Hilary Hahn

Walking into Hilbert Circle Theatre this Saturday, there was a buzzing, youthful energy reverberating through the main lobby that I’ve rarely felt there before. Words like “transcendent” and “virtuoso” could be picked out from the excited conversations of attendants – many of them students carrying violin cases of their own.

Three-time Grammy® Award-winning violinist Hilary Hahn spent October 7–9 at Hilbert Circle Theater with the ISO to perform Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 1 in D Major for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 19. The concerto was the second of three pieces in an all-Prokofiev program by Maestro Krzysztof Urbański, also featuring Symphony No. 1, Op. 25 and Suite from Romeo and Juliet.

This was not Hahn’s first time in Indianapolis. She’s performed alongside the ISO three times before and most recently, graced Indy with a solo recital at the Palladium in 2011. For Hoosiers who have followed Hahn’s two decade-long career (perhaps via her clever Instagram account @violincase), Saturday night’s performance delivered exactly what we’ve come to expect from the classical celebrity – bold confidence on stage and technical perfection on her strings.

Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 1 is an intimidating piece, marked with memorable dissonance, deep thematic contrasts and runs that span the entire landscape of the violin. It’s these elements – harmonics, double and triple stops, fast pizzicato – that give the piece a thrilling, eerie quality that was heightened further by Hahn’s hauntingly good interpretation.

At the end of the second movement, after a difficult section of harmonics, the soloist and the orchestra finish the movement in unison at the top of an abrupt crescendo. With a flourish of the bow and a face that communicated nothing but pure concentration, Hahn reminded us that for her, a jaw-dropping performance is just another day on the job.

The concerto ended in a standing ovation and applause that brought Hahn back on stage three times before she indulged the audience with an encore: Bach’s Gigue from the Violin Partita No. 3 in E Major. With perfect execution, she reminded us all why we came to the symphony the first place – to experience something beautiful.

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