Paris

“I don’t have a pattern or a formula for coming up with a title for an album,” Hilary Hahn tells Apple Music. “Paris just popped into my head while I was practicing one day.” That title was a no-brainer. For starters, Paris—on which the US violinist is joined by Finnish conductor Mikko Franck and the Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France—was conceived and recorded in the French capital. And once Hahn landed on her album’s title, the city eerily began to creep into every part. “The Prokofiev First Violin Concerto was premiered in Paris and the Chausson Poème had a big premiere in Paris that was a huge success,” says Hahn of the album’s first two works, which are given wonderfully authoritative performances here. “And I remembered that my violin also was made in Paris. So everything goes back to Paris.” Then there was the emotional core of this album, Deux Sérénades, a piece written for Hahn and Franck in Paris by Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara before his death in 2016. “Rautavaara was a phenomenal composer for violin,” adds Hahn. “There’s no doubt he knew everything he needed to know about the violin, to write music that really connects the performer and the audience.” Read on as Hahn discusses each piece on Paris in depth.
Poème for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 25 “This, by Chausson, is such a strong piece. It’s so dark and brooding in ways that go to the depths of your soul. And as a player, if you can embrace that, it’s a really moving piece to play. If I could record anything with this orchestra and this conductor that would be natural to all of us, this would be it! If it’s performed with authenticity with performers who believe in the music, and if it’s allowed to sing and no one’s trying to pretend to play it in a certain way, it is so powerful.”
Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 19 “I love this Prokofiev Concerto so much and I’ve wanted to record it for years. What’s really special is that Prokofiev goes through everything that there is to do on the violin. He employs all the techniques, and reinvents almost all of them, too, in one way or another and in ways that I haven’t seen pop up anywhere else. I’ve been playing this piece for so long, and it’s so embedded in me—it’s like it’s a part of me. This piece is so powerful to play because you physically feel everything as a performer that the audience is supposed to feel emotionally. For example, in the first movement, by the time we get to the cadenza, I am so out of breath and my heart is pounding. And then when I’m playing that cadenza, I have to actually intentionally change my breathing about four measures before, in order for my hand not to be shaking from excitement. But I think that’s what the audience feels emotionally too.”
Deux Sérénades (Written for Hilary Hahn) “I commissioned Rautavaara to write for In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores [Hahn’s 2013 project] and he wrote an encore called ‘Whispering.’ Mikko and Rautavaara were extremely close. Mikko has conducted every piece of his he could possibly do and Rautavaara was so impressed by how he intuited his music. So, to work with someone who has that insight into a composer is phenomenal. Mikko asked me to play the Violin Concerto with him at Radio France back in 2012. I asked him at one of the rehearsal breaks if maybe Rautavaara would write another concerto, but for us. It just seemed like a really interesting opportunity to explore. And that’s when Mikko said, ‘Well, he’s ill at the moment. It’s probably not a good time to talk.’ And that was the last I heard about it. After the funeral following Rautavaara’s death in 2016, to Mikko’s amazement, he was shown a near-complete manuscript of two serenades. The violin part was done, and the orchestration was complete as far as the middle of the second serenade. Mikko commissioned Rautavaara’s former student, the composer Kalevi Aho, to orchestrate the remainder of that serenade. This recording is of the world premiere in February 2019. These two pieces are really interesting. They’re both really powerful lyrical works.”

Poème for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 25
1
Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 19
2
3
4
Deux Sérénades (Written for Hilary Hahn)
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