Hilary Hahn

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Hilary Hahn
Hahn in 2019
Hahn in 2019
Background information
Born (1979-11-27) November 27, 1979 (age 40)
Lexington, Virginia, US
Instruments1834 J.B. Vuillaume (Il Cannone Guarneri reproduction)

Hilary Hahn (born November 27, 1979) is an American violinist. She has performed throughout the world both as a soloist with leading orchestras and conductors and as a recitalist. She has also built a reputation as a champion of contemporary music. Several composers have written works for her, including concerti by Edgar Meyer and Jennifer Higdon, partitas by Antón García Abril, and a violin and piano sonata by Lera Auerbach.

Early life and education[edit]

Hahn was born in Lexington, Virginia on November 27, 1979.[1] She grew up in Baltimore, Maryland.[2][3] Her father, Steve Hahn, was a journalist and librarian;[2][3] her paternal great-grandmother was from Bad Dürkheim in Germany.[2] Her mother Anne was an accountant.[2][3]

She began playing the violin one month before her fourth birthday in the Suzuki Program of Baltimore's Peabody Institute. She participated in a Suzuki class for a year. From 1985 to 1990 she studied in Baltimore under Klara Berkovich.[4]

In 1990, at ten, Hahn was admitted to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she became a student of Jascha Brodsky. She studied with Brodsky for seven years and learned the études of Kreutzer, Ševčík, Gaviniès, and Rode, and the Paganini Caprices. She also learned 28 violin concertos, chamber works, and assorted showpieces.[5]

At 16, she had completed the Curtis Institute's university requirements, but she remained for several years to pursue elective courses until her graduation in May 1999 with a Bachelor of Music degree.[5] During this time she studied violin with Jaime Laredo,[6] and studied chamber music with Felix Galimir and Gary Graffman.[1]

She also spent four summers in the total-immersion language programs in German, French, and Japanese at Middlebury College.[7]

Musical career[edit]

In 1991, at age 11, Hahn made her major orchestral debut with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.[8] Soon thereafter she debuted with the Philadelphia Orchestra,[9] Cleveland Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic.[9] She made her international debut in 1994 performing the Bernstein Serenade in Hungary with Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra. Her German debut came in 1995 with a performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with Lorin Maazel and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.[10] The concert was broadcast in Europe.

A year later, in 1996 at age 16, she debuted at Carnegie Hall in New York City as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, playing Saint-Saens’s third violin concerto.[11] In a 1999 interview with Strings Magazine, she cited people influential to her development as a musician and a student, including David Zinman, the conductor of the Baltimore Symphony and Hahn's mentor since she was ten, and Lorin Maazel, with whose Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra she performed in Europe.[12]

Hahn began recording in 1996.[13] Her earlier television appearances include Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood in 2000 (episode 1755), where Mr. Rogers visits a local music store and she plays for him. She has released 16 albums on the Deutsche Grammophon and Sony labels, three DVDs, an Oscar-nominated movie soundtrack, an award-winning recording for children, and various compilations. Her recordings often blend newer and traditional pieces.[14] Her albums include pairings of Beethoven with Bernstein, Schoenberg with Sibelius, Brahms with Stravinsky, and Tchaikovsky with Jennifer Higdon.[15][16][17][18]

She has played with orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra,[19] New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic and Singapore Symphony Orchestra. In 2007 she debuted with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and played in Vatican City as part of the celebrations for Pope Benedict XVI with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra and conductor Gustavo Dudamel.[20][21] The concert was recorded and released by Deutsche Grammophon.[22]

She has also performed as a chamber musician. Since 1992 she has performed nearly every year with the Skaneateles Chamber Music Festival in Skaneateles, New York.[23] From 1995 to 2000 she performed and studied chamber music at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont,[24] and in 1996 she was an artist and a member of the chamber music mentoring program of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.[5] In 2004 she toured Saint Petersburg, Russia, with the Poulenc Trio.[25]

Hahn has been interested in cross-genre collaboration and pushing musical boundaries. She began performing and touring in crossover duos with singer-songwriter Josh Ritter in 2007 and with singer-songwriter Tom Brosseau in 2005.[26] She has recorded songs with "…And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead".[27] In 2012 Hahn released an album with German pianist and composer Hauschka titled Silfra. The songs on the disc were completely improvised. Silfra was produced by Valgeir Sigurðsson.[28][29] According to her, "Other musicians cross genres all the time. For me it's not crossover—I just enter their world. It frees you up to think in a different way from what you've been trained to do."[30]

