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Gil Shaham: 2010-11 season

Once again, Gil Shaham’s longterm exploration of “Violin Concertos of the 1930s” is central to the coming season, during which he performs masterpieces by Barber, Bartók, Berg, Hartmann, Prokofiev, and Walton. These he will play with leading orchestras on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Chicago Symphony, where he does double duty as soloist and conductor, and the New York Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Mariinsky Orchestra, Berlin’s Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester, and Orchestre de Paris.  This season also sees the project yield its first recording when Shaham’s own label, Canary Classics, issues a CD of the Stravinsky, Barber, and Berg concertos, all conducted by David Robertson, with three high profile orchestras.  Beyond the 1930s, Shaham joins Emmanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma for Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic in a historic concert celebrating the 120th anniversary of Carnegie Hall; he plays Mozart’s Fifth “Turkish” Concerto with Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony; and he performs the Mendelssohn with Jansons and the Concertgebouw Orchestra.  Upcoming highlights also include the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s festive season-opening concert, and a program of Jewish violin and piano repertoire with his sister, Orli Shaham, at New York’s 92nd Street Y, including the world premiere of a new commission from Israeli composer Avner Dorman.

Shaham continues exploration of “Violin Concertos of the 1930s”

The ongoing “Violin Concertos of the 1930s” project was conceived when, as David Mermelstein describes in the Los Angeles Times, “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.”  As Barbara Jepson reports in a Wall Street Journal feature,

“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 turbulent political events of the period directly impacted the concertos’ composition, most notably that of Karl Amadeus Hartmann, whose Concerto funèbre was written in 1939 to protest Hitler’s occupation of Prague.  Shaham gives two performances of the politically charged work as part of a special program with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Oct 22 & 23), which he will direct – in its entirety – himself.  Along with one of its best-loved contemporaries, Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Shaham juxtaposes the Hartmann with two favorite Classical concertos; both Haydn’s Fourth Concerto and Mozart’s Fifth “Turkish” are staples of the versatile violinist’s repertoire. He performs and leads the orchestra in all three concertos in another date with the Chicago Symphony on October 20, as well as elsewhere over the coming season.

This season sees the release of the first CD of Shaham’s “Violin Concertos of the 1930s” project, on the violinist’s own Canary Classics label. On the disc, Shaham works with conductor David Robertson on three different concertos with three top orchestras: the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto of 1931, a neoclassical work in which Shaham reveals himself to be “a consummate technician with an intense emotional side” (Cleveland Plain-Dealer); the Dresden Staatskapelle in Alban Berg’s concerto of 1935, the last piece the composer completed; and Samuel Barber’s concerto with another world-class orchestra soon to be announced.

The Barber and Berg concertos feature largely in Shaham’s season programming.  As well as performing them with the Orchestre de Paris under Andris Nelsons (Oct 26 & 28, respectively), he undertakes the Barber for two appearances with Peter Oundjian and the Toronto Symphony (Oct 6 & 7) and with the Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin and Marek Janowski (April 29).

Also featured prominently in Shaham’s coming season is William Walton’s concerto of 1938-39, which the violinist confesses wanting to revisit “again and again and again.”  In February (3, 5, & 6) he takes the work to the Houston Symphony and Hans Graf, under whose direction he recently gave a “joyous and nearly impeccable” (La Scena Musicale) performance at Aspen.  Later that month (Feb 23-25), Shaham makes three appearances playing Walton with Zurich’s Tonhalle-Orchester under David Zinman, with whom Shaham’s countless collaborations have included recording Elgar’s Violin Concerto.  Shaham gives two accounts of the Walton with Edo de Waart and the Milwaukee Symphony (March 11 & 12) and four with the Philadelphia Orchestra under its Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Charles Dutoit, the last of which takes place at Washington’s Kennedy Center (May 12, 14, 17 & 20).  The most recent of Shaham’s numerous collaborations with Dutoit was at the Bravo!-Vail Valley Music Festival this past summer; likewise at Tanglewood he performed with Ludovic Morlot, who guest conducts the New York Philharmonic in three final performances of the Walton concerto at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall (June 16-18).

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 concerto with Xian Jang conducting Washington’s National Symphony (November 4, 6, & 7), and for two performances with the Orchestre de Paris under Dmitri Slobodeniouk (Dec 1 & 2).

