It is of great pleasure that I finally get down to writing a blog entry on classical music. When there is something that timeless, it’s easy to put the idea off to another day, and another day. Most of you may not know that deep inside of this metal head, rocker wannabe of mine is a passionate lover for the classical genre. I used to play clarinet for the Hong Kong Youth Orchestra, saxophone for my school band, and I used to be able to hum the melody of famous classical pieces from beginning to end, with my favorite being the five Mozart’s violin concertos. While boys were used to play games during school recess, my best friend and I would race to the piano and I got to hear him playing his grade 8 and subsequently diploma pieces, day after day, month after month, year after year. Before finally yielded to the temptation of pop music – thanks to Madonna’s album “Like a Virgin” – I listened to nothing but classical for all my life up to late teens.
Classical players interpret classical music. Of those whom I am familiar with, I enjoy listening to Hilary Hahn’s recording the most. One day, I may complete collecting all her albums. To be honest, if you were to line up two world class violinists side by side and ask me to opine on which one is better, I probably wouldn’t be able to do that. Having said that, I do believe that Hilary Hahn has great technique and such a versatile violinist she is, she has recorded the works of Bach, Beethoven, Barber, Meyer, Brahms, Stravinsky, Mendelssohn, Shostakovich, Elgar, Paganini, and Schoenberg since 1997. It is because each album comes with a personal note from Hilary Hahn herself, as well as a commendatory write-up on the history and the technique involved in the recorded piece of work, it is much easier to appreciate what goes into each album.
And I immensely enjoy reading Hilary Hahn’s journal at her website as well. If you are not into classical music or do not have the time and patience, you may not enjoy reading her rather long entries. It’s not all about rehearsals, live performances, and technical details. You get to read the different cultures she encountered during her International touring, the bizarre things that the crowd did, the dress that shrank after sent for dry cleanning right before the performance, and her thoughts on a huge crowd versus a small crowd that passionately loves her music. I used to think it is OK to film live performances using my own phone or camcorder. One time, Hilary Hahn actually stopped the performance halfway and gently requested one audience to switch off the recording device. To her, performing live is to be able to be librated from the recording environment and be spontaneous. In that sense, the artist doesn’t have to be conscious over recording and instead, plays for the moment. Now I understood.
“Mozart: Violin Sonatas” was released in 2005, coincided with the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. Hilary Hahn plays the violin while Natalie Zhu plays the piano. There are many good things to go for in this album. I love Mozart’s work, and I love hearing the sound of the violin and piano.
Mozart’s violin sonatas flavor melody over counterpoint giving each instrument an equal role. “Sonata in G major K. 301” was composed when Mozart was 22, full of joy he was, and it could well be inspired by his growing relationship with the Weber’s family’s daughter Aloysia whom he fell madly in love with. In the same year, his mother died in Paris with him by her side. An extremely painful period of his life and it shows in “Sonata in E minor K. 304” – the only violin sonata that is composed in a minor key. The second movement “Tempo di Menuetto” is my favorite Mozart violin sonata composition. It starts with a memorable melancholic melody by the piano, and then the violin takes over the lead role with piano as the accompaniment. The roles then reverse and two melodies emerge from each instrument as the movement continues. Familiar melancholic melody appears from time to time till the movement comes to an abrupt ending.
While both the K. 301 and K. 304 only has two movements, “Sonata in F minor K. 376” composed at the age of 25 comes with three. This sonata is a dedication to his pupil Josepha Auernhammer whom Mozart deeply admired as a pianist. Because of its graciously beautiful theme, I guess that is the reason why K. 376 has become the opening sonata for this album.
The last sonata of the album, “Sonata in A major K. 526”, signified the time when his father, his only teacher, died when Mozart was 31 years old, married with one child. It was not as sad as K.304 – the one that was composed when his mother passed away. Some say that it is a libration from paternal authority. I personally feel that it is an emotional piece that honors his father in one glorious gesture.
“Mozart: Violin Sonatas” is a collection of five violin sonatas composed in key moments of Mozart’s life. It is certainly one worth examining if you are into Mozart.
Related website: Hilary Hahn’s Official Site