In June 2014, she was awarded the Glashütte Original MusikFestspiel-Preis of the Dresden Music Festival.[31]

Since 2016 Hahn has piloted free concerts for parents with infants, a knitting circle, a community dance workshop, a yoga class, and art students. She plans to continue these community-oriented concerts, encouraging people to combine live performance with their interests outside the concert hall and providing opportunities for parents to hear music with their infants, who might be barred from traditional concerts.[32]


Hahn is a noted champion of new works. In 1999 she commissioned Edgar Meyer to write a concerto. She later recorded the piece with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.[33] In 2010 a concerto written for Hahn by Jennifer Higdon and recorded with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music.[34]

She commissioned 26 contemporary composers to write short encore pieces for In 27 Pieces: the Hilary Hahn Encores. Among the composers are David Del Tredici, Jennifer Higdon, Du Yun, Elliott Sharp, David Lang, Nico Muhly, James Newton Howard, Valentyn Sylvestrov and Max Richter.[35] For the 27th encore she held an open contest that drew more than 400 entries and was won by Jeff Myers.[36] The international premiere tours, from 2011 to 2013, met with wide critical and audience acclaim.[37][38][39] In November 2013 these 27 short pieces were released on Deutsche Grammophon.[40] The recording won the Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.

In 2016 and 2017, in recital tours across the U.S., Europe, and Japan, she premiered six new partitas for solo violin by Antón García Abril, her first commissioning project for solo violin, as well as her first commission of a set of works from a single composer. The relationship with García Abril was forged during In 27 Pieces: the Hilary Hahn Encores. Digital and physical editions of the complete sheet music will be released by the Musicnotes and Boosey & Hawkes. In 2019 Hahn and Lera Auerbach premiered Auerbach's sonata for violin and piano Fractured Dreams.

Film music[edit]

Hahn began her film recording career as the soloist for James Newton Howard's score for M. Night Shyamalan's The Village in 2004. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score.[41] Her recording of Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto was used extensively in The Deep Blue Sea, starring Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston. The film uses the piece's second movement to accompany a nine-minute sequence.[42] In 2013 she was the soloist on Andrew Hewitt's score for the film The Sea.[43]

On playing Bach[edit]

In 1999 Hahn said that she played Bach more than any other composer and that she had played solo Bach pieces every day since she was eight.[5]

Bach is, for me, the touchstone that keeps my playing honest. Keeping the intonation pure in double stops, bringing out the various voices where the phrasing requires it, crossing the strings so that there are not inadvertent accents, presenting the structure in such a way that it's clear to the listener without being pedantic – one can't fake things in Bach, and if one gets all of them to work, the music sings in the most wonderful way.

— Hilary Hahn, Saint Paul Sunday[44]

In a segment on NPR titled "Musicians in Their Own Words", she spoke about the surreal experience of playing the Bach Chaconne (from the Partita for Violin No. 2) alone on the concert stage. In the same segment she discussed her experiences emulating a lark while playing The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams.[45]


Hilary Hahn, violin; Valentina Lisitsa, piano (2009)

Her violin is an 1864 copy of Paganini's Cannone made by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume.[46] In an interview on Danish television Hahn said she almost never leaves her instrument out of sight. She uses bows by American bow maker Isaac Salchow[47] and French bow makers Émile Ouchard[citation needed], Paul Jombar, and Emil Miquel. For her strings, she uses Thomastik-Infeld Dominants for the A (aluminum wound), D and G (silver wound) and a Pirastro Gold Label Steel E.[48]

Hahn has also acquired a second Vuillaume, an 1865 model loosely based on the 1715 Alard Stradivarius, and has used both in recent years for recording and performing.[49][50]


Hahn's website includes a section titled "By Hilary". In a Strings Magazine interview she said that the idea for her "Postcards from the Road" feature originated during an outreach visit to a third-grade class in upstate New York. The class was doing a geography project in which the students asked everyone they knew who was traveling to send postcards from the cities they were visiting, to learn more about the world. She decided to participate after receiving a positive reaction to her suggestion that she take part.[5] She enjoyed her first year's experience with the project so much that she decided to continue it on her new website.[51] A few years later she expanded the postcards to a journal format. Journal entries usually include photographs from her tours and rehearsals.

