Hadelich Explores New Possibilities for Performance

June 22, 2020

by Marc Shulgold

As the effects of the Covid-19 virus continue to alter life as we’ve known it, concert halls stand empty around the world, forcing touring musicians to rethink ways of sharing their artistry with audiences.

World-renowned violinist Augustin Hadelich is anxious to move beyond the now-standard approach of recording a sterile Youtube video at home. And he thinks he’s come up with a charming alternative.

Originally scheduled to play the Beethoven Concerto at the Colorado Music Festival this summer, Hadelich will now participate in the ambitious virtual festival – but in a relaxed, intimate way. Interspersed with pre-recorded solo performances recorded at the home of Festival Music Director Peter Oundjian, the two old friends will engage in a bit of spontaneous conversation.

“I keep looking for how we can present music performances,” the New York-based violinist says. “I’m really more of a traditionalist, so I’m not necessarily searching for something new. But, if I do find something different…”

After learning of the Boulder festival’s cancellation, Hadelich got in touch with Oundjian, who also resides in the Big Apple. “Peter told me he wanted to do something special, and suggested I visit his house and play some pieces. We both wanted to find a way to make this work.”

In late May, the two men starred in a video shot in Oundjian’s home, with the violinist’s wife manning two cameras, lights and a microphone. “We saw ourselves taking a leap into the 21st Century,” Hadelich jokes. Still, this was approached as a serious project. “Peter wanted to create a feeling of inviting viewers into his home for some music and conversation. But there was a danger in making this look too home-made,” he observes.

The resulting video includes about 25 minutes of solo playing by Hadelich (recorded separately from his chat with Oundjian). He’ll perform some Bach – the Siciliana and Presto from the First Sonata – the Sarabande from Belgian violinist/composer Eugène Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 4, and a true dazzler, guitar great Francisco Tarrega’s Recurerdos de la Alhambra.

Classical guitar fans know that work as a brilliant test of a player’s command of tremolo accompaniment underneath a gentle melody. In this arrangement by Ruggiero Ricci, those tremolos emerge through the tricky control of the violinist’s bouncing bow.

“Peter was quite intrigued by the piece, and was quite pleased to have me perform it,” Hadelich recalls. A few daring violinists have tackled the Tarrega as an encore, drawing dropped jaws and enthusiastic reactions from concert audiences. Not so in this intimate performance. But that’s life in the age of socially distanced concertizing.

Strange times indeed. “I’ve been at home for three months,” Hadelich says. “I can’t remember the last time I was home for that long. I’ve tried to stay active, but it’s been difficult for me to be so isolated. I’m so looking forward to playing with other musicians once again.”

He’ll have a start at that later this summer, when he travels to Tanglewood in western Massachusetts, for an hour-long recital with pianist Orion Weiss – without an audience. Looking far into the future, April of 2021, the violinist will premiere a new concerto by Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy, with the Oregon Symphony and, at last, a full concert hall.

For now, his live audience will be his wife and videographer, with hopes that home-based viewers will enjoy his brilliant musicianship and engaging personality. Hadelich understands that necessity is the mother of YouTube videos. “I’m actually starting to get pretty good at working in other formats. But this is not a replacement,” he cautions of his performances sans audiences. “This is not a substitute for the live concert experience. Performers are just finding ways to make this work, keeping the music going until normal life returns.”

Grammy-winning violinist Augustin Hadelich, an artist of “scarcely believable commitment” (New York Times), joins Music Director Peter Oundjian at his home for an intimate performance on Thursday, July 9 at 7:30 pm. Join the Virtual Festival (it’s free!) by visiting www.coloradomusicfestival.org/register.

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