A triumph for violinist Hilary Hahn in our worldwide public vote
Hilary Hahn is a formidable musician. She astonishes audiences in performance after performance and recording after recording with her superb technical prowess, refined good taste and intuitive musical understanding. As her recent magnificent recording – of Schoenberg and Sibelius concertos with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen – shows, she is able instinctively to combine a highly assured virtuoso ability with a deeply thoughtful engagement with the score. “When the last chord sounds its full stop, the sense of satisfied finality is exhilarating,” reviewer Rob Cowan said. “No violinist currently performing makes a lovelier sound.”
Our Artist of the Year winners tend to be singled out as musicians who are not afraid – indeed, invariably intrigued, and off their own bat – to move beyond the classical core repertory and into fascinating and stimulating hinterlands. Not content with performing the major masterpieces around the world, Hahn recently tried her hand at improvisation. The star soloist said she found her knees shaking and that the experience made her “think differently about classical music”. But that’s also an apt description of what this technically awe-inspiring, wonderfully imaginative violinist has been doing now for a number of years. It was difficult to choose just three recordings from her discography to illustrate this, but all three are highly recommended insights into her music-making. And such is her energetic globetrotting that the American violinist – shortly to turn 29 – is bound to appear at a venue near you. She can claim to have visited more than 240 cities in 33 countries and lived in at least 599 hotel rooms!
The runner-up was soprano Anna Netrebko, while conductor Iván Fischer was third. The other musicians short-listed for the honour – selected by the Gramophone editorial team – were soprano Natalie Dessay, conductor Gustavo Dudamel, baritone Gerald Finley, tenor Rolando Villazón and pianists Paul Lewis, Marc-André Hamelin and Murray Perahia. As with last year, we sought to canvass as wide an opinion as possible so, in addition to the votes of Gramophone readers, we invited radio stations from around the world to promote the online poll. Participating stations were: WFMT (US), CBC (Canada), ABC Classic FM (Australia), Classic FM (UK) and Classic FM (South Africa).