Music is an art of constant change, a metaphor for life itself. Hilary Hahn’s latest album illustrates the point by taking a deep dive into the stream of three strikingly individual scores. Eclipse explores themes of transformation and renewal. It sets Dvořák’s Violin Concerto, one of the Czech composer’s most passionate and personal works, and the flamboyant Carmen Fantasy by Pablo de Sarasate in company with a repertoire rarity, Alberto Ginastera’s gloriously innovative Violin Concerto. Hahn’s album title reflects her return to the performance spotlight after a sabbatical year and the pandemic-enforced break that followed it. “An eclipse involves a physical movement from one point to another, shifting the perspective of what we see,” she tells Apple Music. “Of course, the movement of an eclipse happens beyond the Earth. But there was also movement in the lives of these three composers: they traveled widely, and their musical style evolved on the way. They were of a similar age to me now when they created these pieces; this album marks my own transition into my forties. There’s a lot in each work that harkens back to their authentic musical mother tongues. They’d all come into their own as composers with strong voices that reached across national borders, but they never forgot their original accent. It’s fascinating to see how they incorporated those different experiences of life into their musical identities.” Hahn’s recording, like many of its predecessors, is deeply rooted in her autobiography. Eclipse documents her joy at making music in public after a long absence from the concert stage. She shared the experience with her long-standing colleagues in the Frankfurt Radio Symphony and its then chief conductor, Andrés Orozco-Estrada. They recorded the Dvořák Violin Concerto behind closed doors in April 2021 before regrouping two months later at Frankfurt’s Alte Oper to perform the Ginastera and Sarasate twice in succession for a socially distanced audience. “These were the first things we played in front of an audience since the pandemic began,” she recalls. “We weren’t sure that we’d be allowed to play at the Alte Oper until just before the performance. Because of limits on audience numbers, we did two half concerts rather than one full concert. They were Andrés’ farewell performances as the orchestra’s music director, so it was a really important moment for us all. It was one of those rare occasions where something major happens while the microphone is switched on. That’s what’s really cool about the energy of this album.” Join Hilary Hahn as she guides us through each of the major works on her album. Violin Concerto (Dvořák) “Dvořák’s first instrument was the violin. He played songs and dances from his native Bohemia when he was a boy and returned to them again in his Violin Concerto. You hear that most clearly in the concerto’s third and final movement, which builds on the rhythms of a Czech furiant dance and includes a minor-key contrast based on another Czech dance, the dumka. He was encouraged to write the piece in 1879 by the virtuoso violinist Joseph Joachim and revised it in response to his comments and criticisms. For some reason, Joachim never played it, but the concert took off following its premiere in Prague in 1883 and has been part of the repertoire ever since. “This performance was streamed live, which was very exciting for me. It was my first trip to Europe since I started my sabbatical in September 2019. So, it was like, OK, here we go—buckle up! You realize from the start that you’re on a long journey. But the music carries you along at a very natural pace, with declamatory drama and beautiful long lines, interweaving, swooping, filled with rhythmic joy. “The slow second movement stretches out in a hypnotic way, which is why I structure it like it’s made of separate building blocks, almost like miniature movements within a movement. And then comes the finale, which swings and sings. It’s such fun to play and listen to. You feel like the audience is with you in all its twists and turns.” Violin Concerto (Ginastera) “The only other piece I’ve been as obsessed about is Schoenberg’s Violin Concerto. Once I got the idea of performing Ginastera’s concerto into my head, I couldn’t let it go. I listened to the few recordings of the work and realized they were all important but that I had a different version to add to them. Ruggiero Ricci, the New Philharmonic Orchestra, and Leonard Bernstein gave its premiere nearly 60 years ago at Lincoln Center in New York. According to the work’s publisher, I’m the only person playing it today! It’s a very strange feeling, like you’re re-premiering the piece. There’s probably only ever one person playing it at any time. I hope to change that with the recording. “Ginastera, who was born in Buenos Aires, mixed traditional Argentinean music with contemporary techniques in his compositions. In the Concerto, he really pushes the limits of what the violin can do in ways I recognize from contemporary commissions, where composers will intentionally write something that’s theoretically playable, but if you try to do it at the given tempo or play all the notes exactly as written, it takes you to the edge of your technique. There’s a musical aspect to that with Ginastera’s Violin Concerto. It’s not done from lack of understanding; I think it’s deliberate because he’s so considered in so many of his decisions. “There are things in the first movement’s opening ‘Cadenza’ [Track 4] that I’d never played or heard before, like simultaneous double melodic lines and harmonics. Those need to be played with different fingers, but without interrupting the flow of the notes. It turns your ear a little bit on the side! By the time the ‘Coda’ [Track 11] arrives at the end of the first movement, you’re kind of turned around. As a listener, you’ve gone through so many things. “And the second movement is this fantastic ‘Adagio for 22 soloists’ [Track 12]. Of course, those players are engaged, but that leaves a lot of people in the orchestra listening onstage. You don’t notice that when you listen to the recording, but the fact that people are present when the solo players are playing means there’s an attentiveness on the stage. It happens that you have people who are playing and people who aren’t, and the effect for the performers is the opposite of being in the middle of the sound—it means you’re surrounded by listening. “There is brutality in this piece, but there’s brutality in the world. There was existential instability within Argentina and between nations at the time Ginastera wrote this piece. And I think that comes through. Much as I dislike guessing why composers do what they do, there’s a certain energy in this piece that applies when you’re experiencing a combination of vulnerability and conflict. And there’s beauty in the transitions between those states of being. I think Ginastera gets to the core of all these different experiences.” Carmen Fantasy (Sarasate) Sarasate was proud of Spain’s music and identified with his homeland’s many musical styles, while Bizet, a Frenchman, quotes Spanish rhythms and characteristics in his opera Carmen. Sarasate, who knew Bizet, thought, ‘I can do this; I’ll take it back.’ I imagine he needed a showpiece for his concert tours and asked, ‘What’s the latest pop hit? OK, it’s Carmen.’ He loved Bizet’s songs and decided to use them in his own piece. “I grew up thinking of the Carmen Fantasy as a virtuoso showpiece. When I started working on it, I listened to the opera and tried to match the accents of its words and the moods of its arias and interludes to those of Sarasate’s composition. I realized you have to decide, when you play this piece, do you take Sarasate’s virtuoso tempos, or do you stay close to those of the opera? Because of the psychological complexity of Carmen, and the interesting mood developments in each aria, I chose to stay as close to Bizet’s original as possible. “It was fun to play with that when, to see how close, for example, you can get to the sound of the flute at the start of the aria ‘Les tringles des sistres tintaient’ and then bring that into Sarasate’s virtuoso showpiece [Track 19]. It was great to work on this with my wonderful colleagues in Frankfurt. They were completely on board with finding our way into a piece that is musically so fascinating.”

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