TROY — Violinist Hilary Hahn has always gone her own way. It’s a path that has garnered her much success and numerous awards, including two Grammy Awards, for a repertoire that spans almost every age and style.
Her independent streak and great versatility were on full display Wednesday night at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in the final concert of the Troy Chromatic Concerts series.
The concert, part of a two-month recital tour with pianist Cory Smythe, featured pieces from the Baroque to new music that are rarely heard as well as two that Hahn had commissioned as part of her 27 encore piece project. She also announced the order of pieces and spoke with great charm about each one.
They began with Arnold Schoenberg’s “Phantasy” (1949) that Hahn said had its emotions in the forefront and was “one big gesture.” The violin part was spatially abstract with plucking, double stops and sudden changes of volume against a pointillistic piano. She had a real feel for the style and played with passion, a big tone and a propulsive freneticism to the end.
In complete contrast was Schubert’s “Fantasia in C Major.” Against piano tremolos, Hahn played the lonely, sustained lines at the top of her tone. The second movement was brighter, more boisterous with each part sharing equally. Smythe was superb with an agile fluid touch, provided excellent balances and was in complete simpatico. Hahn spun out the other two movements’ songs with great elegance and changes of tone.
She returned after intermission to play alone and from memory Telemann’s “Fantasia No. 6 in E minor.” Each of the sections showed off her intelligent phrasing and vivacious manner. Then she switched gears for Welsh composer Richard Barrett’s “Shade” with Smythe. Calling it “a micro-sonata,” this “encore” had Hahn playing difficult lines over the full range in short gestures, a plucked note here and there, scratchy high flurries and many harmonics. Smythe played tone clusters or some quick passages with the pedal held down. Everything was precise.
In Spanish composer Anton Abril’s “Three Sighs,” the second, which was a Hahn solo, was a world premiere. All three were evocative with lustrous passages, hints of a tango and very romantic.
The finale was Mozart’s Sonata in A Major (1778). Hahn, who played from memory, made bold statements that were beautifully nuanced in the outer sections but played with a more delicate feathery tone in the lightly tuneful inner movements. Balances were terrific and Smythe got several solo chances to show off his nimble technique.
The large crowd gave them a standing ovation and received an encore called “Mercy” by Max Richter, which had long, sad lines that built to soar with great poignancy.