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Gil Shaham Takes Sibelius and Tchaikovsky to Orchestras of Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Cleveland, and Chicago

Avery Fisher Prize-winner Gil Shaham takes two towering masterworks of the violin literature to the nation’s foremost orchestras this summer, performing Sibelius’s Violin Concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic (July 11), New York Philharmonic (July 26), Philadelphia Orchestra (Aug 7), and Boston Symphony (Aug 9), as well as playing Tchaikovsky’s with both the Cleveland Orchestra (Aug 3) and Chicago Symphony (Aug 4). These high-profile engagements follow the release last week of the Grammy Award-winning violinist’s hotly-anticipated new album, Nigunim: Hebrew Melodies, and his annual residency at the Aspen Music Festival, where he launches the summer in programs of Bach (July 3 & 24) and Bruch (July 19).
Dominating Shaham’s summer schedule is the Sibelius Violin Concerto, with which he already has a long and illustrious history. The Sibelius was the vehicle for his first big break, when he substituted at just 18 for an ailing Itzhak Perlman in performances with the London Symphony Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas. Shaham’s subsequent Deutsche Grammophon disc is an acknowledged benchmark recording of the work, and when he revisited the concerto in 2005, the UK’s Guardian concluded:
“Shaham’s combination of virtuoso technique with a deeply expressive instinct still seems perfect for the work. … He took [Birmingham’s] Symphony Hall by storm. Shaham’s playing had a searing intensity, but it was the irrepressible energy he exuded that brought every note so vividly to life.”
Now Sibelius’s masterpiece serves as the vehicle for Shaham’s summer collaborations with four leading American orchestras. More than two decades after the violinist’s first accounts of the work under the baton of Maestro Tilson Thomas, he and the conductor reunite to perform it with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl (July 11). For Shaham’s return to Colorado’s Bravo! Vail music festival, he reprises the Sibelius with the New York Philharmonic under Grammy Award-winning English conductor Bramwell Tovey (July 26), and undertakes it once again to launch the Philadelphia Orchestra’s summer season at New York’s Saratoga Springs, under the leadership of Stéphane Denève (Aug 7). Finally, with Christoph von Dohnányi on the podium, he takes the concerto to the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood (Aug 9).
Also figuring prominently in the violinist’s summer programming is the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, with which he has enjoyed similar success; after he played it with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the opening of the Hollywood Bowl in 2007, the Los Angeles Times’s Mark Swed confessed:
“We were lucky: Gil Shaham was the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. His was old-school, big-personality, enormously engaging Tchaikovsky playing, sort of Isaac Stern with ants in his pants. … He plays with a sense of wonder. … Shaham’s oneness with the music won us all over, and after the big first-movement cadenza, the audience burst into applause. I’ve never heard that happen before.”
This summer, the lucky ones are those able to attend the violinist’s accounts of the concerto with the orchestras of Cleveland and Chicago. Shaham rejoins the Cleveland Orchestra – with whom his collaboration last season was deemed “a goose-bump experience – an event to remember” (Houston Chronicle) – under Ukrainian conductor Kirill Karabits at the Blossom Music Festival (Aug 3). Then he heads to the Ravinia Festival to take part in the Chicago Symphony’s Tchaikovsky Spectacular,” an all-Tchaikovsky gala evening featuring wine-tasting, dining, and live cannons, directed by James Conlon (Aug 4).
The violinist’s first major summer festival appearances are at Colorado’s Aspen Music Festival, where he launches the season with Bach’s A-minor concerto under the direction of Gramophone Award-winning period performance expert Nicholas McGegan (July 3) and gives one of his signature solo Bach recitals (July 24). Shaham’s account of Bach’s E-major concerto with the Atlanta Symphony last year was pronounced “a revelation” (ArtsATL), while, after one of his recent unaccompanied Bach recitals, Opus One Review marveled: 
“Mr. Shaham’s performance was encyclopedic – he seemed to pull it all together – the throbbing, human intensity; the serene, celestial overview; the devil in every technical detail. Personally, I felt humbled by the joy of this performance, and…the audience…went a bit out of their minds.”
While at Aspen, Shaham also returns to another orchestral mainstay, playing Bruch’s First Violin Concerto with Ludovic Morlot and the Aspen Chamber Symphony (July 19); as the New York Times remarks, “If the Bruch is the prototypical Romantic violin concerto, Mr. Shaham is the prototypical violinist to play it.
Rounding out the violinist’s summer schedule is “Gil Shaham and Friends,” an evening of chamber works by Beethoven, Brahms, Bartók, Henryk Wieniawski, and Julian Milone, at New York’s Saratoga Chamber Music Festival (Aug 6).
Meanwhile, June 25 saw the release of Nigunim: Hebrew Melodies, on which Shaham returns to his roots with a program of Jewish and Jewish-themed music for violin and piano. Recorded with his sister and frequent musical partner, Orli Shaham (hailed by the New York Times as a “brilliant pianist”), the new disc was issued on the violinist’s own Canary Classics label, and showcases the world-premiere recording of the title track –written for the Shahams by Israeli composer Avner Dorman – alongside classics of the genre from Ernest Bloch, Joseph Achron, Josef Bonime, and Leo Zeitlin, as well as the suite from John Williams’s film score to Schindler’s List. According to the Buffalo News,
“Gil Shaham’s virtuosity on this disc is of such pyrotechnic flamboyance and ferocity and the impassioned beauty so openhearted that it bids fair to be one of the greatest of Shaham’s long career and one of the greatest intimate violin recordings anyone is likely to encounter in a while. Extraordinary.”
A list of Shaham’s upcoming engagements follows, and additional information is available at his recently launched new website,
Gil Shaham: summer engagements
July 3
Aspen, CO
Aspen Music Festival
J. S. Bach: Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041
Nicholas McGegan
Harris Hall
July 11
Hollywood, CA
Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47
Los Angeles Philharmonic / Michael Tilson Thomas
Hollywood Bowl
July 19
Aspen, CO
Aspen Music Festival
Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26
Aspen Chamber Symphony / Ludovic Morlot 
Benedict Music Tent
July 24
Aspen, CO
Aspen Music Festival
Bach: Solo Sonatas and Partitas
Harris Concert Hall
July 26
Vail, CO
Bravo! Vail
Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47
New York Philharmonic / Bramwell Tovey
Ford Amphitheater
Aug 3
Cuyahoga Falls, OH
Blossom Music Festival
Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto 
Cleveland Orchestra / Kirill Karabits
Aug 4
Highland Park, IL
Ravinia Festival
“Tchaikovsky Spectacular”
Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto 
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/ James Conlon
Aug 6
Saratoga Springs, NY
Saratoga Chamber Music Festival
“Gil Shaham and Friends”
Beethoven: Duo for Viola and Cello (“with two obbligato eyeglasses”)
Brahms: Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115
Bartók, Julian Milone, and Henryk Wieniawski: selected violin duets
Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Aug 7
Saratoga Springs, NY
Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47
Philadelphia Orchestra / Stéphane Denève
Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Aug 9
Lenox, MA
Tanglewood Music Festival
Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47
Boston Symphony Orchestra / Christoph von Dohnányi
Tanglewood Music Shed
© 21C Media Group, June 2013

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