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Gil Shaham: ten concertos, world premiere, new CD, & more

Widely recognized as “the outstanding American violinist of his generation” (Time magazine), Gil Shaham looks forward to a full season that reflects his extraordinary range and takes him to some of the world’s most distinguished orchestras, including the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics; the symphonies of Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, St. Louis, Montreal, Toronto, and Tokyo’s NHK; and the orchestras of Philadelphia and Paris. These collaborations see the Avery Fisher Prize winner demonstrate his masterful handling of repertory staples by Brahms, Beethoven, and Mozart, besides reprising his “Violin Concertos of the 1930s” project, dubbed “one of the most imaginative programming concepts in years” (Musical America). Three of Shaham’s celebrated 1930s interpretations – of the Barber, Berg, and Stravinsky concertos – will soon be available on CD, when the project’s first recording is released on the Grammy winner’s own Canary Classics label, and they are also among the seven heard live this season. In the recital hall, meanwhile, Shaham continues to balance the unique demands of the solo Bach repertoire (in which his playing “radiat[es] an uplifting, cathartic humanity” according to Strad magazine), with his championship of contemporary music, when he premieres a new commission from Pulitzer Prize winner William Bolcom and revisits his recent successes with composers Avner Dorman and Julian Milone.

Recognized as Musical America’s “Instrumentalist of the Year,” Shaham remains second to none in the masterworks of the violin literature. In Brahms’s Violin Concerto, he recently made a profound impression on the Daily Californian, which marveled: “A truly special performer, Shaham is more compelling than a firework show. … Each note from his violin stirs the soul, leaving a lasting impression and awakening all the latent fervor therein.” Over the coming season, the Brahms figures prominently in the violinist’s programming, including multiple performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel (Feb 21–24) and the Philadelphia Orchestra with Yannick Nézet-Séguin (May 23–25) as well in Cincinnati (Jan 25-26), Oklahoma (Oct 6), Germantown (Feb 16), and Dubuque (May 11). Other concerto mainstays that predominate in 2012-13 are Mozart’s Fifth, for which Shaham joins the symphony orchestras of Toronto (April 17–18), Pittsburgh (Dec 14–16), and Seattle (Oct 24), and the Beethoven concerto, which he plays with the St. Louis Symphony under David Robertson (Nov 23), with whom he recently scored “a knockout” (Los Angeles Times).

Now entering its fourth season, Shaham’s long-term exploration of iconic “Violin Concertos of the 1930s” was conceived when he realized how many outstanding 20th-century violin concertos derived from that fateful decade. The coming year brings the project’s first recording, on which he joins forces once again with David Robertson, his brother-in-law and frequent musical partner. Due for release on the violinist’s own Canary Classics label, the new album features three of the decade’s most evocative concertos, performed with the world-class orchestras of three nations, all with Robertson on the podium: Stravinsky’s (1931) with the BBC Symphony Orchestra; Berg’s (1935) with the Dresden Staatskapelle; and Barber’s (1939) with the New York Philharmonic, with whom Shaham previously collaborated to impress the New York Times with their “rich-toned, gracefully shaped performance.”

In the concert hall, Shaham performs no fewer than seven violin concertos of the 1930s over the coming season. Barber’s is the vehicle for his return to the New York Philharmonic, now with music director Alan Gilbert (Nov 29 – Dec 1), and for appearances with Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony (Sep 20–22). He reprises the Stravinsky with both the San Francisco Symphony led by Michael Tilson Thomas (June 18–20) and the Orchestre de Paris under Nicola Luisotti (Jan 9–10), and plays the Berg with Michael Stern directing the Kansas City Symphony (May 31 – June 2). Other 1930s masterpieces showcased over the coming season are William Walton’s concerto (1938-39), which headlines the violinist’s appearances with the Chicago Symphony and Charles Dutoit (Nov 8–11); Benjamin Britten’s (1938-39), which he undertakes with both the Boston Symphony conducted by Juanjo Mena (Nov 1–6) and the Montreal Symphony under James Conlon (Sep 26); Bartók’s Second (1937–38) with the Orchestre de Paris led by Paavo Järvi (March 20–21); and Prokofiev’s Second (1935) on Japanese tour with the NHK Symphony (March 7–11).

In addition to undertaking these diverse and challenging concertos, Shaham remains equally commanding in recital. Last season, after 30 years of studying the sonatas and partitas privately, he finally brought his solo Bach interpretations out into the open to share with American audiences. His thoughtfulness and originality in these works reflect his willingness to take interpretative risks, while his innate musicianship and warmth – what Musical America calls his “special kind of humanism” – ensure that his performances bring out the partitas’ dancing rhythms along with their harmonic depth, achieving what the San Francisco Classical Voice dubbed “a combination of fast-with-soul.” The new season brings further opportunities to hear this fresh approach, in solo recitals in Atlanta (Oct 4) and Tokyo (March 3) and – on a duo recital tour with pianist Akira Eguchi that includes stops in San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall (Feb 8), San Diego (Feb 7), and Japan’s Nagoya (March 1) – at the Boston Celebrity Series (Feb 10).

