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Hilary Hahn returns - the greatest?


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Hilary Hahn performs at the Palladium on Friday. - PETER MILLER
  • Peter Miller
  • Hilary Hahn performs at the Palladium on Friday.

On Friday, Oct. 21 at 8 p.m. the Carmel Palladium will host a recital by one of the greatest -- if not the greatest -- violinist on tour today. Conductor Larry Rachleff , who guest conducted the ISO a few weeks ago, called Hilary Hahn "another Heifetz." A native of Lexington, Va., Hahn was raised in Baltimore and now 31, has appeared three times with the Indianapolis Symphony, each time bowling me over with the beauty of her tone, her seemingly innate musical understanding and her unsurpassed technique.

She'll be joined by Valentina Lisitsa as her accompanist, a celebrated pianist in her own right, the two touring as a pair since 2007. Their program will include works of the "three B's" -- Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, as well as selected shorts from her about-to-be-released CD: In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores, featuring new selections written for her by various composers.

Aside from her violin playing, I found Hilary Hahn to be a fascinating conversationalist, as the ensuing interview indicates:

NUVO: Let me start by saying I've scanned a great many web entries about you and your playing, in which every possible comment, both positive and negative, has been proffered: your personality (always ingratiating), your social life, your boyfriend--or not, why such and such is a better violinist, that you used to be better than you are now, that you're better now than you ever were, your vibrato, whether you'd pose nude for a men's mag, etc. How do you cope with being so completely dissected -- perhaps even violated -- in front of the classical-loving public who scans all this stuff?

HAHN: The undramatic part of all of this is that most speculation is silly. I have read dissections of my technique which were exactly opposite from how I actually play. The rumors online are, although interesting, rarely true. Even quotes attributed to me, taken as fact by readers, are often interpreted by journalists before they are published. But some reporters get it just right!

Here's how I see it: A lot of people are gossiped about; in most cases, we don't see everything laid out online, but the potential is there for anyone. When people know who you are, without really knowing you, they feel safe gossiping because they don't anticipate those awkward moments that occur in person. It's like talking about the plot development of a TV show. It's an unfolding storyline, something to connect over. When it's my name they're referencing, the interest is a good sign, but the comments can be bizarre. It's not really me they're talking about. It's my image with its own life.

NUVO: As a classical celeb, how much do you miss the privacy and personal friendships you must have had when you were an unknown? Do you still get to hang with many of those earlier friends--even occasionally?

HAHN: It's not that bad. I do value my privacy and am very protective of it. I like observing people, and when I travel, people-watching is one of my favorite things. But, as a famous actor said: when people are observing you, you can't observe them very well. So I love being unrecognized for that reason.

If someone does recognize me, though, I am flattered and surprised. Or, if it is a pharmacist filling a prescription as happened yesterday, a little bit embarrassed. I like that people appreciate the work I do, or that music means so much to them. That is reassuring and, in case I am caught up in some little world in my own head, reminds me that I am doing something positive.

I still have some friends from when I was little. And I have kept some long friendships from when I was just starting out with a full-time career. Those are some of the best, in a way, because they know me as me. But I also have some newer, fantastic friendships that I value for the same reason. And I get to meet lots of fascinating people just working with my colleagues.

All in all, I am very happy with the balance that I enjoy now. I have enough recognition to be able to initiate and participate in projects that I'm excited about, but I am private enough that I can live my life pretty much exactly the way I like.


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