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Gil Shaham joins Orli Shaham for 92nd Street Y recital

Following high-profile orchestral engagements on both sides of the Atlantic, Gil Shaham – “one of today’s pre-eminent violinists” (New York Times) – comes home to New York to team up with his sister, pianist Orli Shaham, for a recital of Jewish and Jewish-themed music at the 92nd Street Y on 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.  The violinist also looks forward to resuming his all-Bach solo recital project in Baltimore (March 20); joining Emanuel 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 (May 5); and reprising the Walton concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra (May 12-20) and New York Philharmonic (June 16-18).
As Shaham explains, “Orli [Shaham] 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.”  Their collaborations include two recordings for the violinist’s own Canary Classics label – The Prokofiev Album and Mozart in Paris; a recording for Deutsche Grammophon, Dvorák for Two; and numerous live engagements. After an appearance in Cleveland, the city’s Plain-Dealer found their performance “enchanting” and “involving from first note to last”; the review continued:
“The violinist…was in characteristic polished, warm and virtuosic form.  Ditto his sister, a pianist whose clarity and elastic phrasing complements her brother’s musical personality.  An air of equality pervaded Tuesday’s concert.  Neither Shaham dominated.  They deferred to one another when necessary and made sure that shared material sounded crucial.”
Now the American-Israeli siblings undertake a program of Jewish and Jewish-themed music at New York’s prestigious 92nd Street Y on April 16.  The recital’s centerpiece is the world premiere of a new commission by Israeli composer Avner Dorman, who “writes with an omnivorous eclecticism that makes his music both accessible and impossible to pigeonhole.  Themes with a modal, Middle Eastern accent often weave through sharp-edged, modernist harmonies; and the influences of jazz, pop and Indian music often crop up as well.  Consistent hallmarks are the vigor of his writing and the virtuosity it demands of its interpreters” (Allan Kozinn, New York Times).  Shaham describes how irresistibly he and his sister were drawn to Dorman’s new composition:
“Orli and I were hooked immediately after playing the final movement for the first time.  It is a very strong and powerful work, filled with dance-like violin music.  Many of the pieces programmed on the concert focus on Jewish music of the diaspora from two or three generations ago; Avner has written Jewish music for the 21st century.”
Making up the program are such classics as Bloch’s Ba’al Shem and Achron’s Hebrew Melody, alongside Three Scenes from “Schindler’s List” by John Williams, and selections from George Perlman.
Shaham soon returns to his hometown for a very special gala event.  Carnegie Hall first opened its doors on May 5, 1891 and, exactly 120 years later, Shaham joins pianist Emanuel 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 event will be recorded by Thirteen/WNET for later national broadcast on the PBS television series Great Performances.
A central feature of Shaham’s current season is his longterm exploration of “Violin Concertos of the 1930s,” and in particular William Walton’s concerto of 1938-39, which the violinist confesses wanting to revisit “again and again and again.” (His recent account at the Houston Symphony was described by the Houston Chronicle as “a goose-bump experience – an event to remember.”) He gives four accounts of it 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. In June Shaham joins 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).
On March 20, meanwhile, Gil Shaham goes solo at Baltimore’s John Hopkins University, where he performs one of the all-Bach solo recitals with which he has been punctuating his schedule for some time.  He explains, 
“Playing solo Bach is a long-term project for me. … It’s an incredible thing for me to spend an hour alone with my violin and Bach’s music.  When I practice it I give myself an hour, but when the time is up I immediately want to continue my work, adding 15 minutes, then another 15 minutes – it’s very hard to stop.”
This practice has not been in vain; when Shaham played Bach’s Unaccompanied Sonata No. 2 in Lincoln Center’s “Great Performers” series, the New York Times’s Steve Smith observed: “Mr. Shaham’s understated solemnity in the opening movement set the stage for a powerful, lucid account of the astonishing fugue that followed.  The dancing Andante came as a sigh of relief.”
A list of Shaham’s upcoming engagements follows.
Gil Shaham – upcoming engagements
March 20; Baltimore, MD
BACH: solo 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; Emanuel 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
BACH: solo recital
June 16, 17, & 18; New York, NY
WALTON: Concerto for violin and orchestra
New York Philharmonic / Ludovic Morlot

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