Dispatch from the Used Book Cafe
Tonight’s joint performance at the Used Book Café by Hilary Hahn and Chris Thile was an essay in the satisfactions of virtuosity. Any concert-goer who can no longer thrill to the sound of lightning-fast fingers should go his or her way and leave the rest of us to our fun. For sure technique is not all. And for sure the steps to acquiring a technique that can thrill are becoming more brutal and inhuman to mount by the year. And, also for sure, much that is essential to extraordinary music making is often lost on the climb. Some may even grumble that Hahn and Thile fly only so high as they do because they travel light.
But tonight, sitting through solo and duet renditions of Bach, Tartini, Bob Dylan, Fiona Apple, and others, one happily forgot the old complaints about virtuosity and sat back contentedly in the rush of arpeggios, trills, tremolos, and scales. One smiled at the clear joy Hahn and Thile took in collaborating with a fellow musical athlete of the first caliber, someone who could play along tight no matter how blazing the tempos dared. This isn’t to say the country whiz kid winging his way through the classics and the conservatory prodigy tentatively testing the waters of folk music always made for an effortless couple: Thile’s Bach got pretty runny, and Hahn’s bluegrass was a little green. But the super-abundance of talent on display more than made up for the moments of musical awkwardness. Hahn and Thile charmed and dazzled through the evening, and we all cheered. Both artists have new CDs out, and let’s hope they both sell lots and lots of them.
P.S. On a more somber note, Tower Records is officially breathing its last. I’m not up for a eulogy tonight (lectures yet to prep); but the “Going Out of Business” signs in the windows of the grand store by Lincoln Center are making me feel a little bummed.