Two-fer


Dear Readers,

Lucky again! I’m sitting in a 4-seat row that I snagged right after everyone had finished boarding this plane from Geneva to Newark. It’s all mine. Four seats to stretch out on – I won’t have to curl up to sleep, just avoid a few seatbelt anchors which will try to dig into my ribs and tailbone. This setup works to my advantage while I’m awake as well: now that I’ve also claimed four tray tables and four individual seatback screens, who knows what kind of fun I’ll be able to conjure up above the Atlantic. Multi-movie shows? Tabletop dances? Group card games? Plastic cup upon plastic cup of complimentary inflight beverages? Airline-blanket fashion contests? An entire newspaper spread out at once? Oh, the possibilities are scandalous.

But I feel pretty wrung out. What a way to start a season – both glorious and demanding – playing two of the great violin concertos in a single evening. I don’t get to do that very often. I spent my first two days in Geneva practicing the two pieces, plus a new concerto for next week, till my left thumb nearly blistered. The third day hit me like a truck. I met the conductor, Gilbert Varga, from 9:30-10, to review and strategize our approach to Spohr’s Violin Concerto #8; practiced from 10-11:30; rehearsed the Spohr with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande till 12:30; ate lunch; did three interviews from 1:15-3; worked online till 4:30 (life as a traveling musician doesn’t stop at the notes); took a 2-hour nap; went back to the hall at 6:30; met the conductor for Round 2, which felt like déjà vu, working our way through the Tchaikovsky Concerto; rehearsed with the orchestra from 7:30-9:15; and then did some more work on my computer and online from 9:30-11, eating dinner off a plate next to the keyboard.

The fourth day, yesterday, I dragged myself out of bed to practice and rehearse both concertos with the orchestra in the morning. I could hardly keep my eyes open, so after a good lunch, I took a short walk and a nice long nap. It was raining outside, one of those rains that blocks the harsh sun and silences petty noises, while lending a honey-sweet stickiness to car tires on the road. I opened the windows and slept like a baby. When I woke up, I donned my waterproof Patagonia jacket (they’re not in style in Switzerland, it seems) and made my way over to the hall.

Cool and refreshing as it was outside, the indoors still had not cooled down from the previous several days of summer. Europeans don’t live by the same human-refrigeration philosophies that Americans favor, so warm is warm, and humid is humid, and that’s that. Personally, I like that mindset, but it can make performance under a spotlight a bit challenging. By the end of last night’s concert, my brand-new gown was drenched. Sweat was running into my mouth. (And they say it’s a glamorous life!) I’m not typically a profuse perspirer, so I was a little grossed out and very grateful to not be wearing a tuxedo. Still, since music performance is athletic, it is better to be in a hot space than a cold one; muscles are more flexible and responsive in the heat.

The concert went very well. I didn’t feel like it was my first concert in three months – nothing was unfamiliar about it; the rest did me good. I enjoyed playing both of those pieces again. Having recorded the Spohr a while back and worked so closely on it during that process, I loved the liberation of live performance. I keep rediscovering the Tchaikovsky; this time, I was reminded how expansive and joyful the orchestral solos are and how distinctive Tchaikovsky’s musical idiom is. I’ll be recording that piece in November, so I’m starting to really focus on how I want to define the piece to myself. That leads me experience it on a whole new, exciting level.

Speaking of new and exciting, here’s a tidbit: I’ll be launching a Hilary Hahn YouTube channel on that site on September 13, to coincide with Arnold Schoenberg’s birthday. As you know, Schoenberg wrote one of the concertos on my latest recording, and it is a fantastic work. The composer is much misunderstood. I’ll post video of answers to several questions about him and his violin concerto, questions that I’ll be lifting from your existing comments on my MySpace and Facebook pages. If you want to send any new Schoenberg questions, you should do so as soon as possible to questions@firstchairpromo.com – an email address set up expressly for this purpose. Once the page is up, you’ll be able to post video responses as you like (keep them kid-friendly, please). Don’t forget to visit on launch day. I can’t wait!

Hilary