Hilary Hahn returns to Utah to perform concerto by film-score legend

Music • Violinist joins Utah Symphony for a performance that also includes pieces by Mozart and Mahler.
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Hilary Hahn is one of the few violinists whose names are known beyond the classical-music world. The 32-year-old Virginia native has been able to expand her reach thanks to her crossover choices.

For example, she was a soloist on the Academy Award-nominated score for M. Night Shyamalan's 2004 thriller "The Village."

In 2007, she toured with Idaho-born singer-songwriter Josh Ritter.

And in 2010, Hahn appeared on "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien," in support of her album "Bach: Violin & Voice." Just consider how many times you've seen a classical performer on a late-night talk show.

In recent years, the young violinist has released albums bringing attention to composers such as Charles Ives and Jennifer Higdon. Now she's embarked on another innovative project, "In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores," which is aimed to expand the violin repertoire while engaging new fans.

Hahn commissioned 26 composers to write short-form pieces for acoustic violin and piano. She posted an open call for submissions on her website, which led to more than 400 composers submitting pieces.

The program of the Utah Symphony's Nov. 16 and 17 performances was built upon Hahn, who is only performing a handful of orchestra appearances this season. And in those guest appearances, she is only performing her current showpiece, Erich Wolfgang Korngold's Violin Concerto, said music director Thierry Fischer.

"She came two years ago and it was a wonderful collaboration," Fischer said. He booked her return visit "as soon as I heard she was free."

Korngold is another composer who has been largely forgotten by audiences, though cinephiles will recognize the name. He won the Academy Award for his score to the 1938 classic "The Adventures of Robin Hood." His 1936 score to "Anthony Adverse" also won the Oscar.

In 2005, the American Film Institute ranked Korngold's score for "The Adventures of Robin Hood" as No. 11 on its list of greatest film scores. His scores for 1939's "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex ,"1940's "Deception" and "The Sea Hawk" and 1942's "Kings Row" were also nominated for the list.

Although his legacy lives on in film history, Korngold was a composer for orchestras as well.

Since Fischer knew that Hahn would be showcasing the Korngold work, he programmed Gustav Mahler's unfinished Symphony No. 10. Both were Austrian composers, and they knew each other. A young Korngold played for Mahler in 1906, after which Mahler called him a "musical genius." And Korngold's Violin Concerto was dedicated to Alma Mahler, Gustav's widow.

When programming the third composition of the evening, Fischer said he thought of the reported last words said by Mahler on his deathbed: "Mozart! Mozart!"

Like Mahler and Korngold, Mozart was an Austrian composer. His Symphony No. 41 was the last symphony he composed, and Fischer speculated that the composer never heard it played before his death, just as Mahler never heard his Symphony No. 10 performed in his lifetime.



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More than 27 pieces: Hilary Hahn

The Utah Symphony invites an encore from guest violinist and crossover artist Hilary Hahn. Thierry Fischer conducts.

When • Friday and Saturday, Nov. 16-17, at 8 p.m.

Where • Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City

Tickets • $27-$77, at www.ArtTix.org or 801-355-2787