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hilary hahn does not disappoint

October 3, 2010

Last night was the opening night of our first classical subscription concert, featuring the violinist Hilary Hahn. Hahn’s been one of the top violinists the the world for over a decade, and after having come to Seattle several times over the past few years, she’s finally made it to Portland and the Oregon Symphony.

Narong Prangcharoen
The program opened with Narong Prangcharoen‘s work Phenomenon, which is a piece that really grew on me over the rehearsal period. It’s been well-received by the audience as well, at least judging from last night, and Narong was present for the concert, too, and was very happy with the performance. [Sunday afternoon's performance got a standing ovation from the crowd, which is pretty unusual for a contemporary work.]

Hilary Hahn
The experience of playing the Tchaikovsky concerto with her last night was one of those remarkable events that you don’t really see coming, but when the occasion presents itself, it becomes a defining event of one’s career. First of all, from the opening notes of the concerto the audience was literally hushed – seemingly holding their collective breath in anticipation of what was to come. This sustained itself throughout the entire first movement, which is remarkable in this era of cough-at-will concert-going. The orchestra, too, was poised to follow every move from Hahn and Carlos, balanced on the razor’s edge of attention. And there were some wonderful spontaneous moments that hadn’t happened in rehearsal, where Hilary seemed to feel that the orchestra was with her every move, and some fresh liberties could be taken. Her playing is so accomplished and her command so secure, that passage work that most violinists simply rush through was given phrasing in the midst of extraordinary difficulty (and quick tempos). The concerto was followed by a gorgeously controlled and hushed rendition of Bach’s Sarabande from the B-minor Partita for solo violin. I’m glad that we have three more performances with her.

The last work on the program was Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5, perhaps his most often performed work for large orchestra. The performance was quite good, and full of energy. It helps that the tuba part is one of the largest in the repertoire, giving Principal tubist JáTtik Clark an ideal showcase for his amazing skills.

There are good seats available for Monday evening’s performance in Portland, and the performance will be repeated in Salem at Willamette University’s Smith Auditorium on Tuesday night.