Gil Shaham’s New Season Offers Potpourri of Programming: Violin Concertos of 1930s, a Hebrew Melodies Album, and Classics by Bach & Brahms

10.06.11
Gil Shaham
21C Media Group

From 21C Media Group

Master violinist Gil Shaham takes his long-term exploration of iconic “Violin Concertos of the 1930s” into a third season, performing examples by Barber, Berg, Hartmann, Prokofiev, and Stravinsky with the leading orchestras of three continents, including the New York and Hong Kong Philharmonics and the Tonhalle and Paris Orchestras. For appearances with the New Jersey Philharmonic, he couples the Berg with world premiere performances of a new concerto by Richard Danielpour. The 2011-12 season also sees the Avery Fisher Prize-winner expand his extensive discography with the release on his own Canary Classics label of a new recording: a duo recital album of Hebrew melodies recorded with his sister, pianist Orli Shaham. Core repertoire to feature most prominently in his fall programming includes the Brahms Violin Concerto – with which he opens the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s new season at Carnegie Hall before reprising it with the symphony orchestras of Boston, San Francisco, and Delaware – and Bach’s solo sonatas and partitas, which he presents on a four-city U.S. recital tour.

“Violin Concertos of the 1930s” enters its third season

Shaham’s 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.” In an in-depth feature on the enterprise, the Wall Street Journal explains,

“In the 1930s, horrific developments in Europe ultimately swept more than 50 countries into the most destructive global conflict ever known. Coincidentally during that decade, at least 14 significant composers wrote violin concertos, many for the first time.”

In some cases the tumultuous political events of the 1930s directly impacted the concertos’ composition, most notably that of Germany’s Karl Amadeus Hartmann, an idealist socialist whose Concerto funèbre was written in 1939 to protest Hitler’s occupation of Prague. According to the Aspen Times, the work is “an anguished cry from the depth of [the composer’s] soul, the violin an ideal vehicle for expressing its eloquence,” and Shaham’s account at the Aspen Music Festival this past summer was “as expressive as it was impeccably played.” In the coming season, the violinist gives four performances of the work with the New York Philharmonic in March 2012, and a further two with Munich’s Bavarian State Orchestra in June.

Barber’s Violin Concerto (1939) headlines Shaham’s collaborations with the Paris Orchestra in December 2011, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic and Virginia Symphony in January 2012. When he performed the concerto with the New York Philharmonic last spring, the New York Times praised his “rich-toned, gracefully shaped performance,” while at London’s BBC Proms, “there was joy in Barber’s Violin Concerto as Gil Shaham played it: spinning out its lyrical flights, his sound recalled Twenties Vienna, and the audience response confirmed how much-loved this sun-drenched work from Thirties America still is” (Independent). 

In a review from 2009, Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle advised festival programmers: “Get Gil Shaham to play the Berg Violin Concerto … Then relax - because whatever else may happen, you've got a hit on your hands.”  Berg wrote his elegiac concerto in 1935, shortly before he died, to commemorate the death of Alma Mahler’s teenage daughter. For Shaham’s three dates with the New Jersey Symphony in April 2012, he will couple Berg’s Concerto with the world premiere of another work for solo violin and orchestra, also composed as a memorial: Richard Danielpour’s Kaddish, which honors the composer’s father. Shaham also performs the Berg with the Paris Orchestra in March.

For appearances with the Atlanta Symphony in April, and with Zurich’s Tonhalle-Orchester in May, Shaham turns to Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto of 1931, a great example of the legendary Russian’s neoclassical writing, which Balanchine would later use as the score for two ballets. Shaham’s rendition of the work reveals him to be “a consummate technician with an intense emotional side” (Cleveland Plain-Dealer).

Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, which dates from 1935, was directly inspired by Stravinsky’s. A longtime champion of the Prokofiev, Shaham recorded it with André Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra for Deutsche Grammophon, prompting this tribute from Gramophone magazine’s veteran music critic Rob Cowan:

“Devoted as I am to earlier interpreters..., I can honestly say that I have never encountered performances where soloist, orchestra, and conductor connect with such unerring intuition, where the music – rather than its superficial display potential – is treated so naturally. … An excellent CD.”

Shaham returns to the work for two performances with the New World Symphony in February. 

To hear Shaham examine “Iconic Works of the 1930s” as one of the key participants in a panel discussion at the Aspen Ideas Festival, click here.

New recording to be released on Canary Classics in early 2012 

A “brilliant pianist” (New York Times) in her own right, Orli Shaham has partnered with her brother on previous DG and Canary Classics albums. As the Washington Post observed, after a recent performance of music from their upcoming disc, “the ESP of their musical collaboration, unbroken since early childhood, is a delight to watch.”

