A Chat With Gil Shaham; NY Phil Presents Barber Masterpiece Feb. 25-27

Classic Arts Features   A Chat With Gil Shaham; NY Phil Presents Barber Masterpiece Feb. 25-27
Shaham has been spending his time lately exploring the great concertos of the 1930s, sampling works by a multitude of composers. He joins the NY Philharmonic and David Robertson this week to perform Samuel Barber's beloved 1939 contribution.


Continuing his journey through the many great violin concertos written in the 1930s, in the coming months Gil Shaham presents examples by Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Walton, Berg, and Samuel Barber, whose 1939 masterpiece Shaham performs with the New York Philharmonic under David Robertson. The three performances on February 25-27 come just days before the centenary of the composer's birth (Barber was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, on March 9, 1910, and died in 1981).

Later in the spring Shaham rejoins Robertson, this time with the Saint Louis Symphony at home and on tour, for other concertos of the 1930s: Prokofiev's Second (1935) in St. Louis (April 9 & 10) and Stravinsky's 1931 Violin Concerto, first in St. Louis (April 11) and then in a West Coast tour with the orchestra that includes performances at Los Angeles's Walt Disney Concert Hall (April 14) and San Francisco's Davies Symphony Hall (April 17); he reprises the Prokofiev Second the next day, also with the Saint Louis Symphony, at Davies. As spring gives way to summer, Shaham and Robertson team up for Berg's Violin Concerto (1935) with the Staatskapelle Dresden (June 13-15).

Other performances this spring and early summer of concertos penned in the turbulent decade leading up to the Second World War include the Stravinsky with Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (April 29 & 30); William Walton's (1938-39) with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Hugh Wolff (May 12 & 13); the Barber Concerto with the Philharmonia and Kirill Karabits (May 19 & 20); and Stravinsky with Mariss Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (June 24 and 25).

As well as focusing on the violin masterpieces of the 1930s, Shaham will also make time in March for solo Bach recitals in Istanbul, Bologna, Varese, and Cologne.

A brief conversation with Gil Shaham and a complete list of his winter and spring 2010 tour dates follow.


Q: You've been playing Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto for a long time now, including a wonderful recording of it in 1994 with Andr_ Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra.

GS: Barber's Violin Concerto has become one of the most popular violin concertos written in the last century, and with good reason. I find all of Barber's works to be amazing because they are so emotionally gripping. People react to this extraordinary concerto with the same intensity that they react to Barber's Adagio for Strings.

Q: What makes this piece so special for you?

GS: I remember someone saying to me once that Barber's Violin Concerto is THE great American violin concerto. It does what a great piece of music is supposed to do: it takes you on a journey. From the beautiful opening movement to the last chords of the final movement 25 minutes later, you are completely engaged. The ballad of the second movement is very soulful _ and very pictorial. In my mind it conjures up the lament of the American dustbowl farmers. Conductor Hugh Wolff told me that with the high-energy last movement you could almost see the skyscrapers being erected. In every way it's a beautiful and very moving piece, and I'm thrilled to be doing it this season with a few orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic.

Q: David Robertson will be the conductor for the New York Philharmonic performances. Tell us about your relationship with him.

GS: I love working with David Robertson. I actually met David professionally first, 23 years ago. My first impression was, what a nice man, what a great musician, and what a fantastic conductor. Now we are brothers-in-law! I love hanging out with him on the weekends and working with him. Last night we talked on the phone about tempos in the Barber Violin Concerto and in a couple of days we'll see each other backstage at work as well.

Q: And you're doing more than one concerto with him this season.

GS: David and I are working together a lot this year. Besides the Barber with the New York Philharmonic this month, we'll also do the piece with the BBC Symphony at the London Proms this summer. We're also playing some other 1930s concertos this season including Prokofiev's Second and the Stravinsky Concerto with the Saint Louis Symphony, and the Berg Violin Concerto with the Staatskapelle Dresden.

Q: In addition to your many concerto performances this winter and spring, you'll also make time for four solo Bach recitals.

GS: Playing solo Bach is a long-term project for me. I started in the fall and I'm having the most amazing time. It's an incredible thing for me to spend an hour alone with my violin and Bach's music. When I practice it I give myself an hour, but when the time is up I immediately want to continue my work, adding 15 minutes, then another 15 minutes _ it's very hard to stop. In March I'll be playing solo Bach in Istanbul, Italy, and Germany. It will be my second time performing in Istanbul. Last time I played at the Hagia Sophia Church, which was incredibly beautiful _ really mind-blowing.



February 25-27
New York, NY
Barber: Violin Concerto
New York Philharmonic Orchestra / Robertson

March 13
Istanbul, Turkey
Solo Bach recital

March 15
Bologna, Italy
Solo Bach recital
Teatro Comunale

March 16
Varese, Italy
Solo Bach recital
Sala Napoleonica

March 17
Cologne, Germany
Solo Bach recital
K‹lner Philharmonie

April 9 & 10
St. Louis, MO
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2
Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra / Robertson

April 11
St. Louis, MO
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 2
Stravinsky: Violin Concerto
Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra / Robertson

April 14
Los Angeles, CA
Stravinsky: Violin Concerto
Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra / Robertson
Walt Disney Concert Hall

April 15
Palm Desert, CA
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2
Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra / Robertson
McCallum Theatre

April 16
Davis, CA
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2
Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra / Robertson
Mondavi Center, UC Davis

April 17
San Francisco, CA
Stravinsky: Violin Concerto
Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra / Robertson
Davies Symphony Hall

April 18
San Francisco, CA
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2
Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra / Robertson
Davies Symphony Hall

April 24
Richmond, VA
Program includes music by Sarasate
Richmond Symphony / conductor TBA Carpenter Center

April 29 & 30
Baltimore, MD
Stravinsky: Violin Concerto
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra / Alsop

May 12 & 13
London, UK
Walton: Violin Concerto
Philharmonia Orchestra / Hugh Wolff

May 19 & 20
London, UK
Barber: Violin Concerto
Philharmonia Orchestra / Karabits

June 13-15
Dresden, Germany
Berg: Violin Concerto
Staatskapelle Dresden / Robertson

June 24 & 25
Stravinsky: Violin Concerto
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra / Jansons

August 26
London, UK
Barber: Violin Concerto
BBC Symphony Orchestra / Robertson
Royal Albert Hall

Visit www.canaryclassics.com/gilshaham.php for more details. 

In addition to the Barber Concerto, the Feb. 25-27 New York Philharmonic program will include Ravel's Mother Goose and Bartok's The Wooden Prince.

Click here for tickets.

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