Baltimore Sun

On face value, Hahn-Bin delivers a new experience

A tuxedo seems like the one sartorial item that Hahn-Bin might not wear when this 24-year-old violinist appears for the Candlelight Concert Society on Saturday, Jan. 14, at 8 p.m. in Howard Community College's Smith Theatre.

This hotshot performer often favors a sleeveless black kimono, generously applied facial makeup and a towering black Mohawk hairdo. In what promises to be a fashion show of sorts, he is expected to make around 10 costume changes during Saturday's concert. It's enough to make Lady Gaga go gaga.


If you're starting to wonder whether this is a classical music concert we're talking about, well, it is. Hahn-Bin will be accompanied by pianist John Blacklow in a program titled "Till Dawn Sunday." The program stitches together scores by 20 composers, including Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Piazzolla, Bartok, Gershwin and John Williams.

The violinist's musical selections, cutting-edge wardrobe and a handful of stage props may make the concert resemble a performance art event as much as a classical music concert. It's all in the service of freshening up the concert-going experience and making the music relevant for younger and non-traditional audiences. Whatever the eccentricities of the presentation, however, the music itself is played straight.


"His violin playing was outstanding, with perfect intonation," recalls Candlelight Concert Society's vice president and artistic director, Holly Thomas, who attended a Hahn-Bin concert in New York in 2009. "He truly is a musician's musician. If he wasn't a superb musician, I never would have booked him."

Thomas also was impressed by his stage presence during that concert, which was part of the career-boosting Young Concert Artists International Auditions.

"Artists get a little nervous during auditions, but he was very poised," she says.

For the record, the violinist wore a business suit at that New York concert; also for the record, his first prize victory at those auditions directly resulted in concert bookings, including this Columbia gig.

"I'm hoping he will appeal to a new audience and bring in people who may have never been to a chamber concert," Thomas says.

This appealingly different violinist has had a name-changing, identity-altering, fast-evolving career. Born Yoo Hanbin in Seoul, South Korea, he began his musical studies as a small child and at age 10 made his orchestral debut with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra.

In 1999, he moved to Los Angeles and studied with Robert Lipsett at the Colburn School. By way of showbiz exposure, he performed Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole at the Grammy Awards; and by way of early recognition by the classical music establishment, he was the recipient of the Guarneri del Gesu violin, valued at $3.5 million, from the Stradivarius Society of Chicago in 2000.

His studies really escalated when he was selected by the famous violinist Itzhak Perlman to study with him in New York; coincidentally, Perlman is performing with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall this weekend.


His nascent career took off in the early 21st century, with his first European tour in 2004 and first recording released in 2005. Hahn-Bin received his diploma from New York's Juilliard School in 2009. After winning the Young Artists International Auditions that same year, he made his New York debut at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall and his Washington debut at the Kennedy Center.

The violinist likes to put together thematically ambitious programs that typically combine a classical composer such as Frederic Chopin and a modern composer such as John Cage. One art-minded program, "Soliloquy for Andy Warhol," was done at New York's Museum of Modern Art. A Tibetan Buddhist-themed program, "The Five Poisons," has been done at museums around the country. Engagements in the months ahead include such prestigious venues as London's Royal Albert Hall and New York's Lincoln Center.

Hahn-Bin and John Blacklow perform Saturday, Jan. 14 at 8 p.m. in Howard Community College's Smith Theatre. Tickets are $30, $28 for seniors and $12 for students. Call 410-997-2324 or go to These performers also give a free performance and talk on Friday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. in HCC's Monteabaro Recital Hall; reservations are required for the talk. Hahn-Bin's Friday evening talk is part of "An Evening of Seduction in the Arts," which also includes a reception at 6 p.m. and a gallery talk by Rouse Company Foundation Gallery director Becky Bafford at 6:15 p.m. about a group exhibit titled "The Art of Seduction." Parental guidance is suggested for this program. Call 443-518-1500 or go to