℗ © 2014 Canary Classics
Samuel Barber (1910 - 1981): Violin Concerto, Op. 14
Alban Berg (1885 - 1935): Violin Concerto
Karl Amadeus Hartmann (1905 - 1963): Concerto funebre
Igor Stravinsky (1882 - 1971): Concerto in D
Benjamin Britten (1913 - 1976): Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 15
Gil Shaham, violin
David Robertson, conductor
New York Philharmonic
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Juanjo Mena, conductor
Boston Symphony Orchestra
The 1930s was an incredibly rich decade for the violin concerto, thriving on what was the uncertainty of the age. Over 30 violin concertos materialized across the decade with well over a dozen, from Stravinsky and Berg’s through to Barber’s and Britten’s concertos all commanding iconic status within the violinist’s repertory.
Gil Shaham is the leading violinist of his generation. He was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 1990, and in 2008 he received the coveted Avery Fisher Prize. In 2012, Gil was named “Instrumentalist of the Year” by Musical America, citing his “special kind of humanism”. Combine this “humanism” with a flawless technique and his generosity of spirit, and the musical results are nothing short of inspired.
Gil’s recording of the Barber Violin Concerto displays his trademark rich soulfulness as well as the sounds of urban America when called for, skyscrapers, sirens, clearly manifest themselves in the last movement. The weeping, if not lamenting, solo violin in the Berg concerto, harmonized with very poignant 12-tone chords, reveals emotionally charged heart on sleeve mourning in this recording. For Hartmann’s Concerto funebre Gil is reunited with acclaimed Sejong Soloists, with whom he has recorded Mendelssohn’s octet and Haydn concerti, the New York Times observing from a concert performance of the Hartmann that Shaham “perfectly characterised the work’s anguished and occasionally angry spirit”.
Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto is a concerto with which Gil and conductor David Robertson have performed together countless times. The result is an interpretation which is luminous, light and dancing, The Times noting from this performance that “Shaham’s interpretation was exceptionally spirited and fresh, always at one with the incisive accompaniment from Robertson’s orchestra.” Benjamin Britten’s concerto is arguably the most challenging to play on this collection and is arguably the most sobering work here, and shows another side of Shaham’s musical personality; a work with a martial-like drama, and for the most part a forceful bordering on violent execution of the work unfolds, interspersed, where called for, an ethereal sound world bordering on the surreal; the tonal ambiguity at the end of the third movement positively haunting. In concert the Chicago Classical Review notes, “This is music that fits Gil Shaham like a well-tailored glove.”