's recital at Benaroya Hall in mid-October and I noted that she can be more than a tiny bit of a smart ass.  That smart ass side with more than a bit of cerebral, distant humor is on display in the above clip.

Her recent recital included a whole bunch of pieces from her recently commissioned encores.  It was a fun concert.  Hahn always puts on a great concert.  I admit that this recent visit was not as astonishing as her Ives/Bartok/Brahms/Ysaye recital from 2009 but, I tell you, it would be tough for any musician, even Hahn herself, to have topped that recital!   My siblings have been occasionally joking that I don't just enjoy her work because she's a great musician but also because she's cute.  Well, yes, guilty as charged.  I don't think she could have been any hotter than when she played all the Charles Ives violin sonatas at Seattle in 2009. 

Hahn is an attractive woman but I admire that, unlike certain other classical musicians, she has not banked on that the way some other lesser tier musicians in the field have.  I'm not going to name names but if you know classical musicians you can probably make a few guesses and can probably guess with more clarity if you've read anything by Norman Lebrecht (who Hahn stonewalled on the question of whether she dates, which is fair game seeing as Lebrecht bemoaned how boring her website was). 

Being absurdly beautiful does not mean you have to make that the foundation for your marketing.  You can make the foundation of marketing your career the fact that you play kick-ass music by Bach, Schoenberg, Ives, Shostakovich, Mozart, Pagannini, and Stravinsky.  Physical beauty will fade with time for even the most beautiful person but playing wonderful music can still be done after you don't look like you did in your twenties, thirties, forties and so on.  I admire Hahn's willingness to play the warhorses in a compelling way but to also throw in works that are just plain difficult.  Let's face it, it would be hard to throw in to back up a work less accessible than Schoenberg's violin concerto.  Here's hoping Hahn doubles down and records Alban Berg's violin concerto! 

And it doesn't hurt if you can make deliberately awkward, forced video satires of journalists throwing the same old questions at you.  I was a journalism student back in my college days and so there's another meta-level of humor in this for me.  Anyway, Hahn's music has been a much-appreciated part of my musical life since I learned about her work and I'm grateful to a wonderful friend who took me to her October recital.  I'm also grateful to the anonymous benefactor who sent me Hahn's recordings of the Bach partitas and the Charles Ives sonatas. 

And, since I know my siblings have joked about it already, yes, I think Hilary Hahn is ridiculously hot.

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