For violinist Augustin Hadelich, the spotlight shines brighter at 32

Augustin Hadelich is in concert with the Los Angeles Philharmonic this week.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

There was a period not long ago in violinist Augustin Hadelich’s career when he was making his name substituting for indisposed soloists with major orchestras.

That’s how he made his Hollywood Bowl debut in 2008 — parachuting in for Julian Rachlin in the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 2. He did so again in 2014 for his Walt Disney Concert Hall debut; that time, his ailing colleague was Christian Tetzlaff and the piece was the Beethoven concerto.

But now Hadelich, 32, in demand as one of the best violinists of his generation, has a schedule crowded enough that he doesn’t have nearly as much time for last-minute gigs. When he plays Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 at Disney Hall on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with conductor Krzysztof Urbanski and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, it will be as the scheduled soloist.

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The Tuscany-born Hadelich also is assembling an interesting catalog of recordings. He is featured prominently in the Seattle Symphony’s excellent recent boxed set of the complete orchestral works of Henri Dutilleux, and he is slowly working on a complete set of Paganini’s devilishly difficult 24 Caprices; he’s got eight in the can and the whole set is due to come out in 2018.


The busy violinist recently talked by phone from Hawaii, where he had just finished playing Lalo’s “Symphonie Espagnole” with the Hawaii Symphony and was enjoying some beach time before flying into California.

You are playing Mozart’s Concerto No. 5, often called the “Turkish” Concerto for its exotic-sounding insert in the finale. Why do you suppose that Mozart put that wild interlude into the finale out of context?

He was trying to to insert something folksy for the sake of variety. You go from the castle to the street and back. But it’s important to remember that when people heard Turkish music, it was only 90 years since the Turks invaded Vienna in 1683. It was fun and exciting but it was also scary; it was supposed to sound wild and dangerous. It isn’t exactly Turkish music; it’s a little bit like the music from “The Abduction From the Seraglio.” It was how the Viennese imagined Turkish music, I guess.

You have written your own cadenzas for the concerto. What should audiences expect?

Nothing too crazy! I started writing because I was frustrated that most of the cadenzas out there were so Romantic — a real departure from the Mozart style. It’s not going to sound like Mozart, but if there is going to be a departure from Mozart, it might as well be my own. You have to take inventory of all the themes of the piece and you have to do a pretty thorough analysis before you start writing. There’s a theme in the development that’s a very dramatic moment and it only happens once, so I bring it back in the cadenza so you can hear it a second time. What I find daunting about Mozart is that [his pieces] have such perfect shape that whatever you write in the cadenza can upset that balance.

How did you first discover the music of Dutilleux?

I heard about it from other musicians. I liked the colors of his music very much. You can draw the line from Ravel to Dutilleux — beautiful colors, beautiful turns of phrases. It came about because the Seattle Symphony wanted to record [the Violin Concerto] and they asked me if I was interested and I immediately jumped on board because I was looking for an excuse to play it. I can’t imagine a better group to play it with; they [had already] played so much of it so the language of it was second nature to them. So it was very easy for me.

I think that Dutilleux was always a composer who was championed by players, as opposed to academia. That’s kind of unique among composers in the second half of the 20th century. He had a very tough time because of Boulez making his life quite difficult. But he lived a long time, and eventually his music was held in higher regard than that of Boulez.

How do you find the time to practice or learn new music with such a busy schedule?

I always find time. I’ve gotten much better in that I can do much more in much less time. Most works I’m performing I’ve played many times over many years. Each time I pick them up, it goes much easier than the previous time. But when works are less familiar, I have to look at the schedule and see how much is too much. I’m learning the Bernstein Serenade, so I’m going to set aside some time and work on that.

A few years ago, I was learning the Gyorgy Ligeti and Thomas Adès concertos at the same time and it was driving me a little bit nuts. Both pieces really pushed the envelope on things you never thought you could do on the violin. Actually, it’s very important to push yourself a little bit because if I played the same piece over and over and over, I find it hard to feel invested in the music. Some kind of boredom sets in, and I don’t want that to happen.

So when do we in L.A. get to hear you in a contemporary work?

That’s not up to me. It’s up to the orchestra and up to the conductor. They prefer to program the standard repertoire. To play something like Adès and Ligeti in L.A., that would be amazing.


L.A. Phil with Augustin Hadelich and Krzysztof Urbanski

Where: Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., L.A.

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $59-$190

Information: (323) 850-2000 or

Follow The Times’ arts team @culturemonster.


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