SALT LAKE CITY — Violinist William Hagen was just 9 years old when he debuted with the Utah Symphony.
The youngest performer in the 2001 annual Salute to Youth concert, Hagen performed the first movement of Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in G minor.
Nearly 16 years later, it’s a performance he still vividly remembers.
“I was so, so excited,” he wrote in an email. “Playing for that big audience with the beautiful sound of the orchestra supporting me was an incredible feeling. I still remember specific moments of the performance, like when after I had finished playing and taking my bows, I made a little hand motion to (conductor) Keith Lockhart to ask if we should leave the stage. That got a lot of laughs, both from the audience and the orchestra.”
Hagen has come a long way since his first Salute to Youth concert.
The now 24-year-old violinist — who participated in Salute to Youth three times — placed third in 2015’s Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition in Brussels, Belgium, and has performed with a number of orchestras in the states and abroad. But Hagen is excited to return to the stage where it all began next weekend.
On Nov. 3 and 4, the violinist will perform works from Camille Saint-Saens and Maurice Ravel alongside the Utah Symphony at Abravanel Hall. The musician shared his musical background and thoughts about the upcoming concert with the Deseret News.
Hagen expressed his gratitude for experiences such as Salute to Youth that provided him opportunities at an early age to perform with a full, professional orchestra. From age 10-17, the violinist flew to Los Angeles weekly to study with Robert Lipsett at the Colburn School of Performing Arts.
After graduating from East High, he then got a chance to study with his “childhood hero” Itzhak Perlman.
For two years, Hagen took lessons from the renowned violinist at Juilliard School.
“I never got used to having Itzhak Perlman give me a private lesson,” he wrote. “Besides being a great musician, he is also as experienced as it gets. It was great to have a lesson on Beethoven Concerto with somebody who has played the piece hundreds of times with orchestras on every continent. ...Perlman helped me mature as a musician and had a very positive impact on my playing.”
In addition to bringing his wealth of experience to Abravanel Hall, Hagen is also bringing a unique sound to the stage, performing on a 1735 “Sennhauser” violin.
The Stradivari Society of Chicago loaned the violin to him last December, and Hagen has enjoyed the opportunities to perform on such a rare instrument — one of fewer than 10 known examples by violin-maker Guarneri del Gesu, according to the society’s website.
“I feel so lucky to play the 'Sennhauser,'" Hagen wrote. “It is an absolutely gorgeous violin. There is so much character in the sound — it sounds deeper and maybe a bit grittier than the average violin. I think a good way of describing the difference in sound is to compare it to singers: Ray Charles seems to have a deep voice, but he is a tenor and actually sings in a fairly high range, similar to somebody like Bruno Mars. They could be singing the exact same note, but Ray Charles will sound like he’s singing a deeper note, and he’ll have that gravelly sound, as opposed to a crystal clear sound like Bruno Mars. To my ear, that is the difference between a del Gesù like the 'Sennhauser' and other violins.”
Although Hagen is currently enjoying living in Europe and studying with German violinist Christian Tezlaff, he’s excited to visit his hometown and get another performance in with the Utah Symphony.
“I hope Utahns realize that the Utah Symphony is a really world-class ensemble that is doing really interesting, exciting things and sounding amazing,” he wrote. “I’m really looking forward to collaborating with this great orchestra!”
If you go
What: William Hagen with the Utah Symphony
When: Nov. 3-4, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple
How much: $15-$66