Young virtuoso violinist Hilary Hahn stays in tune with the times | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Young virtuoso violinist Hilary Hahn stays in tune with the times

For as much notice as Hilary Hahn earns for her violin virtuosity, just as much attention is paid to her age. The classical music version of a child star, Hahn began playing violin at 3, performed with the Budapest Festival Orchestra at 14, and, by the end of her teens, soloed at Carnegie Hall.

But unlike child stars crippled by early exposure, Hahn considers her adolescent experiences "a healthy approach to performing," and invaluable to her education. "I did a lot of performing," she says, speaking by telephone, because her instructors "thought it was important for the pieces I learned to perform them. It was always a productive, fun process to me. It was all very developmental."

Hahn's professors had the right idea. Hahn has won international accolades, Grammys and the title of "America's Best Young Classical Musician" from Time in 2001. Her playing is fearless, graceful and smooth -- butter smooth -- with an effortlessness and confidence likely earned through those practiced performances. But Hahn's mastery is that she doesn't just recite classical pieces; instead, she focuses on variety and interpretation.

"The whole repertoire has a lot of variety. I avoid trying to do things differently just to do things differently. I try to be aware of what the traditions are," Hahn says. "I try to make sure the technique doesn't inform the interpretation. ... The parameters are there, but there's so much flexibility within those."

Now rounding 30, Hahn is, once again, abroad. While on tour overseas, this Baltimore-raised prodigy keeps her audience informed the way any tech-savvy gal would: she blogs. Hahn keeps a journal on her website (, as well as a video blog on YouTube, through which she hopes to inform and guide aspiring musicians. "Growing up, I knew a lot of musicians. I got to know them, what it was like to be on the road, to prepare, what the lifestyle was like," she explains. "I know a lot of people don't have that access. I really want to provide a resource."

And while she's part of the younger set, she's not just playing for the kids: "I like the range [of audience ages]" Hahn says. "[Some] are so knowledgeable about the concert experience, and there are people who are coming to a concert for the first time."

Hahn reaches out to Pittsburgh audiences young and old this weekend with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, performing works by Sibelius and Shostakovich.


Hilary Hahn with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. 8 p.m. Fri., May 7, and Sat., May 8. Also 2:30 p.m. Sun., May 9. Heinz Hall, 600 Penn Ave., Downtown. $17.50-93. 412-392-4900 or

Comments (0)