Press Room

Gil Shaham launches innovative solo Bach project and more in 2014-15

Avery Fisher Prize-winner Gil Shaham headlines a Parisian-themed opening-night gala with the Seattle Symphony this fall, launching a new season that continues to cement his legacy as one of America’s foremost masters of the violin. In anticipation of the next release on his own Canary Classics label, the Grammy Award-winner tours his original interpretations of Bach’s complete Sonatas and Partitas for Unaccompanied Violin to Chicago’s Symphony Center, L.A.’s Disney Hall, and other leading venues, in a special multimedia collaboration with photographer and video artist David Michalek. Marking the most recent in a succession of major new commissions written expressly for him, he gives the world premiere performances of Fragile Light, a new concerto by David Bruce, with the San Diego Symphony. He rejoins Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony for Mozart’s “Turkish” concerto, and plays Prokofiev’s Second on the orchestra’s 20th-anniversary tour at key venues including Carnegie Hall. The Prokofiev is one of the works showcased in Shaham’s long-term exploration of “Violin Concertos of the 1930s,” now entering its sixth season, which takes him back to the Philadelphia Orchestra for Berg, and to both the Berlin Radio Symphony and the London Symphony Orchestra for Britten. Equally celebrated for his interpretations of the great earlier cornerstones of the violin concerto literature, his upcoming orchestral highlights include Mendelssohn in Tokyo, Canada, and Luxembourg, Brahms in Colorado, and a pair of Bach concertos with the Dallas Symphony. Whether in new commissions, creative programming, or canonical masterworks, Shaham – a Musical America “Instrumentalist of the Year” – remains “one of today’s preeminent violinists” (New York Times).

“Electrifying” solo Bach on multimedia U.S. tour

It is only in recent years that Shaham has felt ready to share his interpretations of Bach’s unaccompanied sonatas and partitas – among the supreme pinnacles of Western culture – with the public. After more than three decades of private study, his is a truly unique approach enriched not only by his thoughtfulness, originality, and willingness to take interpretative risks, but by his innate musicianship and warmth – what Musical America calls his “special kind of humanism.” Bringing out the works’ dancing rhythms along with their harmonic depth, his solo Bach has been recognized as “simply electrifying” (Cleveland Plain Dealer), and Shaham as “an impeccable violinist, one capable of bringing out the mechanics and the majesty of Bach in equal measure” (Baltimore Sun).

This season, the violinist turns his focus to performing Bach’s six Sonatas and Partitas for Unaccompanied Violin in their entirety. As he explains:

“They form a whole. This was standard practice. Composers would publish in groups of six, and together the works would be balanced to show a variety of textures, meters, keys, dances, and techniques. And, maybe most importantly, they would dovetail one into the other, so that ending of one would lead into the beginning of the next.”

After recording the “Sei solo,” as Bach labeled them, for future release on Canary Classics, Shaham looks forward to taking them on tour to Chicago’s Symphony Center (March 1), L.A.’s Disney Hall (March 29), Sonoma State University (March 27), and Urbana’s Krannert Center (April 23), accompanied by original video art from David Michalek, the visual artist whose work includes Slow Dancing and Portraits in Dramatic Time, both multichannel, mammoth-scale video installations projected on open-air facades at New York’s Lincoln Center, The Hague, and London’s Trafalgar Square. The violinist also performs selected sonatas and partitas at the La Jolla Music Society (Feb 27) and in Milan (Jan 25), besides giving a complete solo Bach recital at the Washington Performing Arts Society (Jan 16).

A “commanding soloist” with top orchestras worldwide

Shaham debuts an important new addition to the orchestral repertory this season, giving the first performances of Fragile Light by Lili Boulanger Memorial Prize-winning British-American composer David Bruce, with Jahja Ling and the San Diego Symphony, first at the orchestra’s home (Dec 12–14) and then on tour in Palm Desert (Jan 14). A staunch and sensitive champion of new music, in recent years Shaham has also premiered and pioneered the works of such key contemporary composers as William Bolcom, Richard Danielpour, Avner Dorman, Julian Milone, and Bright Sheng. In his world premiere performances of Sheng’s concerto Let It Fly at last fall’s season-opening concerts with the Detroit Symphony, the violinist proved himself “a powerful advocate for the piece, leaping fearlessly into the music’s technical challenges while always keeping a sharp ear for the poetic line and gesture” (Detroit Free Press).

