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Milton Moore: Even a cellphone captures Hahn's Bach artistry

By Milton Moore

Publication: theday.com

Published August 20. 2014 2:00PM   Updated August 20. 2014 2:09PM

In “Just Listen,” The Day’s music writers share favorite recordings and invite you to share your comments and yours.

Each of us has a preferred method for listening to music, whether it’s earbuds on a smartphone, or headphones at a desktop computer, or loudspeakers hooked up to an old-style component stereo system. For some, high fidelity is crucial. For others, convenience trumps fidelity.

But in the end, the performance is what counts.

I spend more time than I care to admit surfing YouTube, since there is a seemingly endless wealth of classical and opera videos to be found there. I stumbled across this Hilary Hahn video many months back, and the performance is so engrossing that I quickly forget that this was filmed by a fan in the front rows, using a phone, no doubt.

Hahn’s audacious first recording, as a 17-year-old, was a set of Bach solo violin works, music usually considered too deep, too probing for a teenager to understand fully. But Hahn earned instant credibility and is now considered the finest interpreter of Bach solo violin. As America’s most sought-after classical soloist, she tours the world, performing big violin concertos with all of the top orchestras, and invariably, she rewards her adoring fans with a solo Bach encore.

This video is as good as it gets. Her connection to this material is so intimate and personal, it’s almost shocking that this was performed as an encore. This is almost perfect music. I often play it in the morning and walk around humming it all day.

This was recorded at a 2012 concert in Sao Paulo, Brazil, after she performed the showy and extroverted Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1.

The long contemplative pause (and I mean long) of the fermata before the final section, seems so right … the rhythmic pulse so gentle but firm … the melodic line so vocal … you can’t beat this.

And who cares if it came from a phone?


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