Gil Shaham Plays Walton’s Violin Concerto with NY Philharmonic in June

06.06.11
Gil Shaham
21C Media Group

From 21C Media Group

“Walton’s Violin Concerto might become your new favorite when you hear Gil Shaham.”   – Philadelphia Inquirer

This spring, violinist Gil Shaham has made William Walton’s Violin Concerto central to his long-term exploration of “Violin Concertos of the 1930s,” touring it across America to resounding critical applause.  His account of this technically demanding work with the Houston Symphony was “a goose-bump experience – an event to remember” (Houston Chronicle); with the Philadelphia Orchestra, “Shaham was in fighting form, treating the opening with an unusual tenderness” (Philadelphia Inquirer); with the Milwaukee Symphony, “he grinned and bobbed with the music, apparently having a ball, as he reeled off one astonishment after another” (Third Coast Digest).  Reunited with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, he “countered the work’s humidity with his innate ebullience, cutting over the moist, rich strings with a knife-edge of sound” (Washington Post).  The reviewer went on to describe the concert as “one of the best I’ve heard from the orchestra in years.”  Now the Israeli-American virtuoso brings Walton’s masterpiece home to New York with the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Ludovic Morlot, for three performances at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall (June 16-18).

The ongoing “Violin Concertos of the 1930s” project was conceived when, as the Los Angeles Times describes, “one of the era’s star fiddlers, Shaham began musing about his favorite 20th-century violin concertos at the turn of the millennium.  He found to his surprise that most were written in the 1930s.”  These include the sole violin concerto of William Walton, which dates from 1938-39.  Best-known today for the succès de scandale of his chamber entertainment Facade, in the 1930s Walton was considered the most important English composer of his generation.  Shaham describes the genesis of his concerto:

“The great Jascha Heifetz commissioned the work and premiered it with the Cleveland Orchestra.  Walton wrote the piece while in Italy, and there are obvious Mediterranean influences, especially in the second movement tarantella.  Elgar’s Violin Concerto seems to be the Walton concerto’s closest spiritual partner.  If, as it has been said, Elgar’s concerto is the story of love lost, then Walton’s is the story of love regained – or perhaps love re-won.”

As the violinist points out, “the Walton is well known and loved in the U.K. but its popularity in the U.S. has lagged by comparison.”  This he considers an oversight:

“While some people have labeled it as neo-romantic, I think it’s actually a very innovative piece.  With its brassy sounds and jazzy rhythms it has contributed to modernism.  Walton’s Violin Concerto is so organic and well crafted.  It really is a masterpiece.”

Consequently, Shaham confesses wanting to revisit the work “again and again and again,” and it continues to figure prominently in his current programming.  After his three Lincoln Center appearances with Morlot and the New York Philharmonic, he reprises the work with the same forces for his guest appearance at Colorado’s Bravo!-Vail Valley Music Festival (July 27), and it is also with the Walton that he kicks off the summer season across the Rockies at the Aspen Music Festival, where British conductor Christopher Seaman (artistic director of the San Antonio Symphony) directs the Aspen Concert Orchestra (July 6).

To watch Shaham discuss Walton’s concerto on YouTube, click here.  Information about his recordings is available at www.canaryclassics.com, and a list of his upcoming engagements follows.

Gil Shaham – upcoming engagements

June 10; Berlin, Germany
Konzerthaus
BARTÓK: Violin Concerto No. 2
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin / Marek Janowski

June 12; St. Petersburg, Russia
Marinsky Theater
BARTÓK: Violin Concerto No. 2
Marinsky Orchestra / Valery Gergiev

June 16, 17, & 18; New York, NY
Avery Fisher Hall
WALTON: Concerto for violin and orchestra
New York Philharmonic / Ludovic Morlot

Wednesday, July 6 at 6pm; Aspen, CO
Aspen Music Festival
WALTON: Violin Concerto
Aspen Concert Orchestra / Christopher Seaman

Friday, July 8 at 6pm; Aspen, CO
Aspen Music Festival
BARTÓK: Violin Concerto No. 2
Aspen Chamber Symphony / Matthias Pintscher

Tuesday, July 12 at 4pm; Aspen, CO
Aspen Music Festival
STRAVINSKY: Violin Concerto in D
American Academy of Conducting Orchestra

Tuesday, July 19; Los Angeles, CA
Hollywood Bowl
MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 5 (Turkish)
Los Angeles Philharmonic / Gustavo Dudamel

Thursday, July 21 at 8:30pm; Aspen, CO
Aspen Music Festival
Orchestra of Aspen fellowship students / Vasily Petrenko
K. A. HARTMANN: Concerto funèbre
HAYDN: Violin Concerto in G

Wednesday, July 27 at 6pm; Vail, CO
Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival
WALTON: Violin Concerto
New York Philharmonic / Ludovic Morlot

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