Here’s something a digital download will never do: thrill me, unexpectedly, in the middle of the work day when I walk up to the office and open the mail.
Back in April when this year’s Pulitzer prizes were announced, September seemed so far away. That’s how long we were told we’d have to wait to hear Hilary Hahn’s recording of Jennifer Higdon’s prize-winning violin concerto. Now that September’s almost here, though – what a nice surprise to get a special advance copy in today’s mail. Someone at the record company was listening when I asked to get a copy as soon as possible!
I’ve listened to the recording twice all the way through now and I can tell it’s going to stand up to many, many more listenings. That’s a good first sign. I’ve also been interested enough in each of the three movements to spend time with them individually today, listening first for every nuance of Hahn’s performance and then revisiting each movement to get inside some of the more mechanical and technical aspects. The first movement is cryptically dubbed 1726 (apparently this is a number significant for some reason to both Higdon and Hahn), and it’s a brilliant, sharp, virtuosically flashing introduction to the work. The second movement is Chaconni – a chaconne, or ciaccona – a languid, translucent interpretation of the traditional form of variations set over a repeated bass line. For the grand finale (of around three and a half minutes), we have Fly Forward, a breathlessly athletic excercise partly inspired by the televised Olympic games that accompanied the last leg of Higdon’s composing process with this concerto. It’s an adrenaline rush, alright.
This is a nice article by James Reel from Strings Magazine, on the Higdon/Hahn pairing.
For some insight from the artists themselves, there are also a series of three recorded interviews between Hilary Hahn and Jennifer Higdon. Their personal chemistry is apparent here, and lends some insight to what makes this recording of the new violin concerto work so well: like Shostakovich and Heifetz, and Brahms and Joachim before them – the music results from being at the intersection of just the right composer and performer. The new Hilary Hahn recording of Jennifer Higdon’s 2010 Pulitzer prizewinning Violin Concerto will be available in September, on a recording paired with the Tchaikovsky concerto. Watch for it, this one’s a keeper for sure.
interview, part one..