Born in 1980 in Lexington, VA. Education: Curtis Institute of Music with Jascha Brodsky; earned bachelor's degree in music, 1999. Addresses: Record company--Sony Music, Classical Division, 550 Madison Ave., 27th Floor, New York, NY 10022-3211.

With the proficiency of a master, violinist Hilary Hahn began performing internationally at the age of 15. Respected orchestras across North America were honored to share the stage with Hahn by the time she was 17 years old. Her credentials as an adolescent solo artist include performances with major music organizations: the St. Louis, Detroit, and Houston Symphony Orchestras. She appeared in a New York City debut at Alice Tully Hall at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in 1998, and her first recorded album, Hilary Hahn Plays Bach,by then had earned critical acclaim. Experts have remarked at her impeccable intonation, as she amazes listeners with a mature and uncanny interpretation of an extremely difficult set of Bach solos--the partitas and sonatas--considered to be some of the most difficult performance repertoire in existence.

For her first recording she received the French Diapason d'Or award for "young talent" in 1998. Indeed hers was a rare gift, and she was hailed as a virtuoso. At age 19 she graduated from Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music with a bachelor's degree, having by that time issued a second best-selling album. Precocious and prodigious, she displayed a mature talent, with pure intonation as her trademark. An uncommon mastery of her instrument combined with an intuitive depth of interpretation have virtually guaranteed her a place among the greatest violinists of her time.

Born in 1980 in Lexington, Virginia, Hahn was raised in Baltimore, Maryland, and attended school in Pennsylvania. Barely four years old when she first began to study the violin, she received instruction in the Suzuki method at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. At age five she began private study with Odessa's Klara Berkovich who once taught at the Leningrad School for the Musically Gifted. Hahn continued under the guidance of Berkovich until age ten, then enrolled at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia in 1990, where she studied under the late master, Jascha Brodsky.

One year after enrolling at Curtis, Hahn debuted with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in December of 1991. The year 1993 marked her debuts with the Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh Symphonies, and with the New York Philharmonic. Her German debut in Munich in 1995, at age 15, was telecast across Europe. For the performance she interpreted the Beethoven Violin Concerto accompanied by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra with Lorin Maagel conducting. The following year, in 1996, Hahn signed with Sony Classical Records. Her first album appeared in 1997, and immediately became an international best seller.

She was heard in a Paris debut on an all-French radio broadcast in 1998 with the Orchestre Philharmonique, with Marek Janowski conducting. She then toured extensively throughout Europe with the Bavarian Radio Symphony, traveling throughout the British Isles, to London, Birmingham, and Glasgow, as well as to Hamburg and Stuttgart in Germany, Zurich, Switzerland, and Vienna, Austria. At home in the United States she debuted in New York City in recital at the Lincoln Center that year and played at Carnegie Hall in addition to solo performances with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Hans Vonk. Hahn toured Australia in 1998-99 and also performed with the National Symphony Orchestra in 1998.

Sony Classics released a second album by Hahn that year, featuring Beethoven's Violin Concerto and Bernstein's "Serenade." Music reviewer Joseph Magil of American Record Guideexpressed regret only that the orchestral accompaniment failed to match Hahn's level of excellence. He said earlier of the partitas on her debut album, "[The performance] gave me a very satisfying sense of artistic communion," and he praised her maturity, confidence, nuance and expression. Hahn's second album earned a Grammy Award nomination for the best instrumental soloist performance with an orchestra, and she received the Diapason d'Or award in 1999. It was her second Diapason, after her earlier recording of Bach partitas and sonatas earned the "young talent" award the previous year. Hahn turned 19 that year, yet already her long list of worldwide debuts rivaled that of performers twice her age.

By the release of her second album, Hahn had not yet graduated college. She accomplished that feat on May 19, 1999 at age 20, following two years of study with the late master, Felix Galimir, who was particularly renowned for his mentoring skills. Additionally, she found a long-time mentor in the Baltimore Symphony's David Zinman.

Hahn's debut with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in 1999 afforded her the distinct honor of having a musical concerto commissioned expressly for her. She performed the composition with the group from St. Paul, which had commissioned the work. The commission was a compliment rarely paid to the most prolific artists. Billboardreported the piece "... an eminently communicative, Stravinskian work," written expressly by Edgar Meyer and performed by Hahn with Hugh Wolff and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. The score, rife with Meyer's characteristic Appalachian undertones, has been described as a mournful, wailing tune that progresses to an explosion of joy.

Albert Innaurato of Forbes conceded to Hahn's genius, for her ability to appreciate and interpret the music. He praised equally her expertise in "... playing with a clean tone and dead-on intonation--a technique that exposes her sound to the harshest scrutiny; it emerges sweetly unscathed." She and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra performed the piece in California prior to a special debut in Minnesota. Hahn and the orchestra recorded the work also that year for an album release in 2000. The recording won the German Music Critics' Award. Hahn later performed the piece in Los Angeles, California, with Jeffrey Kahane and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in April of 2000, and plans were announced for Hahn to take the concerto on world tour in 2001.

