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Violinist Hilary Hahn Takes ’27 Encores’

Twenty-seven composers write brand new music for superstar violinist Hilary Hahn. And Hilary Hahn plays it for us.

Violinist Hilary Hahn (Michael Patrick O'Leary/IMG Artists)

Violinist Hilary Hahn (Michael Patrick O’Leary/IMG Artists)

Intrepid violinist Hilary Hahn was a star before she was grown.  Then, still young, a superstar on the violin, dazzling audiences and critics all over the world with her Paganini, her Bach, her Stravinsky, her Schoenberg.  But young virtuoso Hilary Hahn was and is an explorer, too.  She writes, she tweets, she’s jokes, she plays with Josh Ritter.  And now she’s throwing a whole new raft of music into the mix.  Twenty-seven encores.  All new.  This hour On Point:  the boundary-breaking Hilary Hahn.

– Tom Ashbrook


Hilary Hahn, two-time Grammy-winning, Emmy-winning and Academy Award-nominated classical violinist. Her latest album is “In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores.” (@violincase)

From Tom’s Reading List

The New Yorker: Finales — “Hahn, who is in her early thirties, first gained notice as a prodigy playing obvious fare. She has matured into one of the most creative and unpredictable virtuosos before the public, deploying her star power on behalf of modernist masters and living composers. ‘In 27 Pieces’ stemmed from a desire to update the repertory of well-masticated encore chestnuts. Hahn spent hours in front of her computer, bouncing from one Web site to another, and commissioned twenty-six composers from seventeen countries, ranging in age from thirty-two (Nico Muhly) to eighty-five (Einojuhani Rautavaara). She also ran a contest for the twenty-seventh commission, which drew more than four hundred entries; Jeff Myers was the winner.”

Boston Globe: BEST ALBUMS OF 2013: Jeremy Eichler –”This diverse collection of miniatures represents the fruit of Hahn’s ambitious commissioning project, through which she engaged 26 composers to write brief works for violin and piano, and held a contest for encore number 27 that drew over 400 entries. Hahn was already a well-established virtuoso. This project marks her evolution as something far more interesting: a creative force.”

NPR Music: First Listen: Hilary Hahn, ‘In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores‘ — “For the 27th encore, Hahn launched a contest. More than 400 composers sent her scores which she blind-tested over a three-month period, eventually settling on a piece by Jeff Myers. In a span of just two years, Hahn premiered all the new works around the world and recorded them. (She is, after all, resourceful.) Few of Hahn’s new encores sound remotely like old Kreisler-styled bonbons. Instead they brim with personalities as unique and varied as their composers. Somei Satoh’s Bifū flows with long lines and a rippling piano, while Avner Dorman’s Memory Games pulses ever forward with staccato notes that break suddenly for a reflective finish.”

“In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores”

Watch Hilary Hahn Interview Some Of the Composers On Her New Album

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  • sickofthechit

    Zero comments, really? Shame on our cultural quotient On Point listeners.
    Hillary plays my favorite instrument (after voice) more beautifully than any I have ever heard. Thank you Hilary.
    My question is, I heard a local orchestra conductor say that when it comes to encores, sometimes with their limited time resources they are unable to prepare one and so don’t give them. My suggestion is why not replay an excerpt from one of the movements just played because I promise you, we have all hit the replay button on our favorite pieces of music many times and would welcome hearing again just about anything just played.
    Charles A. Bowsher in Lex, KY

    • lobstahbisque

      Consult “Who KIlled Classical Music” by Norman Lebrecht. Art Is Dead.

      • lobstahbisque

        On a more technical note, Sonata Form does that pause and replay role by embedding it in the structure of the music. So you have a dual contrasting theme section, repeat, then a section that breaks down and recombines, then a section that repeats the already repeated section.

      • WilHenDavis

        reminds me of the old chestnut:
        “God is dead!” – Nietzsche
        “Nietzsche is dead!” – God

  • sickofthechit

    TOM!!!! I am Charles in Lexington Ky, I am not the caller you just spoke to. He is an impostor! My question was typed in and had to do with why not replay a part of what was just played as an encore because many of us would be equally appreciative of that, especially if the choice was between no encore or a repeat. The real Charles A. Bowsher in Lexington Ky

  • John Lechner

    Thank you for this wonderful interview with such a wonderful performer!

  • 1Brett1

    I haven’t heard the show yet, but Ms. Kahn’s playing has great tone and passion. She seems comfortable with playing different styles of music too, something a lot of Classical players don’t seem to delve into.

  • David Lawrence


    Your show (on replay) is the high point of my Saturday mornings. I first found On Point when I was living in London and you were the only domestic outlet with the guts and integrity to broadcast the interview (or rather the expose) that David Dimbleby did with Donald Rumsfeld at the start of the Iraq debacle. I thought that perhaps had that interview gotten wider play, things might have gone very differently. So a belated thank you for that.

    Now on to Hilary Hahn. As an ageing and very amateur violinist who has listened to orchestral music since before I was born, In my opinion, Hilary Hahn, who is about the same age as my elder daughter, is nothing short of a generational phenomenon. She brings unparalleled light, depth color and clarity to any piece she touches, new or old. She brings out previously unheard details in even the most familiar of works.

    Her easy-going and warm persona is an inspiration to all young girls, especially my younger daughter, who was inspired by Hilary to keep at the violin long after she stopped listening to her Dad or her teachers. So please send Hilary thanks from both of us.

    Tom, your musical knowledge is one of the best-kept secrets in journalism. I still replay your Sibelius program. Thank you for all that you do!

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