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Gil Shaham Releases 1930s Violin Concertos, Vol. 2 (March 11): Bartók 2 with Stuttgart Radio Symphony & Prokofiev 2 with The Knights

Gil Shaham: 1930s Violin Concertos, Vol. 2 (Canary Classics)

Gil Shaham: 1930s Violin Concertos, Vol. 2 (Canary Classics)

When Gil Shaham issued 1930s Violin Concertos, Vol. 1, the New York Times welcomed it as “the first document of a major musical project.” Norman Lebrecht called it “an essential adjunct to our understanding of the era” (Sinfini Music), and Gramophone observed: “This is a most distinguished release and I can’t wait for the second installment.” That wait comes to an end on March 11 (available in the UK on February 26), with the release of 1930s Violin Concertos, Vol. 2. Issued on the Grammy Award-winner’s own Canary Classics label, this pairs his account of Bartók’s Second Violin Concerto (1937-38) with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra under Stéphane Denève, with Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto (1935) with Eric Jacobsen and The Knights, the Brooklyn-based orchestra with whom Shaham has developed an especially close rapport. To celebrate the new release, the violinist gives live performances of Bartók’s Second with the Chicago Symphony and Susanna Mälkki (March 30–April 2) and of Prokofiev’s Second on his upcoming North American tour with Jacobsen and The Knights (Brooklyn, NY, Feb 13; Toronto, Feb 17; Chicago, Feb 18; Chapel Hill, NC, Feb 25; Blacksburg, VA, Feb 26). The tour also sees Shaham give the world premiere performances of a new Chamber Concerto by Jonathan Leshnoff, the most recent of the many contemporary works commissioned and written especially for the American master violinist (Baltimore, Feb 14; Atlanta, Feb 20; Athens, GA, Feb 21).

Click here to see Gil Shaham perform the third movement of Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto.

Conceived when he realized how many great 20th-century violin concertos were composed during the same fateful decade, since its launch in 2009 Shaham’s exploration of “Violin Concertos of the 1930s” has fostered a wealth of collaborations with the foremost orchestras and conductors of three continents. It has been recognized by the Los Angeles Times as “a terrific programming idea,” and, Musical America – calling it “one of the most imaginative programming concepts in years” – cited the project when naming Shaham its 2011 Instrumentalist of the Year.

As Claire Delamarche explains in her insightful liner notes, both the Bartók and the Prokofiev concertos “bear the mark of an idealism that could only have emerged from a world in crisis, like flowers blossoming on a battlefield.” Both have played a part in Shaham’s career for more than three decades, yet, as Rob Cowan noted in Gramophone after the release of Volume 1,“What first struck me about this initial volume is how Shaham, a fine musician even 20 or so years ago, has matured as a player.” Since his landmark 1999 recording of the Bartók with Pierre Boulez and the Chicago Symphony, the violinist’s interpretation of the concerto has continued to evolve; after a recent live account with Denève and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Times discovered:

“… a sense of playfulness now in Shaham’s Bartók that wasn’t there before, shedding just the right bit of polished sheen in his tone at appropriate moments, reveling in the sound of surprise with bursts of power and the quietest of pianissimos.”

Anticipating the present release, the review went on to suggest: “When Shaham gets around to recording Bartók for his 1930s project, Denève would be a good match for him.”

Similarly, since his acclaimed 1996 recording with André Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra, the violinist’s relationship with the Prokofiev has also deepened. After a recent performance with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, the Boston Classical Review marveled:

“The orchestra seemed inspired by his elegant and fluent playing, and at times, especially in the Andante assai, the chemistry of orchestra sections with the soloist produced exceptionally tender, floating sonorities.”

High-resolution photos may be downloaded here.

Gil Shaham: 1930s Violin Concertos, Vol. 2

Label: Canary Classics
U.S. Release date: March 11

SERGEI PROKOFIEV: Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63
With The Knights / Eric Jacobsen

BÉLA BARTÓK: Violin Concerto No. 2, BB 117
With Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra / Stéphane Denève

Gil Shaham: upcoming engagements

Feb 14–26
U.S. tour with The Knights / Eric Jacobsen
JONATHAN LESHNOFF: Chamber Concerto for violin & orchestra (world premiere)
SARASATE: Navarra, Op. 33
Feb 14: Baltimore, MD (Shriver Hall)
Feb 20: Atlanta, GA (Emory University Concerts Division)
Feb 21: Athens, GA (University of Georgia)
PROKOFIEV: Violin Concerto No. 2
Feb 13: Brooklyn, NY (BRIC House)
Feb 17: Toronto, ON (Koerner Hall)
Feb 18: Chicago, IL (Harris Theater at Millennium Park)
Feb 25: Chapel Hill, NC (Carolina Performing Arts)
Feb 26: Blacksburg, VA (Moss Arts Center, Virginia Tech)

March 4–6
St. Paul, MN
Ordway Concert Hall
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E minor

March 17–19
Boston, MA
Boston Symphony Hall
Boston Symphony Orchestra / Stéphane Denève
JOHN WILLIAMS: Violin Concerto

March 26–April 16
BACH: Complete Sonatas and Partitas
With original films by David Michalek
March 26: Ann Arbor, MI
April 14: Berkeley, CA (Zellerbach Hall)
April 16: Seattle, WA (Meany Hall for the Performing Arts)

March 30–April 2
Chicago, IL
Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Susanna Mälkki
BARTÓK: Violin Concerto No. 2

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© 21C Media Group, February 2016

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