Saturday, October 23, 2010

Musical Memories - Hilary Hahn

In honor of Dale's concert this weekend - a violin story!

During my Sophomore year at UMass I took a "Gen-Ed" class to fulfill some of the breadth of learning requirements. The class this specific semester was called "The Lively Arts" which required the students to talk about all sorts of performing arts and their backgrounds as well as to attend many of the performances on campus and write some detailed report about the "Arts".

For class I attended (on campus for $5 each):
  • The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra
  • Gary Louie (Saxophonist)
  • Art Farmer (Trumpet)
  • The UMass Jazz band
  • The New York City Opera: The Daughter of the Regiment
  • Stomp
  • Tap Dogs
  • Twyla Tharp Dance Troupe
  • The Play: Marisol by a campus group
  • Cynthia Elbaum Art Exhibit (on War)
Why any of this popped to my mind was because I was browsing iTunes for some violin pieces when Hilary Hahn kept popping up. I recalled seeing her perform with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchesta at UMass when she was 17. She had been performing with major Orchestras since she was 12. I also remember attending the concert with my girlfriend at the time Katharine who was also in the class. I remember that she was surprisingly jealous when she read my paper on the Orchestra (but that is another story altogether). I don't think there is anything "juicy" in here - but it is fun to see what my honest opinion was when I first saw Hilary Hahn. It would be funny if I went and saw some art work by a now famous artist and wrote about how awful it was.

Here it is today the section of my paper on Hilary Hahn unedited from 12 years ago - any grammatical errors are likely due to the fact that it was a Gen-Ed and didn't command much attention - and the fact that I often don't care about such things.

A Night at the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra (2/11/98)
I was trying to find my seat in the concert hall, and if it wasn’t bad enough that I was on the even side with an odd numbered seat, the orchestra was tuning and warming up so their chaotic bedlam of sounds was adding to my frustration. But when I was finally settled I noticed the well dressed men in tuxedos and how uniform they looked. The women too were dressed well individually, but there seemed to be no uniform for women, so they were all wearing various black outfits. Two women had their purses hanging over their chairs, while several others sat on cushions and one man had a back rest strapped to his chair. But by the time the warming up was completed, these distractions were forgotten...
...The second piece, Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 19 was in great contrast to the symphonies. First of all, a young, gorgeous violin soloist in a well shaped dress and sparkly blouse came out on stage. She stood out not only in her beauty but in her contrasting age to everyone else in the orchestra. She was "only" 17, but her age has little meaning at this point because she has done and seen more as a musician in her 17 years than I can imagine. She stood in front of the orchestra, a sharp figure in the sea of sitting, motionless adults. She was amazing to watch. She swayed with the music, seemingly oblivious to anyone or anything around her, except for the occasional glance at the conductor. My mind was unable to wander like it had for the symphony, young violin soloist Hilary Hahn demanded my complete attention. She played at a feverish pace, passing melodies back and forth with the orchestra. She displayed her proficiency on the violin very well, utilizing plucking techniques as well as playing two notes at the same time. She stole the show and she knew it. After three or four ovations, she played an encore solo. As she announced the piece, her delicate little voice did not fit her masterful musical performance. She is the type of prodigy you almost feel sorry for because you know she is hated by all the competitive violinists in the orchestra who have dedicated years of their lives to the violin - only to sit there quietly behind the young star.
What can I say I call them as I see them. I'd pretty much forgotten about her since - it would be neat to think I saw Hilary Hahn before she became famous but I am pretty sure she was already a recording artist by then. The next year she was nominated for a Grammy: Best Instrumental Soloist Performance with Orchestra. It is funny now seeing her name all over the place on iTunes to say I saw her when...

Besides this is a little better story than my brush with Bud Bundy from Married with Children in an elevator in Vegas. (Side note I also rode in an elevator in the Vernon Manor with Nick Lachey when he was with the band 98 Degrees - "it's not that hot in here" was the joke of the evening).


Dale said...

Someone had a crush :) If I were your girlfriend I'd be a bit jealous too. I had a thing for flutists back in the day.

Thanks for sharing the story. Amazing how music can strike up so much emotion!

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention we got to see Art Farmer too. Maybe the 70 year old trumpet player didn't stick in your mind as easily.


Anonymous said...

I didn't realize she did the soundtrack to The Village. My favorite M. Night movie.