Sure, trained musicians play most music from memory. But it isn’t everyday that a mandolin player busts into Bach. Especially one from Nickel Creek.
Chris Thile and Hilary HahnCity: New York
Venue: Housing Works Used Bookstore and Cafe
Many people only know classical music from high school orchestra concerts. For others, public television’s “Live at Lincoln Center” is the closest they’ve been to a concert hall. Having the time and patience to sit through a 15-minute violin solo or a 30-minute symphony is a virtue these days, and it’s also something less and less people are doing on a regular basis. But, it’s a task that can be well worth the undertaking if a person is in the right mood and has enough background to understand and recognize brilliant music when it’s being performed. Music aficionados, especially those who love indie rock or hip-hop, are often overwhelmed by new music. There isn’t enough time to hear everything, and, occasionally, one feels the need to put down the iPod and just take a break. Classical music, in this case, might serve as an audible breather, a reminder of what pure songs really sound like. The producers behind the Housing Works Used Bookstore and Café in New York taught a group of bluegrass fans this lesson by pairing popular mandolin player Chris Thile (of bluegrass trio Nickel Creek) with 25-year-old violin prodigy Hilary Hahn -- a woman who made her first classical recording at 17. I’ll admit: Thile was the reason I was at the show myself. I’d never heard of Hahn. The 25-year-old Thile, considered a prodigy himself when he began playing at 12, is known for his impeccable fingering and string work. Perhaps the most popular mainstream bluegrass group behind Alison Krauss and Union Station, Nickel Creek display an impeccable balance of pop intelligence and integrity. Thile started the show with a solo performance of an unreleased, untitled instrumental song and the single “Stay Away” from How to Grow.... While he joked and made fun of himself between songs, his music showed countless tones of emotion, from longing and yearning to bittersweet happiness and outright comedy.