Shaham’s recording of Bartók’s Second Violin Concerto with Boulez and the Chicago Symphony was greeted by Time magazine’s Terry Teachout as a “soaring interpretation, at once fiery and nobly lyrical … A near perfect realization of a modern masterpiece”; Teachout went on to style him “the outstanding American violinist of his generation.”  Shaham returns to the verbunkos-style work with the Seattle Symphony and Gerard Schwarz (Jan 5-8) and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin under Marek Janowski (June 10 & 11).


Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s season-opening concert

Shaham – along with his wife and fellow virtuoso, Nielsen International Violin Competition winner Adele Anthony – is the special guest of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s season-opening concert and reception at Alice Tully Hall (Sep 21).  Helping to inaugurate the new season with an Austro-Hungarian program, Shaham leads the society’s co-artistic directors, pianist Wu Han and cellist David Finckel, in Haydn’s Piano Trio No. 25 (“Gypsy”), and Brahms’s impassioned Second String Sextet, for which he and Anthony are joined by violists Paul Neubauer and Richard O’Neill and cellists Nicolas Altstaedt and Sophie Shao.

Shaham’s last appearance at the society was in 2004, but he regularly participates in New York’s chamber music scene.  As the New York Times’s Steve Smith reports:

“The violinist Gil Shaham has been a constant presence in New York over the last two seasons, appearing as a chamber musician and as an orchestral soloist.  Given his formidable technique as well as a big, singing tone and a sunny disposition, he is hardly in danger of wearing out his welcome.”


Star-studded Carnegie Hall anniversary concert

Carnegie Hall first opened its doors on May 5, 1891.  Exactly 120 years later, Shaham joins pianist Emmanuel Ax and cellist Yo-Yo Ma for Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic in a historic, star-studded concert celebrating the venue’s anniversary.  The concert will be recorded by Thirteen/WNET for later national broadcast on the PBS television series Great Performances.


Duo recital with his sister, Orli Shaham, at NYC’s 92nd Street Y

Also in New York City, Shaham teams up with his sister, pianist Orli Shaham, to perform a recital of Jewish and Jewish-themed music at the 92nd Street Y (April 16).  The program will feature selections from Joseph Achron, Ernest Bloch, George Perlman, and John Williams, as well as the world premiere of a new commission from Israeli composer Avner Dorman.  As the violinist explains, “Orli and I used to play together at home when we were kids, but we didn’t give concerts together until we were in our 20s.  We avoided that for a long time because we were afraid it would look a bit too much like Donny and Marie Osmond!  But finally we tried – and we loved it.” 


Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Bach on three continents

Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A, “Turkish” – the last concerto the composer would write for the instrument – is a favorite of Shaham’s.  Besides programming it for his engagements at the Chicago Symphony this fall, he performed it at New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival in August, delighting the New York Times’s Allan Kozinn:

“Mr. Shaham’s playing was both sweet-toned and trim, every phrase crisply articulated and, in the first two movements, thoughtfully shaped.  In the finale …the demand is for zest rather than thoughtfulness, and Mr. Shaham gave it all the vigor it wants with no sacrifice in clarity or shape.  His choice of cadenzas – he played Joseph Joachim’s – suited the subtle virtuosity of his approach to the work as a whole.”

Now Shaham reprises the work in four concerts (Dec 8-11) with the San Francisco Symphony and its Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas, with whom his recent Carnegie Hall collaboration was deemed “absolutely electrifying” (San Francisco Chronicle).

The violinist revisits one of the cornerstones of the violin repertoire this fall, taking his “stunningly clean account” (Los Angeles Times) of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto on tour with Mariss Jansons and Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, for dates in Seoul (Nov 13), Kyoto (Nov 16), and Tokyo’s Suntory Hall (Nov 20).  Shaham also played the Mendelssohn in his long-awaited return to Minnesota’s Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (Sep 16, 18, & 19), coupled with Haydn’s Fourth, as in Chicago.  The violinist’s recent Canary Classics recording of Haydn’s first and second violin concertos with the Sejong Soloists was “urgently recommended” by Fanfare magazine.

Finally, Shaham resumes his all-Bach solo recital project, with performances in Tokyo (Nov 15), Genoa (Feb 21), Baltimore (March 20), and St. Petersburg (June 13).

Additional information about Shaham’s recordings is available at, and a list of his 2010-11 engagements follows.