As a youngster, when Hahn appeared in her first recital at age 10, her enthusiasm was great. She sent invitations to her schoolmates, and many of them attended her performance. She learned from the experience that outreach is a positive and satisfying experience. Later, when Hahn attended high school during the mid 1990s, she habitually assisted her father at the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. In the course of helping her father, wherein she worked sometimes as an usher and as a will-call desk clerk, and also at other odd jobs. The experience renewed her desire to reach out to the general population in the name of classical music. As she matured, she came to appreciate her obligation as a performer of classical music--to further an appreciation of that art among the general public. It was a commitment that she carried into adulthood.

Also in keeping with her goal to perform outreach and to encourage the proliferation of classical music she developed a habit of authoring the jacket literature on her own albums, in order to communicate more directly and effectively with her audience. Additionally, she conceived of an Internet site on the World Wide Web, called "Hilary's Journal." Through the Internet site, Hahn shares an ongoing travelogue with background details about her life as a concert violinist, and she shares her experiences with her musician colleagues. She presents her journal in the context of picture postcards, which she returns regularly, like souvenirs, from her extensive travel and touring engagements. She initially began "sending" her postcards in 1999 and by 2000 more than 1,000 photographs adorned the website.

The display, created personally by Hahn with a digital camera, includes images from her worldwide travels to Spain, Jerusalem, and Australia, as well pictures from the United States, including Carnegie Hall. Hahn geared her postcard journal to appeal to children of elementary school age, yet the unique "letters from the road" theme of the text affords universal appeal for audiences of all ages. Through her postcards, Hahn invites readers to share with her in the behind-the-scenes experiences of a musician. Hahn describes the obstacles that confront performers, for example when their instruments swell as a result of high heat and humidity. She shares stories of social events that occupy her time offstage, and brings alive the humdrum bits and pieces of her everyday life on the road through the many photographs that she attaches to her journal.

Hahn shares descriptions of the food, backstage activities that surround the performances, information about the costumes and stories about the supporting musicians. She discusses the details of her repertoire and includes commentary on the music and the instruments describing how professional musicians succeed in extracting the sounds that touch the audience with such emotion. Approximately 8,000 viewers access Hahn's postcards every week as she proceeds to describe her travels around the world.

Hahn shared her interest and experiences in outreach with the American Symphony Orchestra League when she appeared as the keynote speaker for the organization's convention in June of 2000.

Highlights of Hahn's 2000-2001 season included an appearance in Japan as a soloist with the Berlin Philharmonic; a BBC Symphony debut in the Last Night of the Proms concert in London; a return to Carnegie Hall as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra; and a two-week recital tour of the United States. In the spring of 2001 she planned orchestral tours of Europe with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and with the Deutsche Symphonie Orchester/Berlin. Also scheduled was an appearance to play Beethoven in Paris with the Orchestra of Radio France as well as subscription debuts with the London Philharmonic and with the orchestras of Birmingham, Toulouse, Vienna and Valencia.

Additionally she scheduled debuts with the Atlanta, Austin, Columbus, Milwaukee and Santa Barbara Symphonies, and return engagements with the Detroit, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh orchestras. Hahn planned to conclude the season playing Elgar and Vaughn-Williams in the English Festival of the National Symphony Orchestra in the District of Columbia. A Brahms recording, with Garrick Ohlsson on piano, was on her 2001 agenda, and also that year she planned a tour of North America, Europe, and Japan.

Hahn travels habitually in the company of her father. She performs on an antique instrument, an 1864 Jean-Baptist Villaume Guarneus copy, which came into her possession after the instrument's former owners heard her perform. She frequents the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont every summer, sending postcards to her Internet journal to log the occasion. As reading is a favorite pastime of Hahn's, she spent time learning to read German at Middlebury College in Vermont.

by Gloria Cooksey

Hilary Hahn's Career

Performed Baltimore Symphony Orchestra debut, 1991; made German debut, 1995; signed exclusive contract with Sony Classical Records, 1996; released Hilary Hahn Plays Bach, 1997; performed Paris debut and New York City debut, 1998; toured British Isles, Europe, United States, Australia, and Japan, performed St. Paul Chamber Orchestra debut, 1999; released Hilary Hahn: Barber & Meyer Violin Concertos, 2000.

Hilary Hahn's Awards

Young Talent Award, Diapason d'Or, 1998; D'or of the Year, Diapason d'Or, 1999; Award, German Music Critics, 2000.

Famous Works

Further Reading



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