Violinist Hilary Hahn Begins Her Residency at the New York Philharmonic | Playbill

Related Articles
Classic Arts News Violinist Hilary Hahn Begins Her Residency at the New York Philharmonic

From January to April, the three-time Grammy winner will perform a series of concerts, starting with Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1.

Violinist Hilary Hahn O. J. Slaughter

Five years ago the violin-duo comedy sensation TwoSet Violin released a video titled "Hilary Hahn Does the Ling Ling Workout." Ling Ling, they explain, is a concept, not a person — the embodiment of an absurdly perfect violinist (“Ling Ling can do backflips and practice 40 hours a day”). Observe Hilary Hahn attempting the Ling Ling Workout: she hula hoops while playing Mozart with as much style as if she were onstage with the New York Philharmonic, or plays Bach at double speed, smiling. Then comes a challenge that makes her scream: play a showpiece with the violin and bow in the opposite hands. “I’ve never done this before,” she cries, the three of them doubled over laughing. So she had hula hooped while playing violin before? Yes, in fact, as she revealed on Danish television 10 years earlier, when she discussed playing while hula hooping or in unusual positions. “It’s not just for fun,” she said, explaining that she often does pizzicato exercises with her left hand while hula hooping.

Hilary Hahn—who has not only earned three Grammy Awards but racked up hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram—started building her relationship with fans at the intersection of silly and sincere, relatable and incomparable almost three decades ago, around the time that she made her New York Philharmonic debut at age 14. This month, 30 years later, she begins her tenure as the Philharmonic’s 2023–24 season Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence by performing Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1, January 11–13. She’ll return April 25–27 for Ginastera’s Violin Concerto and Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy. Her orchestral appearances are complemented by her late-night Kravis Nightcap of music and dance, January 13, and a solo Bach recital on Artist Spotlight, March 2.

“When the residency begins, I’m going to be 44,” Hahn said in a recent conversation. “That’s a performing artist’s prime, and the New York Philharmonic is in a particularly dynamic moment. Our strengths and our sense of exploration really intersect.”

Hilary Hahn brims with ideas. When preparing for a performance, she says, “I practice a lot of different versions of what I may do. I follow my ideas of the day.” Likewise, when planning a residency she brainstorms how her signature programs can fit together with those of the host orchestra—and she tries something new: “I always have ideas floating around.”

Take, for example, the Nightcap she curated. It features music she often brings on tour — Copland’s chamber version of his Appalachian Spring Suite and solo works by J.S. Bach and Steven Banks (she played the latter as encores when she toured with the NY Phil this past summer)—except this time she plays the Copland with 12 Philharmonic musicians, and the Bach and Banks with New York City Ballet principal dancer Tiler Peck. “I’ve always wanted to work with a great dancer. I’m always asking about it,” says Hahn, who as a child took ballet lessons (and—as seen in her Ling Ling Workout video—can dance while playing violin).

The Philharmonic’s legacy as a cultural epicenter and its musicians’ soloistic capabilities loom large in Ginastera’s Violin Concerto, which was premiered and commissioned by the Orchestra to celebrate its opening season at Lincoln Center. The concerto’s second movement, for 22 soloists, is “an homage to the solo players of the New York Philharmonic,” according to the program notes at the premiere. Hahn is bringing it back to the Orchestra for the first time. “The Philharmonic has the ability to both play as a strong ensemble and have strong individual moments,” she says. “That quality in an orchestra, to have a musical conversation with, is great for me as a performer.”

The Ginastera and Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy, which she’s performing on the same program, were central to a breakthrough Hahn
experienced as she emerged from the pandemic. Cut off from live performance, she recalls, “I lost … my sense of self as a musician, my confidence, and, to my dismay, my emotional outlet.” She almost canceled a recording of those two works, but was convinced to give it a shot. It was a resounding success. She reflects: “I felt that I had walked through fire and emerged stronger, transformed as a musician.” Clarifying that she doesn’t mean this in terms of ego, she adds: “I realized that I can do anything."

Elana Estrin was formerly the New York Philharmonic’s Lead Editor, Promotional Publications. She is currently a content strategist at Meta and a violinist in Symphony Parnassus in San Francisco.

Today’s Most Popular News:

Blocking belongs
on the stage,
not on websites.

Our website is made possible by
displaying online advertisements to our visitors.

Please consider supporting us by
whitelisting with your ad blocker.
Thank you!