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Music

Music Review

Hilary Hahn at her most poised and polished

Hilary Hahn

KARSTEN MORAN FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES/FILE

Hilary Hahn (pictured here in Newark, N.J., last month) performed a program that included nine encores, part of a group of 27 commissioned by the violinist.

The great violinist Mischa Elman once defended his fans' fondness for encores by joking that, by the end of the concert, he was finally warmed up and ready to play. By that measure, Hilary Hahn's recital at Jordan Hall on Friday was the epitome of preparedness. Interspersed throughout Hahn's program were nine encores, part of a group of 27 commissioned by the violinist, a fresh supply of such appendant repertoire.

Reflecting both the nature of encores and, perhaps, current compositional practice, most of the new encores came in genre packaging. “First Sigh” and “Third Sigh,” by Spanish composer Antón Garcia Abril, were languid arabesques with hints of Latin rhythms, spinning off coils of decoration. Kala Ramnath's “Aalap and Tarana” was a bewitching dose of Indian color, accompanied by sitar-like inside-the-piano string buzzing. In “Ford's Farm,” Mason Bates offered fiddle music of unusual intricacy if familiar, rootsy accent; a Chinese vernacular informed Du Yun's “When a Tiger Meets a Rosa Rugosa,” sliding, wavering lines bumping up against bristling torrents of notes.

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Film composer James Newton Howard's “133. . .At Least” was recognizably cinematic, but also scrupulously crafted, a fast-slow-fast sketch of discerning timing. Jeff Myers more loosely stalked a handful of athletically jagged avian motives in “The Angry Birds of Kauai.” That pattern — succinct evocations pushed in virtuosic directions — extended to the experimental aggression of Elliott Sharp's “Storm of the Eye” and the looping, perpetual-motion clockwork of David Lang's “Light Moving.”

Throughout, Hahn was an unflappably confident advocate. The core of her technique is precision and refinement — elegant sound; frictionless, clean bowing and intonation; polished, rounded-off phrasing. Pianist Cory Smythe brought similar qualities: a light, even touch, satiny harmonies, and a continuously pearly percolation. Both Arcangelo Corelli's Opus 4 Sonata in F major — the Italian Baroque at its most lyrical — and Gabriel Fauré's Opus 13, A-major Sonata — French Romanticism at its most suave — maintained an unfailingly graceful posture. Even the monumental Chaconne from J. S. Bach's D-minor solo violin Partita (BWV 1004) was finely spun and even intimate, each variation less another stone in the facade than another path through the garden.

The duo added one more encore in the usual location. Richard Barrett's “Shade” was, in some ways, the most interesting of the bunch, its jittery harmonics and piano clusters like a poltergeist knocking over chairs in the house of music. The performance was characteristic — even Hahn's mischief is poised.

Matthew Guerrieri can be reached at matthewguerrieri
@gmail.com
.

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