Cory Smythe ~ On the Recent Tour with Hilary Hahn and Related Things


ICE‘s Cory Smythe, the lucky (He earned it because he is really THAT good; let’s just say fortunate) gentleman that just finished touring as a pianist with Hilary Hahn in Europe and the US (and a gig in Turkey as well), is here to discuss that experience with The Glass!

Cory is gearing up to preview a new work of his this Saturday at NY’s Dimenna Center, and he is planning to release a follow-up recording to 2011’s pluripotent this coming fall, which oddly enough, is when we can expect to finally see the release of Hilary Hahn’s In 27 Pieces encores CD, which Cory also happens to be featured on. Look out for these and more performances with ICE this season. But for now, we needed to ask him about working with HH. 🙂

CM: Okay, so, how has the tour with Hilary Hahn been for you?

Cory: Exhilarating, rewarding, a bit exhausting by the end. We were on the road for two months, so there was more than enough time to cycle through all my usual states of bliss and blunder. But in general, I had an amazing time.

HHZacharyGoldstein12[Pictured left, Hilary and Cory in concert, Tallahassee, FL; 2/7/13; Photo courtesy of Zachary Goldstein]
CM: She really is a supreme being as a musician and a violinist. Has working with her been a challenge for you?

Cory: Yes! And I couldn’t agree more: Hilary is incredible, brilliant, mystifying. To get to partner with her for a performance of, say, the FaurĂ© sonata, feels like it demands absolutely everything I could possibly bring and then some. I’m lucky, as a mere mortal, in that I can honestly say I’m no stranger to working with supreme musical beings. Whether that’s someone like Anthony Braxton, or my frighteningly gifted colleagues in ICE, or the musicians in Fieldwork, with whom we’re collaborating later this month, or my friend and occasional bandmate Kyle Quass (a trumpet player living in Indiana who makes some of the most thoughtful and beautiful music of anyone I know) — working with each and all of them has demanded more of me than I thought I could give.

CM: Can you talk about the pieces and what has been the most accessible for your particular style?

Cory: For this program, Hilary and I were presenting fourteen of the pieces she’s commissioned (or, in one case, chosen from an open call for scores) for her encores project. They run the gamut stylistically, from minimilist miniatures to postmodern showpieces, and it’s certainly my hope that I was able to bring something interesting to each of them — even if some of my recent work might seem to suggest I’d be a better fit for, say, the New Complexity of Richard Barrett’s “Shade” than for David Del Tredici’s Neoromantic “Farewell”.

VIDEO: Hilary Hahn and Cory Smythe playing Richard Barrett’s “Shade” (excerpt)–Tallahassee, FL, 2/7/13 (Courtesy of

CM: You also had to play the FaurĂ© and Corelli sonatas–were those pieces that you had ever studied in the past?

Cory: No. It was absorbing to delve into both, especially with such an inspiring and inventive partner. People who’ve been following her work with Hauschka won’t find this surprising, but Hilary’s a really gifted improviser. The Corelli, in particular, was a nightly experiment in embellishment, phrasing, tone… (Though I live in fear of the email I’ll get from my former harpsichord teacher if she ever happens upon one of the concert recordings!)

CM: Has doing this tour with Hilary affected the way that you usually work with ICE or any solo material?

hhcoryboston[Pictured right, Hilary and Cory in concert in Boston; 3/1/13; Photo courtesy of Tina Tallon]
Cory: Yes and no. Any time I have the privilege of working closely with someone I admire, it’s my sincere hope that I’m able to learn something, something I can then apply to my other projects. But it will take some time to discover which of the lessons I think I’ve learned are really going to stick; which will need to be learned all over again, perhaps many times and in many different ways; which were perhaps illusions all along; and which I will come to see as wrong turns that need correcting.

CM: Speaking of solo material, is there a follow-up to your pluripotent CD in the works?

Cory: There is! I’m working diligently (well, okay, slowly and with frequent breaks) on new material, most of it for piano and electronics. I’ll be performing some of this recent work as part of the NYsoundCircuit event at the Dimenna Center this Saturday, March 16th at 8 pm. And I’m aiming to have a finished record out by the fall, with demos and works in progress appearing on my website between now and then.

Interview piece from Belgian TV featuring Hilary Hahn and Cory

Click here to get tickets/info for the NYSoundcircuit show featuring Cory




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