Concert Preview: HILARY HAHN PLAYS BACH (Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra)

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by Tony Frankel on September 26, 2018

in Music,Theater-Los Angeles


It’s now practically lore that violinist Hilary Hahn decided that her debut album would not just be solos, but partitas and a sonata by Bach, works that have been held as the zenith of violin composition and the most intangible of objectives for a newcomer recitalist. It was a move that raised a few eyebrows, since some musicians (cellist Mstislav Rostropovich being a famous example) wait until midlife or even later before taking Bach’s solo works into the studio.

Yet at 17, she not only pulled it off but became a performer that all other violinists aspire to be when they tackle Bach. As sterling as her work was in 1997, her latest album — on which she records the rest of the set, 2 sonatas and one partita – is frankly jaw-dropping. You won’t find a higher level of a superlative technique by one who also makes the music sing (Bach can sound awfully mechanical in the wrong hands). It’s truly a glorious, elegant, and powerful performance, done with authenticity, profundity, and keen understanding of the material.

The CD will be officially released on October 5, but she’ll be appearing here in Los Angeles before that as part of her global tour. It’s a small window of opportunity, and the only time she’ll be performing in L.A. this year. You have two chances this weekend, both Saturday and Sunday, to see her with the LA Chamber Orchestra, with whom Hahn has a well-established relationship. The 38-year-old Virginian, who has played solo Bach pieces every day since she was eight, will perform Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins and Violin Concerto in E major with LACO Concertmaster Margaret Batjer led by guest conductor Gemma New on Sept. 29, at Glendale’s Alex Theatre, and Sept. 30, at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

In an interview on radio, Hahn said, “Bach is, for me, the touchstone that keeps my playing honest. Keeping the intonation pure in double stops, bringing out the various voices where the phrasing requires it, crossing the strings so that there are not inadvertent accents, presenting the structure in such a way that it’s clear to the listener without being pedantic – one can’t fake things in Bach, and if one gets all of them to work, the music sings in the most wonderful way.”

The concert also features LACO Creative Advisor and Composer-in-Residence Andrew Norman’s Try, a U.S. premiere of Franco Donatoni’s Eco, and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4, Italian. Following each performance, the audience is invited to a free post-concert party in the lobby to celebrate LACO’s season opening.

photo by Michael Patrick O’Leary

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Hilary Hahn Plays Bach
Gemma New, conductor
Hilary Hahn, violin
Margaret Batjer, violin
Saturday, September 29, 2018, at 8
Alex Theatre, 216 North Brand in Glendale
Sunday, September 30, 2018 at 7
Royce Hall, 340 Royce Drive at UCLA
(pre-concert talks 1 hour before curtain)
for tickets call 213.622.7001 or visit LACO

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