This year, it is with the Seattle Symphony and its Music Director Ludovic Morlot that Shaham launches the new season, highlighting the orchestra’s opening-night gala with works by Saint-Säens, Massenet, and Sarasate, in just one of his numerous prominent 2014-15 orchestral engagements. With the San Francisco Symphony and Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas he gives four accounts of Mozart’s “Turkish” concerto, one of his most celebrated signature works (Nov 6–9). He was also the natural first choice of soloist for the orchestra at Carnegie Hall and other venues on its landmark six-city 20th-anniversary national tour (Nov 12–22), having recently been pronounced, with the same forces, “an exuberantly commanding soloist” who succeeded in kindling “hot fire” (Los Angeles Times).

The vehicle for the tour, as for the violinist’s appearance with The Knights at New York’s Caramoor Festival (Sep 21), is Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto (1935), one of those featured in his exploration of “Violin Concertos of the 1930s.” Since its launch in 2009, the project has been recognized by Musical America as “one of the most imaginative programming concepts in years,” while its first recording – last season’s Canary Classics double album release, titled 1930s Violin Concertos Vol. 1 – was hailed by the New York Times as “the first document of a major musical project.” For his returns to the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra under Marek Janowski (Jan 20) and the London Symphony Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä (April 12), Shaham reprises Britten’s Concerto (1938-39), of which Gramophone considers his recording “one of the finest versions…available.” Likewise, with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Robin Ticciati (Feb 20-22), the violinist plays Berg; as the New York Times observes,

“He plays the Berg (written in 1935) with unbridled passion, as if its jagged twelve-tone idiom was not a rupture with music’s heroic 19th-century language but an updating. … The music never lost its singing quality.”

Likewise impressed, the San Francisco Chronicle advises simply: “Get Gil Shaham to play the Berg Violin Concerto. … Then relax – because whatever else may happen, you’ve got a hit on your hands.

Details of Gil Shaham’s upcoming engagements are provided below. More information is also available at the artist’s web site:, and high-resolution photos may be downloaded here.



Gil Shaham: 2014-15 engagements


Sep 13

Seattle, WA

Seattle Symphony Orchestra / Ludovic Morlot

Saint-Saëns: Havanaise

Massenet: “Méditation” from Thaïs for violin and orchestra

Sarasate: Fantasy on Bizet’s Carmen


Sep 21

Katonah, NY

Caramoor Center for Music & the Arts

The Knights

Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor


Oct 3, 4, 5

Denver, CO

Colorado Symphony Orchestra / Andrew Litton

Brahms: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77


Oct 23, 25, 26

Newark, NJ

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra / Jacques Lacombe

Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto


Nov 6, 7, 8, 9

San Francisco, CA

San Francisco Symphony / Michael Tilson Thomas

Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5, “Turkish”


Nov 12–22

U.S. tour with San Francisco Symphony / Michael Tilson Thomas

Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor

Nov 12: Kansas City, MO

Nov 14: Ann Arbor, MI

Nov 15: Cleveland, OH (Severance Hall)

Nov 16: Boston, MA (Symphony Hall)

Nov 20: New York, NY (Carnegie Hall)

Nov 22: Miami, FL


Dec 12–Jan 14

Tour with San Diego Symphony / Jahja Ling

David Bruce: Violin Concerto (world premiere)

Dec 12, 13, 14: San Diego, CA

Jan 14: Palm Desert, CA


Jan 16

North Bethesda, MD

Washington Performing Arts Society

Music Center at Strathmore

J.S. Bach: 6 Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin


Jan 20

Berlin, Germany

Radio Symphony Orchestra / Marek Janowski

Britten: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 15


Jan 23 & 26

Tour with Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg / Emmanuel Krivine

Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto

Jan 23: Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

Jan 26: Wiesbaden, Germany


Jan 25

Milano, Italy

Serate Musicali

Solo Recital

J. S. Bach: Partitas Nos. 2 & 3; Sonata No. 2


Feb 20, 21, 22

Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia Orchestra / Robin Ticciati

Berg: Violin Concerto


Feb 27

La Jolla, CA

La Jolla Music Society

J. S. Bach: Partitas Nos. 2 & 3; Sonata No. 2


March 1–April 23

Solo recital tour, with original films by David Michalek

J.S. Bach: 6 Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin

March 1: Chicago, IL (Symphony Center)

March 27: Rohnert Park, CA

March 29: Los Angeles, CA (Walt Disney Concert Hall)

April 23: Urbana, IL


March 20, 21, 22

Dallas, TX

Dallas Symphony Orchestra / Jaap Van Zweden

Bach: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2


March 31

Santa Barbara, CA



April 12

London, UK

London Symphony Orchestra / Osmo Vänskä

Britten: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 15


May 20, 21

Tokyo, Japan

NHK Symphony Orchestra / David Zinman

Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64


June 3, 4

Ottawa, ON, Canada

National Arts Centre Orchestra / Pinchas Zuckerman

Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto


#          #          #

© 21C Media Group, September 2014



Return to Press Room