“Ask Augustin”

Portrait of violinist Augustin Hadelich

(Photo: Suxiao Yang)

Christoph Streuli had only switched on the radio by chance, but what the Philharmoniker violinist heard was so extraordinary that he stayed tuned: it was the German-American violin virtuoso Augustin Hadelich. In October, he will give three concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker.

The Philharmoniker’s Alessandro Cappone, also a violinist, had a similar experience to Streuli. He was surfing the internet to see “what the young people were doing” – then he came across Hadelich. “He’s a great musician, has a tone as clear as a bell and pinpoint intonation. He also creates music that is uniquely personal.” Cappone then also suggested inviting Augustin Hadelich to Berlin. On 7 October, he will make his debut with the orchestra with Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto – a performance that Streuli and Cappone are not the only ones eagerly awaiting.

Augustin Hadelich is currently causing a stir in the music world, no longer just in his adopted home country of the USA, but increasingly in Europe as well. Hadelich began his career as a kind of child prodigy, releasing his first CDs at the age of 13. But when you hear him talk about his beginnings today, it sounds completely unexciting and has nothing at all of a circus or trained poodle about it.

Youth in Italy

Hadelich was born in Italy to German parents who ran a farm and winery in Tuscany. Music played a big role in the family: “My earliest memory of playing the violin is practising under an olive tree as a five-year-old while my parents were harvesting,” he says. However, he rejects the idea that his childhood was idyllic. “I didn’t know many things that others took for granted. We didn’t have a television, and there were no computer games, but the silence and peace compensated for that. You could devote yourself to music or reading. It taught me to concentrate on one thing at a time.”

He became painfully aware of how important violin playing was to him when he suffered serious injuries in a fire in 1999 and for a long time it was not clear whether he could ever become a professional violinist. But Hadelich fought his way back, with courage, energy and absolute willpower.

Flawlessness and personal timbre

Since 2020, Hadelich has been playing the Polish virtuoso Henryk Szeryng’s Guarneri del Gesù “Le Duc”. “Henryk Szeryng was a role model for all of us in terms of the flawlessness of his playing. That his instrument is now entrusted to someone who also has a special sense for the violin tone is wonderful,” thinks Christoph Streuli. Hadelich loves the sound of “Le Duc”, “it’s warm and human, like a voice with a very personal timbre”, he adds. His versatility in the repertoire is also something Christoph Streuli finds remarkable: “For the free programme in 2018, Hadelich presented the Caprices by Paganini. They are a milestone for all violinists, you have to pit yourself against the giants, and Hadelich did that brilliantly. But he also recorded Ligeti’s violin concerto, an insanely difficult piece, and he has produced an exciting tango record.”


Studied at the Istituto Mascagni in Livorno and the New York Juilliard School
2006 Winner of the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis
2009 Awarded the Avery Fisher Career Grant
2016 Grammy for his recording of Dutilleux' Violin Concerto L'Arbre des songes
2018 Soloist of the Year in the magazine Musical America 

What fascinates Alessandro Cappone about Hadelich on the other hand is that “he achieves something tremendous without making much of a spectacle. He has no need to cater to clichés and come on stage in extravagant outfits, but dedicates himself entirely to the music”. It is fitting that Hadelich intensively studied Bach during the corona pandemic: “This music is balm for the soul, it gives comfort and joy, it builds you up,” he adds. And then he also started a podcast tutorial, “Ask Augustin”, where he answers all kinds of technical and professional questions. You can find out how he deals with stage fright: “My tip is to breathe mindfully and deeply. And to know at which points in the piece you breathe.  You can never behave like an animal that freezes in the headlights and can’t move.” So he is well prepared for his debut with the Philharmoniker. And also in Berlin, he will have no difficulty finding a good plate of pasta which, as a well-established ritual, he always eats at lunchtime before his concerts.

Susanne Stähr

From the current issue of Phil – Das Magazin der Berliner Philharmoniker.