A Milwaukee fan, Hahn returns to MSO
At the age of 26, Grammy Award-winning violinist Hilary Hahn is one of the most compelling artists on the international concert circuit. Beginning Thursday, she's back in Milwaukee for a weekend appearance with The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
Hahn was named "America's Best" young classical musician by Time magazine in 2001, and appears regularly with the world's great orchestras in Europe, Asia and North America.
Even with a new album release last week and in the middle of world tour that will take her through the United States, Europe and Asia, Hahn took time out of her schedule to talk to OMC's Jeff Sherman.
OMC: You said some pretty nice things about Milwaukee, the last time you were here on your blog (http://www.onmilwaukee.com/buzz/articles/hahndiary.html). Are you looking forward to coming back?
Hilary Hahn: I am. I've always enjoyed Milwaukee. It has a very open, friendly feel to it, and, and also, it reminds me a lot of my German roots, (Laughter) and so I'm ... anxious to go there, just to be in a city. But I, I really like working with orchestra as well. So, I think it will be very fantastic.
OMC: Was the Milwaukee Public Market open when you were here? You're a big market fan, right?
HH: No, it wasn't.
OMC: Well, it's a coincidence. Not only are you in town next weekend, but it's our Public Market's one-year anniversary next week.
HH: Oh, wow! Great. I'll check it out.
OMC: One question I like to ask everyone is for their definition of success.
HH: Success is such an absolute term yet it means so many abstract things. I guess, to me, it sounds weird … to me, success is, is very relative, because there's always more to do, there's always more to learn. And success to me implies that you've arrived.
I think on the flip side of that, though, to consider yourself successful, you have to look back and ask did I really achieve what I wanted to achieve?
What really matters is that you feel like your goals are ones that you are able to at least get very close to, or, put yourself on the path towards. I don't think it's, I don't think success has to do with what you accomplish really. I think it's about the process of getting there, how much you let yourself be pushed by yourself towards where you want to go.
OMC: Is it tough to promote classic music to your friends, and people in their 20s and 30s?
HH: It's not hard at all, actually. I always surprised, growing up as a classical musician you are told that you have to be very focused on outreach, because no one knows about classical music, and, because people aren't exposed to it as much anymore, so it's more difficult to get people to listen.
And on the one hand, I think that outreach is a fantastic thing. I mean, why not tell people about something's great that you love?
So, in that sense, outreach is great. But I think, at the same time, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that classical music really did influence a lot of the so-called pop music out there today, and the forms of music that grew up separately from classical music have now been, they've cross-pollinated, just like classical music has always been influenced by folk culture, and by times in which it's written.
So, I think, yeah, I think on the one hand, it's good to get out and tell people about it. On the other hand, it doesn't take much convincing. I've pretty much experienced that people who are ... are really fantastic, unusual music that they might not have heard before. They've, if they really just give it a shot, like they give a new band a shot, there's so much to identify with, so much to like in it.
What I've noticed people doing is sort of treating classical music like an underground kind of music movement. Or underground art music. And in that way, it's actually, by nature of its environment, classical music is reshaping itself of its image. It (reshaping) is kind of happening by itself, with this generation of musicians and ... and what's coming up in the conservatory, and people who are above my generation who are growing up doing outreach. It all good for us.
We view classical music in the, in the context of this greater world of music that's available to us at the, at our fingertips. I mean, it's a goldmine now, you can get anything you want. What I think it's doing is that (people are) defining their taste by the classical music that they like.
There's really something for everyone and it's really fun, as a listener, to just start wherever you feel like starting (with Classic music). I think it's great ... to educate yourself, it's just like if you would be educating yourself about a bunch of bands that you wanted to know about, that no one else would know about (laughter).
OMC: I will say that your Mozart collection with Natalie Tzu is one of my favorites for my daytime listens on my iTunes. What, what can we expect from your new album that just came out yesterday?
HH: Well, it's not exactly Mozart. The focus of the album was to actually -- well, my intention was to show what the violin can do, but not from a technical perspective, because ... I wanted to, I wanted to take pieces that have been perceived as difficult showpieces, and change them or at least give them a chance to be heard as musical showcases. You can show off an instrument with fireworks, and you can show it off with one of the most beautiful bow writings that exists.
I was just trying to, to exercise the more musically-oriented element of these pieces. They're very vocal in nature, so I think they show a major strength of the violin, which is to communicate with people in the manner that you do with the voice. There's something about violin that is very a direct link to whomever is listening. And I don't know why that is that people have told me that.
So that was my intention with this album. Just fantastic violin music, and people should take a listen.
OMC: Do you get a chance to watch any television or see any movies when you're on the road?
HH: Sure. I'm ... at the mercy of the TV stations in the hotel. I'm really tired of ads. In Europe, the ads aren't as long, or there aren't as many of them, so I've kinda gotten used to that. Then I come back to the States, and I'm like, oh, my gosh, what is this?
OMC: Do you have a favorite television show?
HH: I really like "House" and I like "Monk," and I like "Oz," and Sex in the City, and I don't know, I mean … It's just kind of fun -- what I like about TV -- I don't really watch that much these days, but what I like about it is actually (watching it) overseas, and seeing things that remind me of American pop culture, whether I like it or not (laughter).
HH: If there's something in a show that's familiar, then I feel like I'm at home, and … it's such a treat, because I'm used to being here, I'm used to ... existing in foreign countries whether I speak the language or I don't, but there's just really something about seeing a crazy silly show that you've seen once or twice in the States, that just takes you right back home. It's really nice.
OMC: I hear you have a new video in the works.
HH: With a friend of mine, we put together my first music video to one of the movements off the new album. It's something new for me. I don't know where it will be available, but people can definitely, be able to find it on You Tube at some point, in the very near future. So, that was screen last night for the first time as well.
My friend, Peter Miller. is an experimental filmmaker. He's gotten a lot of attention lately, and I just kind of wanted to do something that he identified with that ... so, he actually chose the second movement of the Paganini. Which is a testament to that piece's musical appeal.
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