Selections from In 27 Pieces and music from Bach, Corelli and Fauré
Hilary Hahn, violin
Cory Smythe, piano
Istanbul Concert Hall at İş Sanat Cultural Center
Thursday, January 3rd, 2013
Written by Alain Matalon
It is not, and certainly should not be, exclusive to luxury brand sponsored male pianists to make a fashion statement on the concert stage. Before she dazzled our ears, Ms. Hilary Hahn, stunned our visual slant as she appeared on stage in a close-fitting nude-colored gown adorned with ethnic embroidery on top, and below the waist, ten rows of golden tassels (that, as a friend put later “danced a frenetic foxtrot, or a genial waltz depending on the music she happened to be playing”). Accompanying her was Mr. Cory Smythe on the piano for an evening celebrating the union of the very old, the old, and the very new.
The duo was in Istanbul for a special evening to mark the fruits of Hilary Hahn’s recent In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores project. Out of the eight pieces that were played, four of them were World Premieres (and, according to Ms. Hahn, the other four were “Northern Hemisphere debuts”). The program was designed to reflect as much contrast as possible with the encore pieces scattered around the traditional ones.
The Corelli Op. 5 No. 4 in F Major, a rather easy feat for the competent pair, kicked the evening to a jocund start followed by three encores from the project in their world premiere: James Newton Howard’s “133… At Least”, a fast and uneasy number dealing mostly with rising and falling chromatic melodies in Ms. Hahn’s expert hands; A.G. Abril’s “Three Sighs”: a peculiar amalgam of lush and lyrical violin against sharp, staccato piano attacks from Mr.Smythe and Mason Bates’ “Ford’s Farm”, a rhythmically structured dance music accentuating the perfect sync between the two musicians.
Ms. Hahn then offered her inimitable, highly dramatic take on the Bach Chaconne in which she slowly raised up the ante overcoming every technical obstacle with her usual affluence, emphasizing the anguish even in the good-humored middle section before presenting us with two more encore pieces. “Aalap and Tarana”, Kala Ramnath’s ethnically charged contribution that benefitted from Ms. Hahn’s extra-fine fingerwork to realize the semi-tones of its scale, and Jeff Myers’ atonal “The Angry Birds of Kauai” which offered both the violinist and Mr. Smythe to demonstrate their technical brilliance. This very brilliance had to take a backseat for a little to accommodate the awfully dull Fauré Sonata in A Major, but before long we were bestowed with three more miniature gems to conclude the evening. Franghiz Ali-Zadeh’s “Impulse” was a highly excitable serial piece of music bursting with expressions of violin technique followed by its exact opposite, Michiru Oshima’s “Memories”, a highly romantic interlude based on long dissonant sustained chords from Cory Smythe’s piano against Ms. Hahn’s amorous melodies. And for the final, a deeply American piece written by the British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage, “Hilary’s Hoedown”, a wickedly fast dance number written for the fiddler in Hilary Hahn.
Hilary Hahn and Cory Smythe have taken their repertoire, alternating the encore selections along the way, on the road, and I would wholeheartedly recommend everyone to jump at the chance to see them, if the opportunity drops by your town.
When he isn’t providing me with information and some laughs on twitter as @orbital281, Alain Matalon resides in Istanbul and writes for Seen and Heard International.com as well as MusicWeb-International and various Turkish newspapers.