The Shahams’ new album celebrates the “soulful melodies” of their Jewish heritage and features a new work by Israeli composer Avner Dorman. Last spring at New York’s 92nd Street Y, where the duo gave the work’s world premiere performance alongside other Jewish and Jewish-inspired music featured on the new recording, the New York Times reported:

“Mr. Shaham plunged into the virtuosic thickets of the Scherzo with aplomb, revealing its improvisatory melodies with flair. The concluding Presto unfolded in a kaleidoscopic blaze, a frenzy of jazzy rhythms and explosive energy. … The Shahams were equally convincing with more traditional Jewish music, including a Hebrew Lullaby, Hebrew Melody, and Hebrew Dance by Joseph Achron. They also offered [a] beautifully wrought interpretation of Bloch’s Baal Shem… And Mr. Shaham’s lush tone did full justice to the suite from John Williams’s score for the film Schindler’s List.”

Below is a program list for the CD, which will be released by Canary Classics in early 2012.

Niggunim

Joseph Achron:            Hebrew Lullaby for violin and piano, Op. 35, No. 2

                        Hebrew Dance for violin and piano, Op. 35, No. 1

                        Hebrew Melody for violin and piano, Op. 33

Ernest Bloch:   Ba’al Shem (Three Pictures of Chassidic Life) for violin and piano

Josef Bonime:  Danse Hébraïque for violin and piano

Avner Dorman: Niggunim for violin and piano (world premiere recording)

John Williams: Three Scenes from “Schindler’s List”

Leo Zeitlin:      Eli Zion (transcr. Achron) 

Shaham plays Brahms with top U.S. orchestras 

While projects like “Violin Concertos of the 1930s” and Niggunim allow Shaham to explore creative and original programming, he remains second to none in performing the classic masterworks of the violin repertoire. His account of the Brahms Violin Concerto on his DG recording with Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic “offers playing of ‘Golden Age’ caliber…as perfectly judged as any you will ever hear” (Classics Today). The concerto figures prominently in Shaham’s fall line-up, including his season-opening appearances with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in October, and subsequent dates with the Delaware and San Francisco Symphonies (both in November) and the Boston Symphony the following month.

Violinist offers sneak preview of solo Bach project

“One of the world’s best fiddlers” (Washington Post), Shaham has never shirked the violin repertoire’s most unforgiving challenge: that of performing solo Bach. When he included a Bach partita on a chamber program at London’s Wigmore Hall, the Strad magazine confessed:

“The high moment was Shaham alone, in the Bach D-minor Partita: his warmth, honeyed tone, and beautiful sense of line were balanced with intelligent articulation, and the Chaconne radiated an uplifting, cathartic humanity.”

Now the violinist brings his transcendent Bach interpretations home to the U.S., where he offers a four-city tour this fall as a sneak preview of a larger Bach project to come.

Additional information about Gil Shaham is available at www.canaryclassics.com, and a list of his upcoming engagements follows.

Gil Shaham – upcoming engagements

October 12; Easton, PA

BRAHMS: Concerto for Violin in D

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Williams Center for the Arts

October 13; New York, NY

BRAHMS: Concerto for Violin in D

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Carnegie Hall-Isaac Stern Auditorium

October 14; Storrs, CT

BRAHMS: Concerto for Violin in D

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Jorgensen Auditorium

October 28; Chapel Hill, NC

Solo recital

BACH: Partita No. 3 in E, BWV 1006

            Sonata No. 3 in C, BWV 1005

            Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004

Memorial Hall (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

October 30; Bethesda, MD

Duo recital

SCHUBERT: Sonatina in A minor for Violin and Piano, D. 385, Op. 137, No. 2

BACH: Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004

FRANCK: Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano

Inon Barnatan, piano

Center at Strathmore (Washington Performing Arts Society)

November 5; Santa Barbara, CA

Solo recital

BACH: Partita No. 3 in E, BWV 1006

            Sonata No. 3 in C, BWV 1005

            Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004

Campbell Hall (University of California – Santa Barbara)

November 6; Stanford, CA

Solo recital

BACH: Partita No. 3 in E, BWV 1006

            Sonata No. 3 in C, BWV 1005

            Partita No. 2 in D minor, BMV 1004

Dinkelspiel Auditorium (The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University)

November 8; Santa Fe, NM

Solo recital

BACH: Partita No. 3 in E, BWV 1006

            Sonata No. 3 in C, BWV 1005

            Partita No. 2 in D minor, BMV 1004

Lensic Performing Arts Center (Santa Fe Concert Association)

 

November 18 & 19; Wilmington, DE

BRAHMS: Violin Concerto

Delaware Symphony

Grand Opera House

November 23, 25, & 26; San Francisco, CA

BRAHMS: Violin Concerto

San Francisco Symphony

Davies Symphony Hall

December 10; Los Angeles, CA

BRAHMS: Violin Concerto

Boston Symphony Orchestra / Ludovic Morlot

December 14 & 15; Paris, France

BARBER: Violin Concerto, Op. 14

Paris Orchestra / James Conion

Salle Pleyel

December 17; Tel Aviv, Israel

BRUCH: Concerto

Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

Mann Auditorium

January 4, 5, & 8; Hong Kong, China

BARBER: Violin Concerto

Hong Kong Philharmonic

Hong Kong Cultural Centre – Concert Hall

January 6; Taipei, Taiwan

Solo recital

BACH: Partita No. 3 in E, BWV 1006

            Sonata No. 3 in C, BWV 1005

            Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004

Taipei National Concert Hall (The Management of New Arts)

