Hilary Hahn

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Among the world’s leading violinists, Hilary Hahn emerged in the late 1990s as a prodigy, gaining an enthusiastic international audience before she reached the age of 18. In the decade to follow, she was celebrated for her recordings of standard concerto repertoire from Bach to Barber, as well as for contemporary works by Edgar Meyer and Jennifer Higdon. The latter two composed violin concertos for Hahn that premiered in 1999 and 2009, respectively. In the 2010s, she reached the top of the Billboard classical chart with Hilary Hahn Plays Higdon & Tchaikovsky: Violin Concertos (2010) and Hilary Hahn Plays Bach: Sonatas 1 & 2, Partita 1 (2018).
Born in Lexington, Virginia in 1979, Hilary Hahn began playing the violin in a Baltimore Suzuki class just before she turned four. She started studying with a private tutor, Klara Berkovich, about a year later. They worked together for the next five years at Peabody Prep, after which she auditioned for a spot at the Curtis Institute of Music. She was accepted, and violinist Jascha Brodsky (then 83 years old) took her on as a student. Hahn gave her first full recital at Peabody in 1990, and she made her major orchestral debut a little over a year later, performing with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. She made her European debut four years later at age 15, appearing on a radio broadcast with Lorin Maazel and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Splitting her time between home schooling and the Curtis Institute, Hahn completed her high-school diploma and bachelor’s degree requirements by the time she was 16, around the time Sony Classical came forward with a record deal. Hahn was still studying with Brodsky at the time and continued to do so until his death in 1997. That year saw the release of her first album, Hilary Hahn Plays Violin. Hahn debuted at Carnegie Hall soon after. In the meantime, she had opted to remain at the Curtis Institute, where she took literature classes and honed her performance skills until 1999. That year, she released her second album, which paired Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and Bernstein’s Serenade, and she performed her first commissioned work, the Edgar Meyer Violin Concerto. A recording of that piece was released the next year (Barber & Meyer Violin Concertos), followed by 2001′s Brahms & Stravinsky Violin Concertos, which went on to earn a Grammy for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance. Hahn released one more album with Sony, 2002′s Mendelssohn & Shostakovich Concertos, before signing a deal with Deutsche Grammophon, which issued Bach: Concertos in 2003.
Hahn was considered a world-class violinist by that time and found herself in high demand over the course of the next few years, making numerous appearances worldwide. She was the violin soloist in James Newton Howard’s score for M. Night Shyamalan’s 2004 film The Village. In 2005. she branched out into crossover music in a series of concerts with American singer and songwriter Tom Brosseau, and two years later, she appeared in concert in crossover fare once again, this time with Josh Ritter. Hahn also collaborated with the indie rock group ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. Meanwhile, she issued recordings of works by Mozart, Elgar, and Paganini, among others, and 2008′s Schoenberg, Sibelius: Violin Concertos won Hahn a Grammy for instrumental soloist performance (with orchestra). A year later, she commissioned a concerto from Jennifer Higdon. It earned the composer a Pulitzer Prize in 2010, and the recording released that September on Deutsche Grammophon featured Hahn alongside the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. That year, she also had a Top Ten classical album with Bach: Violin and Voice, featuring baritone Matthias Goerne and soprano Christine Schäfer.
Following albums of Mozart, Korngold, and Ives, Hahn collaborated with German prepared piano player Hauschka (aka Volker Bertelmann) on 2012′s Silfra, which was entirely improvised. She then began the project In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores, commissioning pieces from a variety of composers to use on tours through the 2012-2013 season. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance in 2015. That year, Sony released Hilary Hahn: The Complete Sony Recordings.
Deutsche Grammophon issued its own retrospective collection of her recordings in 2018, which also saw the release of Hilary Hahn Plays Bach: Sonatas 1 & 2, Partita 1, her debut for Decca. The latter went to number one on the classical albums chart. ~ Blair Sanderson