Gil Shaham – 2010-11 engagements
September 16, 18, & 19; St. Paul, MN
HAYDN: Violin Concerto No. 4
MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
September 21; New York, NY
HAYDN: Piano Trio in G, Hob. XV:25 “Gypsy Trio”
DOHNANYI: Serenade in C for String Trio, Op. 10
BRAHMS: String Sextet in G, Op. 36
(with Adele Anthony, violin; Paul Neubauer and Richard O’Neill, violas; Nicolas Altstaedt, David Finckel, and Sophie Shao, cellos; Wu Han, piano)
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
Alice Tully Hall
October 6 and 7; Toronto, ON
BARBER: Violin Concerto
Toronto Symphony Orchestra / Peter Oundjian
Roy Thomson Hall
October 20; Chicago, IL
Haydn: Violin Concerto No. 4
MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 5 (Turkish)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
October 22 and 23, Chicago, IL
Haydn: Violin Concerto No. 4
HARTMANN: Concerto funèbre for solo violin and string orchestra
BARBER: Adagio for Strings
MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 5 (Turkish)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Gil Shaham
October 26; Paris, France
BARBER: Violin Concerto
Orchestre de Paris / Andris Nelsons
Salle Pleyel
October 28; Paris, France
BERG: Violin Concerto
Orchestre de Paris / Andris Nelsons
Salle Pleyel
November 4, 6, & 7; Washington, DC
PROKOFIEV: Violin Concerto No. 2
National Symphony Orchestra / Xian Jang
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
November 13; Seoul, Korea
MENDELSSOHN: Concerto for violin and orchestra in E minor
Concertgebouw Orchestra / Mariss Jansons
November 15; Tokyo, Japan
Solo recital
Kioi Hall
November 16; Kyoto, Japan
MENDELSSOHN: Concerto for violin and orchestra in E minor
Concertgebouw Orchestra / Mariss Jansons
November 20; Tokyo, Japan
MENDELSSOHN: Concerto for violin and orchestra in E minor
Concertgebouw Orchestra / Mariss Jansons
Suntory Hall
December 1 & 2; Paris, France
PROKOFIEV: Violin Concerto No. 2
Orchestre de Paris / Dmitri Slobodeniouk
December 8, 9, 10, & 11; San Francisco, CA
MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 5 (Turkish)
San Francisco Symphony / Michael Tilson Thomas
Davies Symphony Hall
January 5-8, 2011: Seattle, WA
BARTOK: Violin Concerto No. 2
Seattle Symphony Orchestra / Gerard Schwarz
February 3, 5, & 6; Houston, TX
WALTON: Violin Concerto
Houston Symphony Orchestra / Hans Graf
February 21; Genoa, Italy
Solo Bach recital
February 23-25; Zürich, Switzerland
WALTON: Concerto for violin and orchestra
Tonhalle Orchester Zurich / David Zinman
March 11-12; Milwaukee, WI
WALTON: Concerto for violin and orchestra
Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra / Edo de Waart
March 20; Baltimore, MD
Solo Bach recital
Shriver Hall Concert Series
March 25 & 26; Birmingham, AL
BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61
Alabama Symphony Orchestra / Justin Brown
April 16; New York, NY
Duo recital with Orli Shaham, piano
ACHRON: Hebrew Dance, Op. 35, No. 1
ACHRON: Hebrew Melody, Op. 33
BLOCH: Ba’al Shem
PERLMAN: Selections from Ghetto Sketches
PERLMAN: Selections from Suite Hébraique
WILLIAMS: Three Scenes from “Schindler’s List”
AVNER DORMAN: new work (world premiere)
92nd Street Y
April 29; Berlin, Germany
BARBER: Violin Concerto
Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin / Marek Janowski
May 5; New York, NY
BEETHOVEN: Triple Concerto
  (with Yo-Yo Ma, cello; Emmanuel Ax, piano)
New York Philharmonic / Alan Gilbert
Carnegie Hall (120th anniversary gala concert)
May 12, 14, & 17; Philadelphia, PA
WALTON: Concerto for violin and orchestra
Philadelphia Orchestra / Charles Dutoit
Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center
May 20; Washington, DC
WALTON: Concerto for violin and orchestra
Philadelphia Orchestra / Charles Dutoit
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
May 27-29; San Diego, CA
BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto
San Diego Symphony / Jahja Ling
June 10 & 11; Berlin, Germany
BARTOK: Concerto for violin and orchestra No. 2
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin / Marek Janowski
June 13; St. Petersburg, Russia
Solo Bach recital
June 16, 17, & 18; New York, NY
WALTON: Concerto for violin and orchestra
New York Philharmonic / Ludovic Morlot

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© 21C Media Group, September 2010

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