This same Celebrity Series event will also showcase the world premiere of Suite No. 2 for solo violin, inspired by Bach’s solo violin writing, and written for Shaham by William Bolcom (b.1938). The violinist describes the suite as “a nine-movement work filled with brilliant musical ideas and emotions, a masterpiece with the profundity and craftsmanship that is characteristic of Bill’s music.” Rounding out the Boston program, Shaham will revisit two more works composed for him in recent years: Julian Milone’s “In the Country of Lost Things…” (2012) and Avner Dorman’s Niggunim (2011), which also forms the centerpiece of the violinist’s forthcoming album of Jewish-inspired music.

Over the 2011-12 season, Shaham performed “Violin Concertos of the 1930s” with the leading orchestras of three continents, including the New York and Hong Kong Philharmonics and the Tonhalle and Paris Orchestras. For appearances with the New Jersey Philharmonic, he coupled the Berg with world premiere performances of Kaddish, a new concerto by Richard Danielpour, “transcending expectations” with his “soulful performance” (New Jersey Star-Ledger). Core repertoire to feature most prominently included Bach’s solo sonatas and partitas, which he presented on a five-city U.S. recital tour, and the Brahms Violin Concerto, with which he opened the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s new season at Carnegie Hall, “play[ing] with his customary depth and charisma” (New York Times), before reprising it with the symphony orchestras of Boston, San Francisco, and Delaware.

Additional information about Gil Shaham is available at, and a list of his upcoming engagements follows.


Gil Shaham – upcoming engagements

Sep 20 & 21
Baltimore, MD

Barber: Violin Concerto
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra / Marin Alsop
Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall 

Sep 22
North Bethesda, MD

Barber: Violin Concerto
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra / Marin Alsop
Music Center at Strathmore

Sep 26
Montreal, QC, Canada

Britten: Violin Concerto
Montreal Symphony / James Conlon
House at Place des Arts

Oct 4
Atlanta, GA

Solo Bach – Partita No. 3 in E; Sonata No. 3 in C; Partita No. 2 in D minor
Schwartz Center

Oct 6
Oklahoma City, OK

Brahms: Violin Concerto
Oklahoma City Philharmonic / Joel Levine
Civic Center Music Hall

Oct 24
Seattle, WA

Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5 and Turkish Encore
Seattle Symphony Orchestra

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
Orchestra Hall

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
Avery Fisher Hall

Dec 14-16
Pittsburgh, PA

Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra / Arild Remereit
Heinz Hall (Pittsburgh)

Jan 9-10
Paris, France

Stravinsky: Violin Concerto
Orchestre de Paris / Nicola Luisotti

Jan 25-26
Cincinnati, OH

Brahms: Violin Concerto
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Music Hall (Cincinnati)

Feb 7
San Diego, CA

Program TBD
Akira Eguchi, piano
Copley Symphony Hall

Feb 8
San Francisco, CA

Program TBD
Akira Eguchi, piano
Davies Symphony Hall

Feb 10
Boston, MA

Schubert: Sonatina in A Minor
Bach: Partita No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006
Bolcom: Suite No. 2 (2012 Music Accord Commission)
Milone: “In the Country of Lost Things…” (2012)
Dorman: Niggunim (2011)
Akira Eguchi, piano
Celebrity Series of Boston
Jordan Hall

Feb 16
Germantown, TN

Brahms: Violin Concerto
IRIS Orchestra
Germantown Performing Arts Centre

Feb 21-24
Los Angeles, CA

Brahms: Violin Concerto
Los Angeles Philharmonic / Gustavo Dudamel
Walt Disney Concert Hall

March 1
Nagoya, Japan

Program TBD
Akira Eguchi, piano
Kioi Hall 

March 3
Tokyo, Japan

Solo Bach – Partita No. 3 in E; Partita No. 1 in B minor; Partita No. 2 in D minor
Musashino Civic Cultural Hall

March 7, 9, 10, 11 (Japan Tour)
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2
NHK Symphony Orchestra / Diego Matheuz

March 20-21
Paris, France

Bartók: Violin Concerto No. 2
Orchestre de Paris / Paavo Järvi

April 17-18
Toronto, ON Canada

Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5
Toronto Symphony Orchestra / Peter Oundjian
Roy Thomson Hall

April 25-May 6 (Europe / Sejong Tour)
Shostakovich: Prelude and Scherzo, Octet for Strings
Greig: Suite ‘Aus Holbergs Zeit’ op. 40
Vivaldi: Four Seasons
International Sejong Soloists 

May 11
Dubuque, IA

Brahms Violin Concerto
Joint Performance with the Columbus and Dubuque Symphony Orchestras
University of Dubuque

May 23-25
Philadelphia, PA

Brahms Violin Concerto
Philadelphia Orchestra / Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Verizon Hall – Kimmel Center

May 31, June 1-2
Kansas City, MO

Berg Violin Concerto
Kansas City Symphony / Michael Stern
Helzberg Hall

June 18-20
San Francisco, CA

Stravinsky Violin Concerto
San Francisco Symphony / Michael Tilson Thomas
Davies Symphony Hall


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