VC INTERVIEW | Hilary Hahn's New Suzuki Violin Recordings

VC recently sat down with American violinist Hilary Hahn to discuss her latest project, the recording of the Suzuki violin books 1-3, with pianist Natalie Zhu

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Hi Hilary, can you please tell us about your experience in the Suzuki School as a child?

I started with Suzuki after seeing a sign outside a music school advertising “Music Lessons for 4-year-olds.” I loved the combination of individual instruction and group classes. They helped me see that progress is truly made if you practice everyday, and you can be a leader in your own world even if you aren’t an expert yet.

 

What are some of your most memorable moments and most beneficial aspects of your training?

I exclusively did the Suzuki method for about a year and a half, and then I transitioned to a teacher who added other repertoire and influences. The Suzuki studies taught me the lifelong habit of listening to recordings of pieces I’m currently working on. 

 

Why do you think Suzuki is so successful around the world?

It’s very adaptable to individual teachers, students, and families. That’s how it can find its place in so many countries. Each studio has its own personality within the larger, international community.

 

Are there things you learned from Suzuki’s teaching that you still do everyday?

Every note I play started with the Twinkle Variations!

 

Did the experience of recording these books bring back positive memories? Tell us about this. 

Yes. I have great fondness for these pieces. There’s an emotional association to familiarity, especially when we hear something we’ve known almost our whole lives. It all came flooding back while I was playing the books again.

I learned a lot about Dr. Suzuki’s methods while preparing the recording. It’s one thing to be a student, another to understand the ideas as a grownup! I am awed by Dr. Suzuki’s foresight in creating the method, in adapting repertoire and setting up the entire violin technique from the first note. As you progress through the pieces and the books, details you learned early on show up in more advanced forms. In addition, there are traditions to playing these pieces that are meant to introduce phrasing concepts before you even know what phrasing is.

It was fascinating to learn those things and I wanted to make sure that I highlighted the proper concepts musically and technically for the students who would be listening.

 

How did you tackle the recording process?

Because the Suzuki recordings have both duo tracks and separate piano tracks for study purposes, we needed to record in separate rooms at the same time. Pianist Natalie Zhu and I could hear each other over headphones, and see each other through a small window. For every other subtle cue, we relied on our intuition built from decades of experience as duo recital partners.

Allen Lieb, CEO of the International Suzuki Association and a leading pedagogue in the method, was there for feedback on Suzuki teaching and performance style. Representatives from the publisher, Alfred Music, were in the booth supervising the sessions as well. It was a great team altogether, and it felt like we were working to create something beautiful for the students.

 

What made you decide you wanted to be a part of this project?

When the Suzuki Association invited me to record these books, I was very honored. I imagined all of the little kiddos and grownup beginners around the world who would be listening, just as I did when I was 4 years old. It felt right for me to make these recordings. I was glad to be part of the intergenerational musical cycle.

 

 

The recordings are available digitally via Amazon music, Alfred Music, and the SmartMusic learning platform. Physical copies of The Suzuki Violin School International Editions are available as Violin Part Book, Piano Accompaniment Book, Violin Part Book & CD, and CD only, and can be purchased via most online retailers including Amazon, as well as in-person at music shops around the world.