Charlotte Gardner attends the performance of Barber, Copland, Carlos Simon, Jennifer Higdon and Jessie Montgomery at London’s Wigmore Hall on 20 June 2023 


Hilary Hahn and Kaleidoscope: a fitting finale. Photo: courtesy The Wigmore Hall Trust

Hilary Hahn concluded her Wigmore Hall residency with a concert of all-American repertoire for diverse forces. First was Carlos Simon’s piano trio, be still and know (2015) with pianist Tom Poster and cellist Tony Rymer, its serenely reflective wide-spaced chords and polytonality – capped by a single, dissonant, questioning, piano ‘plink’ – mesmerisingly referenced Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

Next, Jennifer Higdon’s Dark Wood (2001) was a feisty cornucopia of extended techniques pitting Amy Harmen’s bassoon against Poster, Hahn and cellist Laura van der Heijden. Then Barber’s String Quartet, Rymer back on cello, with violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez and Elena Urioste on second violin received a reading that reached fever pitch at the Adagio climax.

Jessie Montgomery’s Starburst (2012) – all the above strings players plus violinists Melissa White, Nathan Amaral and Graham Mitchell, violist Rosalind Ventris and bassist Graham Mitchell – sounded as per its title. Then finally Poster returned, plus clarinettist Carlos Ferreira and flautist Jane Mitchell, for Appalachian Spring; this was a performance full of polished warmth, generosity and a palpable pleasure in the music’s beauty and energy. There had been a crescendo of cheers all evening, but now came a rare Wigmore Hall standing ovation, answered by a tutti encore – Poster’s own Moon River arrangement, despatched with Hollywood-esque glossiness. In short, what a night!

Charlotte Gardner