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A Lifetime of Memories from Hilary Hahn

Hilary Hahn
Peter Miller
Hilary Hahn

On WCRB's CD of the Week, celebrated American violinist Hilary Hahn reflects on her career so far by sharing some of her favorite pieces, alongside artwork from fans.

In the summer of 2016, superstar violinist Hilary Hahn finished a project with results that surprised her. She joined a global Instragram initiative with the hashtag #100days. The concept: reveal your artistic process by doing the same thing every day for 100 consecutive days. She decided that she’d set up her smart phone, record herself practicing, and post one minute's worth of creative work every single day. The surprise came when she realized that it was not only helpful for her, but for lots of other people who felt empowered about their own practicing when they watched it.

That’s the kind of reaching out that’s been a hallmark of Hilary Hahn’s life in music.

She’s been in the public eye since her debut at age 11. And it seems she’s always been ignited by absorbing the wisdom of people. You can see it in her wonderful series of charmingly low-tech YouTube interviews with famous artists, and in her commissioning project of 27 encores that she has toured with and recorded. When her baby daughter Zelda was born in 2015, she decided to start a series of free, relaxing mini-concerts for parents and caretakers with their infants!

Now Hilary Hahn has realized how many albums she has recorded on the Deutsche Grammophon label, and she’s put together a collection of her favorite moments – a personally curated gift to the world. It includes thirty minutes of previously unreleased material from a live concert in Berlin.

The two-CD set is put together with love and thought. Her deep affection for Schoenberg’s Violin Concerto gives it a burnished and radiant presence. She follows it with an aria from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, where she and baritone Matthias Goerne dance with joy around one another’s gorgeously spun-out lines. The opening movement of Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto, dedicated to Hilary Hahn, is steeped in an unforgettably private atmosphere of soaring harmonics and anxious knocking. There are several of her commissioned encores, and a stunning performance of Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending.

The connection to her fans gives the CD its look. Since her fans have been sending her their own artwork for years and years, the cover and inside images of Retrospective come from the winners of a contest she held through her social media feeds – a stunning way to package a remarkable collection.

Listen to a track from the album:

Watch Hilary Hahn play at NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concerts:


For more information and to purchase this recording, visit ArkivMusic.