January 20, 21, & 22; Norfolk, VA

BARBER: Violin Concerto

Virginia Symphony/ Joann Falletta

February 1; Milwaukee, WI

BRAHMS: Violin Concerto

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra / Edo de Waart

Uihlein Hall – Marcus Center for the Performing Arts

February 11 & 12; Memphis, TN

CHEN GANG / HE ZHANHEO: Butterfly Lovers’ Violin Concerto

Memphis Symphony Orchestra / Mei-Ann Chen

The Canon Center

February 17; Miami Beach, FL

PROKOFIEV: Violin Concerto No. 2

New World Symphony

New World Symphony – Frank Gehry Campus

February 18; Miami, FL

PROKOFIEV: Violin Concerto No. 2

New World Symphony

Arsht Center for the Performing Arts

 

February 25; Puchase, NY

BACH: selections from the sonatas and partitas for solo violin

The Performing Arts Center – Purchase College

March 10; Rio Piedras, PR

BRAHMS: Violin Concerto

Centro de Bellas Artes (Festival Casals)

 

March 15, 16, 17, & 20: New York, NY

HARTMANN: Concerto funèbre for solo violin and string orchestra  

New York Philharmonic / David Zinman

Avery Fisher Hall

March 28; Paris, France

BERG: Concerto

Paris Orchestra

Salle Pleyel

 

April 12, 14, & 15; Atlanta, GA

BACH: Violin Concerto No. 1

STRAVINSKY: Violin Concerto

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

April 21; Toronto, ON, Canada

Solo Bach

Koerner Hall (Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto)

April 27; Newark, NJ

BERG: Violin Concerto, “To the Memory of an Angel”

DANIELPOUR: Kaddish (world premiere)

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra / Jacques Lacombe

NJPAC (New Jersey Performing Arts Center)

 

April 28; New Brunswick, NJ

BERG: Violin Concerto, “To the Memory of an Angel”

DANIELPOUR: Kaddish (world premiere)

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra/ Jacques Lacombe

State Theatre

April 29; Morristown, NJ

BERG: Violin Concerto, “To the Memory of an Angel”

DANIELPOUR: Kaddish (world premiere)

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra/ Jacques Lacombe

Community Theatre at Mayo Center for Performing Arts

May 03; London, England

WALTON: Sonata for violin and piano

BACH: Sonata No. 3 for solo violin  BWV 1005

JULIAN MILONE: new piece

SARASATE: Zortzico Adios montanas mias Op. 37 for violin and piano

                     Malagena Op. 21 No. 1 for Violin and Piano

RODRIGO: Sonata Pimpante for violin and piano

Akira Eguchi, Piano

Wigmore Hall

May 5 & 6; Zurich, Switzerland

BACH: Concerto for violin and orchestra, BWV 1042

STRAVINSKY: Concerto for violin and orchestra

Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich / Jonathan Nott

May 8; Zurich, Switzerland

WALTON: Sonata for violin and piano

BACH: Sonata No. 3 for Violin Solo BWV 1005

JULIAN MILONE: new piece

SARASATE: Zortzico Adios montanas mias Op. 37 for violin and piano

                     Malagena Op. 21 No. 1 for Violin and Piano

RODRIGO: Sonata Pimpante for violin and piano

Akira Eguchi, piano

 

May 9; Vienna, Austria

WALTON: Sonata for violin and piano

BACH: Sonata No. 3 for solo violin BWV 1005

JULIAN MILONE: New Piece

SARASATE: Zortzico Adios montanas mias Op. 37 for violin and piano

                     Malagena Op. 21 No. 1 for Violin and Piano

RODRIGO: Sonata Pimpante for violin and piano

Akira Eguchi, piano

May 10; Milan, Italy

WALTON: Sonata for violin and piano

BACH: Sonata No. 3 for solo violin BWV 1005

JULIAN MILONE: new piece

SARASATE: Zortzico Adios montanas mias Op. 37 for violin and piano

                     Malagena Op. 21 No. 1 for violin and piano

RODRIGO: Sonata Pimpante for violin and piano

Akira Eguchi, piano

May 31; London, England

BERG: Chamber Concerto

London Symphony Orchestra / Michael Tilson Thomas

June 3; London, England

MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 5 “Turkish” K 219

London Symphony Orchestra / Michael Tilson Thomas

 

June 11 & 12; Munich, Germany

HARTMANN: Concerto funèbre for solo violin and string orchestra  

Bavarian State Orchestra / Kent Nagano

www.canaryclassics.com/Artists/Bio/gilshaham

Follow Gil Shaham on Facebook

Follow Gil Shaham on Twitter