Personal life[edit]

Hahn and her husband live in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[52][53] They have two daughters.[52]

On September 1, 2019, Hahn announced that she was taking a yearlong sabbatical and would resume performing in the 2020–21 season.[54]



  1. ^ a b "Great Performances – Hilary Hahn". PBS.org. PBS. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d "MUSIK : Ballerina auf Saiten – DER SPIEGEL 5/2002". www.spiegel.de.
  3. ^ a b c Smith, Linell. "What nature gave, a 12-year-old hones with discipline". baltimoresun.com.
  4. ^ Smith, Linell (December 15, 1991). "What nature gave, a 12-year-old hones with discipline". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on October 7, 2013. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d e Zaustinsky, Julia (August–September 1999). "A Conversation with Hilary Hahn". All Things Strings.
  6. ^ Davidson, Justin (November 28, 1997). "Past Her Prime at 17? : Younger violinists are fast on the heels of Hilary Hahn. But she doesn't feel the heat". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  7. ^ "Hilary Hahn". IMG Artists. April 25, 2016.
  8. ^ Smith, Linell (October 9, 1994). "Hilary Hahn to play at Lincoln Center". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  9. ^ a b Cary, Emily (April 30, 2013). "Visionary violinist Hilary Hahn and the Philadelphia Orchestra together again". The Washington Examiner. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  10. ^ "Hilary Hahn, 15 – Beethoven Violin Concerto, Lorin Maazel, 1995". theviolinchannel.org. The Violin Channel. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  11. ^ Tommasini, Anthony (November 28, 1996). "Philadelphians, After Strike, Offer a Violinist's Debut". The New York Times.
  12. ^ Ross, Adrian (November 15, 2005). "A moment with Hilary Hahn". The Daily Princetonian. Archived from the original on April 2, 2012. Retrieved May 29, 2010.
  13. ^ Beaucage, Réjean (November 5, 2003). "Hilary Hahn – The Lady Ascending". La Scena Musicale. 9 (3). Archived from the original on November 22, 2008. Retrieved May 13, 2008.
  14. ^ Huizenga, Tom (September 12, 2010). "First Listen: Hilary Hahn Violin Concertos, Old And New". NPR. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  15. ^ Bialostozky, Evan (April 2, 1999). "Hilary Hahn's Beethoven/Bernstein". Yale Herald. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  16. ^ Clements, Andrew (March 6, 2008). "Schoenberg & Sibelius: Violin Concertos, Hahn/ Swedish Radio Symphony Orch/ Salonen". The Guardian. Archived from the original on October 13, 2013. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  17. ^ von Rhein, John (December 2, 2011). "Brahms and Stravinsky Violin Concertos Hilary Hahn..." The Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  18. ^ Woolfe, Zachary (September 20, 2010). "Brahms and Stravinsky Violin Concertos Hilary Hahn..." Capital. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  19. ^ Stearns, David Patrick (October 2, 2004). "Hilary Hahn's best disc to date. She gives an excellent performance of Elgar, an Englishman who doesn't always travel well". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  20. ^ von Rhein, John (March 31, 2007). "Youthful Hilary Hahn delivers beauty, artistry and maturity". The Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  21. ^ "Hilary Hahn". The San Francisco Classical Review. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  22. ^ "Birthday Concert for Pope Benedict XVI". Deutsche Grammophon. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  23. ^ Johnson, Melinda (August 5, 2010). "Violinist Hilary Hahn Finds Skaneateles 'Very Peaceful'". The Syracuse Post-Standard. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  24. ^ Wise, Brian (July 23, 2011). "At Marlboro, They Come to the Vermont Woods to Play, Not To Perform". WQXR. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  25. ^ Hilary Hahn & Francis Poulenc Trio on YouTube
  26. ^ Rose, Joel (March 4, 2007). "Concert Violinist Plays Indie-Rock Gigs". Weekend Edition Sunday. NPR. Retrieved May 13, 2008.
  27. ^ Reich, Ronni (February 17, 2013). "Respecting fans' good taste: Violinist Hilary Hahn deftly blends the familiar with the obscure". The Newark Star-Ledger. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  28. ^ Smith, Steve (July 6, 2012). "Silfra, by Hilary Hahn and Hauschka". The New York Times. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  29. ^ Huizenga, Tom (May 13, 2012). "First Listen: Hilary Hahn And Hauschka, 'Silfra'". NPR. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  30. ^ Bargreen, Melinda (January 15, 2007). "Hilary Hahn at ease in classical, "jeans and chains" worlds". The Seattle Times. Retrieved May 29, 2010.
