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Hilary Hahn on KDFC: San Francisco - State Of the Arts

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Interview with KDFC's Jeffrey Freymann

Violinist Hilary Hahn (who's in town this weekend for a sold-out San Francisco Performances recital at the SFJAZZ center) has recently released a CD with an unusual pairing of repertoire: Mozart's fifth concerto, and Henri Vieuxtemps' fourth. The two pieces are linked for Hahn, because she began learning them both at the same time, 25 years ago, when she was 10.

The album is a tribute to two of her early teachers: Klara Berkovich, who she studied with from the age of 5 to 10, and Jascha Brodsky, who she studied with at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia from 10 until he died seven years later. Hahn says Klara Berkovich was (and still is!) a great teacher. "I think she was being modest; she could have taught me everything from there on as well. But I think it takes a very wise teacher to know when a student could use another opinion. And I think it was more a matter of that than that she didn't want to teach me any more, or that she couldn't." And, she says, the transition between teachers was seamless, even though their approaches were different, because they were tailored to Hahn's needs. "When I started with Mr. Brodsky, there wasn't much of a jolt in my training. It wasn't like he had to start all over with me, retrain my technique. It was more that he took what she had taught me, and developed it from there."

Henri Vieuxtemps' Fourth Violin Concerto used to be an especially popular piece with Russian soloists, where the composer had great fame. " He was instrumental (no pun intended) in founding the violin school there in St. Petersburg," she says, "which is funny, because he's Franco-Belgian. When you think of the Russian school of violin playing, the counterpart is the Franco-Belgian school, yet they came from the same place." She says of the concerto, "It's this dramatic work, it's very symphonic. Very operatic also. And it plays with the idea of solo versus collaborative. There are a lot of moments where an unusual combination of orchestra instruments will be playing with the soloist. And the solo part has to dovetail into what they're doing, but then suddenly step forward and be soloistic again. It's really like an ensemble play, or an ensemble opera performance." Listen to the attached interview.