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Gil Shaham plays Barber with NY Phil (Nov 29–Dec 1)

When Gil Shaham last played Barber’s Violin Concerto (1939) at the New York Philharmonic, the New York Times praised his “rich-toned, gracefully shaped performance.” Now the master violinist returns to his hometown orchestra under music director Alan Gilbert to premiere Barber’s masterpiece in newly edited form, in accordance with the latest scholarship (Nov 29–Dec 1). The concerto is one of seven “Violin Concertos of the 1930s” to figure prominently in Shaham’s programming this season, and can also be heard – again with the New York Philharmonic – on the Avery Fisher Prize-winner’s forthcoming CD on his own Canary Classics label in early 2013.
Now entering its fourth season, Shaham’s long-term exploration of “Violin Concertos of the 1930s” has been praised as “one of the most imaginative programming concepts in years.” (Musical America). The idea was conceived when the violinist realized how many outstanding 20th-century violin concertos derived from that fateful decade. He has long been especially drawn to Samuel Barber’s example, which he describes as “the great American violin concerto”:
“It does what a great piece of music is supposed to do: it takes you on a journey. From the beautiful opening movement to the last chords of the final movement 25 minutes later, you are completely engaged. The ballad of the second movement conjures up the lament of the American dustbowl farmers. Conductor Hugh Wolff once said that with the high-energy last movement you could almost see the skyscrapers being erected.”
Indeed, after his account of the work with the Baltimore Symphony last month, the Baltimore Sun observed:
“The Barber concerto is ideally suited to the talents of Gil Shaham – and his 1699 Stradivarius. The violinist managed to unleash all the romantic yearning in the score’s first two movements without a single cloying phrase, to dig into the most rhapsodic passages without turning showy. This sense of balance made the exquisite beauty of the music shine all the more brightly. And when it came time for bravura, in the wild, blink-of-an-eye finale, Shaham delivered it handsomely, taking it at a supersonic clip that still allowed the notes to be savored.”
For his appearances with Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center this fall, Shaham will perform a slightly different version of the work. Having been rejected by Iso Briselli, the violinist for whom it was originally commissioned, Barber’s concerto traveled something of a rocky road before its eventual world premiere by Albert Spalding, America’s leading violinist of the day. Now, following recent research by G. Schirmer, Inc., Shaham will play a revised edition of the score based on the composer’s personal copy of the 1948 revision as performed by Ruth Posselt and the Boston Symphony Orchestra on January 7, 1949.
The 1930s project also sees two more major orchestral collaborations this November, when Shaham undertakes concertos by Britten and Walton with the Boston Symphony (Nov 1–6) and Chicago Symphony (Nov 8–11).
Additional information about the violinist is available at, and a list of his upcoming engagements follows.
Gil Shaham – upcoming fall engagements
Oct 25, 27; Seattle, WA
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5
Seattle Symphony / Ludovic Morlot
Nov 1–6; Boston, MA
Britten: Violin Concerto
Boston Symphony Orchestra / Juanjo Mena
Nov 8–11; Chicago, IL
Walton: Violin Concerto
Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Charles Dutoit
Nov 23; St. Louis, MO
Beethoven: Violin Concerto
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra / David Robertson
Nov 29–Dec 1; New York, NY
Barber: Violin Concerto
New York Philharmonic / Alan Gilbert
Dec 14–16; Pittsburgh, PA
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra / Arild Remmereit

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