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See Gil Shaham’s impromptu Bach recital at NPR Music

On January 12, master violinist Gil ShahamMusical America’s Instrumentalist of the Year – gave an impromptu recital of J.S. Bach’s exuberant solo Partita No. 3 at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. Announced only on local classical station WETA and Twitter earlier that same day, the event nonetheless attracted a crowd sufficient to pack the exhibit room in which it took place. And for the majority who were unable to attend, NPR Music captured this live performance with a field recording, now available as a video clip. This reveals the violin superstar momentarily becoming part of the art, bathed in the projections of a multimedia installation during his commanding performance.
With projects like “Violin Concertos of the 1930s,” Shaham has won renown for his creative and original programming. Yet he remains second to none in the masterworks of the violin mainstream, and has never shirked one of the most unforgiving old-school challenges: playing solo Bach. In recent months, after 30 years of private study and just three years of public performance overseas, Shaham has brought his solo Bach interpretations out into the open to share with American audiences.
The violinist describes the supreme power Bach’s solo writing holds for him: “Even when I’m just in my room by myself, this music is hypnotic: I find it to be mesmerizing, cathartic, and uplifting.” When the Avery Fisher Prize-winner included a Bach partita on a chamber program at London’s Wigmore Hall, the Strad magazine confessed:
“The high moment was Shaham alone, in the Bach D-minor Partita: his warmth, honeyed tone, and beautiful sense of line were balanced with intelligent articulation.”
Shaham’s thoughtfulness and originality speak to 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.
Recognizing the freshness of Shaham’s approach to Bach, the San Francisco Classical Voice explains:
“Preferences in performing these suites can be taken to two extremes: very fast, with virtuosity; or very slowly, with soul. Shaham is in the ‘very fast’ camp. What he’s trying for, though, is a combination of fast-with-soul. For all his speed, he was neither cold nor ritualistic. He’s been playing these works for 30 years for himself, having an intimate, one-on-one conversation with Bach. On Sunday, he invited a select and lucky audience to overhear that intimate conversation.”
Additional information about Gil Shaham is available at, and a list of his upcoming engagements – including a solo Bach recital – follows.
Gil Shaham – selected upcoming engagements
Jan 20, 21, & 22
Norfolk, VA
Barber: Violin Concerto
Virginia Symphony / JoAnn Falletta
Feb 1
Milwaukee, WI
Brahms: Violin Concerto 
Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra / Edo de Waart
Uihlein Hall – Marcus Center for the Performing Arts
Feb 11 & 12
Memphis, TN
Chen Gang / He Zhanheo: Butterfly Lovers’ Violin Concerto
Memphis Symphony Orchestra / Mei-Ann Chen
Canon Center
Feb 17
Miami Beach, FL
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2
New World Symphony / Michael Tilson Thomas
New World Center – Frank Gehry Campus
Feb 18
Miami, FL
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2
New World Symphony / Michael Tilson Thomas
Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
Feb 25
Purchase, NY
Bach: selections from the sonatas and partitas for solo violin
Performing Arts Center – Purchase College
March 10
Rio Piedras, PR
Brahms: Violin Concerto
Centro de Bellas Artes (Festival Casals)

March 15, 16, 17, & 20
New York, NY
Hartmann: Concerto funèbre for solo violin and string orchestra  
New York Philharmonic / David Zinman
Avery Fisher Hall
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