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Music review: Hilary Hahn brings her encores project to Disney

November 2, 2011 |  2:52 pm

Hilary Hahn

This review has been corrected; see note below for details.

Hilary Hahn’s performance at Disney Hall on Tuesday night with her longtime collaborator, pianist Valentina Lisitsa, began and ended with an encore. The concert was the 31-year-old violinist’s Los Angeles premiere of “In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores,” which features a collection of short commissioned works by contemporary composers, performed around Bach’s Sonata No. 1 in G minor, Beethoven’s violin sonata No. 2 in A and Brahms’ Sonatensatz in C minor.

The often airy, cinematic motifs of the encores served as introduction and afterthought for the three Bs, which Hahn played with more energy and exuberance than the newly commissioned works.

If there’s one thing the encores successfully delivered, it was Hahn’s impeccable intonation and impressive technicality in the highest range. The concert started out thinly, with two wintry pieces by Somei Satoh and Nico Muhly and slowly thickened like a roux.

Until Christos Hatzis’ “Coming To,” the program’s seventh encore, it seemed Hahn had barely crossed the D string, lingering on breathtakingly high notes and harmonics in an ethereal pianissimo. The liveliness of the piece was a welcome contrast and an appropriate lead-up to Beethoven’s Sonata No. 2 in A major, which foregrounded the piano for the first time, allowing Hahn and Lisitsa to unite through a staccato call-and-answer of half-steps.

After intermission, Hahn filled the hall with Bach, her tone at its richest all evening. Avner Dorman’s labyrinthine “Memory Games,” based on the memory game Simon, and Gillian Whitehead’s “Torua,” written in the wake of New Zealand’s Christchurch earthquake, offered gorgeous and palatable social and historical commentary.

Ending the concert with an energetic performance of Brahms, Hahn noted that the piece fit well with her commissioning project — it was intended to be the second movement of a collaborative sonata, written with Albert Dietrich and Robert Schumann. After a standing ovation, she returned for her official encore, “Largo” (1910), by Charles Ives.


Hilary Hahn and the encore: What's that again?

-- Erica Zora Wrightson

[For the record, Nov. 3, 10:35 a.m.:  An earlier version of this review incorrectly said this concert was the third stop on Hahn's tour.]

Photo: Hilary Hahn's recital with pianist Valentina Lisitsa at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times