  31. ^ "US-Geigerin Hilary Hahn erhält Preis der Dresdner Musikfestspiele". Neue Musikzeitung (in German). Retrieved November 21, 2015.
  32. ^ "Violinist Hilary Hahn gives concerts for babies". The Strad. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  33. ^ Huebner, Michael (September 25, 2011). "Violinist Hilary Hahn to reprise Edgar Meyer concerto with Alabama Symphony". AL.com. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  34. ^ Schweitzer, Vivien (April 21, 2010). "Despite Anxiety and Naysayers, Composer Wins Her Pulitzer". The New York Times. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  35. ^ Mermelstein, David (October 26, 2011). "The Commissioner of Short Works". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  36. ^ Robin, William (February 12, 2012). "New Kind of Online Dating: Classical Competitions". The New York Times. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  37. ^ Swed, Mark (May 8, 2013). "Review: Hilary Hahn's 27 Pieces strikingly eclectic at Disney Hall". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 12, 2012.
  38. ^ Woolfe, Zachary (February 25, 2013). "For Encores, an Artist Invites Social Media Onstage". The New York Times. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  39. ^ Downey, Charles (February 17, 2013). "Violinist Hilary Hahn's new encores served as musical dessert at Kennedy Center". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  40. ^ Clemency Burton-Hill (November 5, 2013). "Hilary Hahn's project In 27 Pieces: Reviving the encore". BBC Culture. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  41. ^ Cunningham, Greta (February 11, 2005). "Hilary Hahn transitions from young phenom to established soloist". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
  42. ^ Turan, Kenneth (March 23, 2012). "Movie review: Rachel Weisz a passionate force in 'Deep Blue Sea'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
  43. ^ Lodge, Guy (July 2, 2013). "Edinburgh Film Review: The Sea". Variety. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
  44. ^ Saint Paul Sunday (April 1, 2001). "Bach's Six Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin". American Public Media. Retrieved May 13, 2008. An excerpt from the liner notes to Hahn's album Hilary Hahn Plays Bach.
  45. ^ David Schulman; Jeffrey Freymann-Weyr (October 13, 2004). "Musicians in Their Own Words: Hilary Hahn". NPR. Retrieved May 13, 2008.
  46. ^ "Hilary Hahn,Violin". the Strad. Archived from the original on April 22, 2016.
  47. ^ "Bows by Isaac". Salchow & Sons. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  48. ^ "Famous Violinists and Their String Brands". violin-strings.com. Retrieved November 21, 2015.
  49. ^ Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim (October 24, 2018). "Review: Hilary Hahn Plays an Unabashedly Romantic Bach". The New York Times. Retrieved September 29, 2019.
  50. ^ "Hilary Hahn, J.B. Vuillaume, 1865". Tarisio. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
  51. ^ O'Niel, L. Peat (August 26, 1999). "Guest Violinist, 19, Sets Virtuoso Tone In Loudoun Symphony Performance". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 29, 2010.
  52. ^ a b Joshua Barone (October 5, 2018). "Hilary Hahn Returns to Bach, 21 Years Older. And Maybe Wiser". The New York Times.
  53. ^ Colin Eatock (May 27, 2012). "Violinist opens up – onstage and online". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  54. ^ "Hilary Hahn begins year-long sabbatical". The Strad. September 2, 2019. Retrieved September 29, 2019.
  55. ^ Quinn, Emily (October 13, 2005). "Albums by Trio Mediæval, Hilary Hahn, Natalie Zhu enter Billboard Classical Chart". Playbill Arts. Archived from the original on June 16, 2012.
  56. ^ Der Kleine Hörsaal – Die Geige mit Hilary Hahn, AllMusic
  57. ^ Hilary Hahn Photo Archived February 19, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Daylife (February 8, 2009)
  58. ^ "Best Albums" – #6 Archived August 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine by Seth Colter Walls, Newsweek
  59. ^ "Bach: Violin & Voice". Retrieved February 13, 2010.

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