Sunday, April 03, 2011

A Case for HAHN-BIN

I must admit that I was really not looking forward to playing a concert with HAHN-BIN (his name is spelled in all capital letters) as the soloist (I wrote something about him last month). He played Sarasate's Carmen Fantasie and Ziegeunerweisen.

He came to rehearsal in full makeup, and his rehearsal makeup was not the same as his concert makeup (the concert makeup was far more subdued). He has a fantastic violin (made just last year in Michigan) that has a huge sound. It sounds particularly wonderful in the extreme high register, the extreme low register, and when playing harmonics and left-hand pizzicato, so it's perfect for Sarasate. And he is indeed a very solid fiddle player and an effective performer.

I would not go to a concert because of the soloist's looks (that's just me), but I do believe that his "look" drew people to the concert who would otherwise not go. Many were young people. The house was nearly full, and the audience REALLY responded to HAHN-BIN's Sarasate. A positive audience response is nothing to scoff at. I thought we did a fine job accompanying him (not an easy task when much of the accompaniment consists of off-beats moving through periods of constant rubato), but the audience just took our contribution for granted, and they applauded the soloist. That is what this music is all about.

I don't know if I would like to hear him play Bach or Beethoven or Mozart, but he's not presenting himself (or his management is not presenting him) as that kind of violinist. They are presenting him as a celebrity of sorts. Not everyone can go the pure class and route like Augustin Hadelich (HAHN-BIN's polar opposite, perhaps) and get hired as a soloist.

The thing is that he delivers what he promises to deliver. We really shouldn't judge him on anything besides what we see and hear. What we see takes considerable work and skill (diet, make-up, exercise, practice), and what we hear takes considerable work and skill (Sarasate requires serious technique). If the sound were less than beautiful, I could criticize it; if the playing were out of rhythm, I could criticize that; if he didn't play in tune, I could criticize that; and if the sound didn't project, I could criticize that. I can't criticize him on any of those counts.

I was not terribly impressed by his YouTube videos, but in real life music sounds different from the way it sounds through a computer. You can't actually hear the projecting qualities of an instrument or of a violinist (or any musician) in a recording. Isn't this kind of thing as good a case as any for actually going to a concert to hear music rather than "getting" all of your musical experiences from videos on computers or through engineered recordings?

N.B. The fiddle looks (and sounds) like it might have been made by Joseph Curtin, but that's just a guess. Does anybody know for sure?


Anonymous said...

My daughter has been taking piano lesson for 5 years (she is 10 year old now) and she did well for a few piano recitals. But she seemed lost her passion to practice piano in the last 6 month. Is it important to have her practice over and over to reach the perfect level set by her teacher?

Elaine Fine said...

This is a complicated matter that you should address with your daughter. I would consider your goals for her and her goals for herself, and then discuss the matter with her teacher. I cannot give advice when I know nothing about the people involved.

Anonymous said...

I had the privilege to hear Augustin play last week in Vancouver and I was blown away. No YouTube video will ever be able to capture the magic of his performance. He got standing ovation and I literally cried while he performed. Couldn't agree more with your comments on class and quality. Real artists don't need 'noise' to make a statement.