‘Strings’ 30th Anniversary: 6 Questions with Violinist Hilary Hahn

Why is this an exciting time to be a string player?
Whatever kind of player you want to be, people who appreciate your playing can discover you and encourage you.

What kinds of skills do you think a string player needs in order to succeed in the 21st century?
Skills: Whatever is needed in order to play the music. Traits: Curiosity, focus, friendliness, and joy in collaboration. All else is style.

What do you think audiences expect from string performers today?
The same thing they hope for from every performer: a transporting, live listening experience that intensifies whatever the audience needs to feel in that moment.


How do you expect string playing to change over the course of the next 20 years? What changes would you like to see?
I don’t know what to expect. I’d rather be surprised. It will be interesting to see how the next generations are influenced by the wide availability of video content from so many performers. Given all of the available resources, I would like to see a return to an older style of technique and tone production from some players, and a development of current techniques from others. In short, I would like to see the whole range of possibilities represented.

What’s the best piece of career (or musical) advice you ever got?
Though it wasn’t said to me, I often think of the Picasso quote, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

If you wanted someone to fall in love with string music, what’s the first recording you would recommend he or she listen to?
To fall in love? Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” in its original quartet form, played by the Emerson String Quartet. Listen in a dark room without moving, eyes closed for the whole 7 minutes.