The encore: a powerful tool for concert performers

Posted on: January 12, 2015

“In the overstructured, overdetermined world of classical music, encores embody something too frequently missing: surprise,” writes Zachary Woolfe in Sunday’s (1/11) New York Times, surveying the history of the practice and drawing examples from such contemporary performers as Hilary Hahn, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Yuja Wang, Daniil Trifonov, and Gilles Vonsattel. Encores are “among the most potent tools a concert artist wields.… An encore can extend the mood of the written program, or subvert it. A new work can get another hearing a matter of minutes after the first. Virtuosity can be tested, unknown depths revealed. An encore can memorialize a composer—at Carnegie Hall in 2012, the pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard movingly played the gentle ‘Fratribute’ by Elliott Carter, who had died a couple of weeks before—or a princess.” (The death of Princess Diana in 1997 led Salonen to substitute “Nimrod” from Elgar’s Enigma Variations for the “Circus Polka” as his Proms encore.) Woolfe notes that violinist Hahn, “to address the paucity of short solo options for her instrument … has commissioned 27 new ones in the last few years.” The resulting CD, In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores, has received a Grammy nomination.

Posted January 12, 2015