Back to Bach at Tanglewood as Hilary Hahn Pushes in New Directions


United KingdomUnited Kingdom 2019 Tanglewood Music Festival [4] – J. S. Bach: Hilary Hahn (violin),  Seiji Ozawa Hall, Lenox, 10.7.2019 (CSa)

Hilary Hahn performing Bach at Ozawa Hall (c) Hilary Scott

Bach – Sonata No:2 in A minor, BWV 1003; Partita in E, BWV 1006; Sonata No: 3 in C, BWV 1005

‘It’s easy to be a prodigy’ Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award winning concert violinist Hilary Hahn once said, ‘but it’s really hard to keep pushing in new directions’. A paradox then, some might think, that Hahn has chosen to devote much of the last year to the six sonatas and partitas of JS Bach, which she has played with regularity since she was 9 years old, and has since recorded extensively. Yet Bach is an eternal wellspring of musical renewal, so Hahn’s return to this these profound sources of inspiration should be regarded as an exciting opportunity for personal development, and nothing less than a revelatory push in a new direction.

With perfect grace and poise, Hahn took her place on the platform of Tanglewood’s packed Ozawa Hall last week to play an all-Bach programme. Swaying gently, and moving her bowing arm with extraordinary fluidity, she played with an almost ethereal purity of tone and flawless phrasing. Starting with the Sonata No.2 in A minor, Hahn gave us a measured, introspective Grave followed by a dance-like but noble Fugue, in which contrapuntal melodies played simultaneously on different strings, appeared to sound as if they were being played on separate violins. An inexpressibly poignant Andante was followed by a brisk, sparking Allegro.

Hahn’s account of the famous Partita in E was a nuanced study in light and shade – at once exuberantly buoyant and achingly sad. It made one want to dance and cry at the same time, as only Bach’s music can.

The recital ended with a sublime rendition of the Sonata in C. The heart wrenching opening Adagio, with its rich harmonies and dissonances, rang out with rare intensity. The energetic Fugue was magnificently played – a triumph of contrapuntal skill. The serene Largo provided a much-needed moment of tranquillity before the final movement, a joyful Allegro assai played at lightning speed.

‘One can’t fake things in Bach’ Hilary Hahn once claimed, ‘and if one gets all of them to work, the music sings in a most wonderful way’. The music certainly sang wonderfully for those of us lucky enough to be present at this unforgettable Tanglewood recital, and to witness an extraordinary musician finding new directions in her return to Bach.

Chris Sallon


Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

  • UPDATED ONLINE NEWS! IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) PANDEMIC __________________________________
  • NEW! BBC Proms turns 125 years old – 17 July to 12 September 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera North in 2020-2021 – postponements and plans __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Glyndebourne Festival Opera opens for a 2020 summer season __________________________________
  • NEW! Baritone Federico Longhi’s Rigoletto is part of Parma’s June Verdian renaissance __________________________________
  • NEW! 69th Wexford Festival Opera – 11 to 18 October 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Dresden’s Semperoper reopens with Anna Netrebko on 19 June __________________________________
  • NEW! Berlin’s Pierre Boulez Saal in 2020-21 __________________________________
  • NEW! LMP’s first UK chamber orchestra performances since Covid-19 struck __________________________________
  • NEW! Oxford Lieder Festival – 10-17 October 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Metropolitan Opera (2020–)2021 season update __________________________________
  • NEW! Royal Opera House announces first live concert since beginning of lockdown __________________________________
  • NEW! Semi-staged Das Rheingold on Deutsche Oper Berlin’s parking deck from 12 June __________________________________
  • NEW! A breath of fresh air: Opera Holland Park announces 2021 season __________________________________
  • NEW! Grange Park Opera’s 2020 Found Season – 4 June to 12 July __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2020 Salzburg Festival – 1 to 30 August __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival’s 2020 online series of concerts and talks __________________________________
  • The Singapore Symphony in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

  • NEW! We’ll be back! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra weathering the Covid-19 storm __________________________________
  • NEW! World Ballet School Day – inaugural edition 7 July 2020 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Longborough Festival Opera launches podcast and extraordinary generosity of the audience __________________________________
  • NEW! The Music Critics Association of North America Best New Opera Award to Blue __________________________________
  • NEW! Lincoln Center honors Pride with a light installation on its iconic plaza __________________________________
  • R.I.P. Dame Vera Lynn (1917-2020): Did we really need Vera Lynn during the war? __________________________________
  • NEW! What price Sherlock Holmes? __________________________________
  • NEW! BBC to show the ROH’s first post-lockdown performance and their other recent music news __________________________________
  • NEW! Woody Allen comes back fighting with a book and A Rainy Day in New York __________________________________
  • NEW! Educating Rita, says who? __________________________________
  • NEW! 2020 Three Choirs Festival – postponed __________________________________
  • NEW! Need to escape reality? Enter into the magical world of composer David Hertzberg __________________________________
  • NEW! BTHVN2020 – Beethoven anniversary goes into overtime __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month