Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Two of my female idols are both named Hilary. There's Hillary Clinton, and Hilary Hahn. Nowadays, rarely a day begins without first perusing Hilary Hahn's journal. I imagine myself following her around in the adventures she so vividly describes; I get farblondget with Hilary in airports, I sort through heaps of glamorous concert dresses on hotel beds with her, and delve into demanding works, such as the Spohr Concerto #8, a neglected but rapturous composition.

To me, and to many others, Hahn represents the epitome of today's young violinists. Unlike most of her peers, Hilary Hahn conveys the beauty of music without affectation or histrionics; you won't see her sniffing armpits on stage, stomping wildly during tutti entrances, or flicking those famous golden locks while launching into pyrotechnical passages. There won't be a lunge to the finish of a composition like a race-horse. Hilary acts as a medium through which composers reappear on stage, front and center.

I think Hilary Hahn's journal should be required reading for all youngsters interested in classical music. An underlying message Hilary sends her young readers is that it's cool to love great music, and to keep a wealth of varied interests: languages, whitewater rafting, literature, hiking, friendships, traveling to far-away places, and writing are a few of hers.
What a role model; Hilary Hahn, an ambassador for classical music.

A sticky situation arises when a starry-eyed stage parent insists that his/her child is another Hilary Hahn. I've grappled with this issue on a number of occasions, and have known a few individuals, both past and present, who have suffered the fate of over-zealous parenting; exploitation the destroyer of many fine talents. I can only caution these parents and their children; there's only one Hilary Hahn as there was only one Jascha Heifetz, and he scorned stage parents for abusiveness, refusing them entry into his studio. Violinist Lilit Gampel, a former child prodigy, presented an example of the hurried child, the child turned into a commodity. I'm going to link this post to a thought-provoking article I found from the San Francisco Classical Voice while doing research for my own memoir, as I feel I was exploited as a youngster. In fact, Lilit and I became close friends during her year in Seattle as a Fulbright scholar at the University of Washington. We compared notes about the hazards of early concertizing. Lilit bounced back, thankfully, and appears to be enjoying a versatile musical life in New York City these days.

Postscript: I looked up the name Hilary to find it's meaning. Hilary means cheerful. And my husband's middle name is Ilari. Hilary without the H. What do you think of that?

1 comment:

  1. I babysat for LIlit when she was young. I was only 15, but I will never forget my thoughts about her mother. I thought the mother was manipulative and unfair when it came to the 2 children.