1930s Violin Concertos, Vol. 1

1930s Violin Concertos, Vol. 1

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by Gil Shaham

Gil Shaham has long been fascinated by the unusually large number of violin concertos that were composed in the 1930s, and he has made it a special project to document this extraordinarily fertile decade in modern music. The first volume of 1930s violin concertos, a double-CD on Canary Classics, presents five of the most famous works in a series that invites…  See more details below


Gil Shaham has long been fascinated by the unusually large number of violin concertos that were composed in the 1930s, and he has made it a special project to document this extraordinarily fertile decade in modern music. The first volume of 1930s violin concertos, a double-CD on Canary Classics, presents five of the most famous works in a series that invites superlatives: Samuel Barber's "Violin Concerto, Op. 14"; Alban Berg's "Violin Concerto"; Karl Amadeus Hartmann's "Concerto funebre"; Igor Stravinsky's "Violin Concerto in D"; and Benjamin Britten's "Violin Concerto in D minor." Shaham recorded these performances between 2008 and 2013 with different ensembles, which has produced varied but appropriate accompaniments in keeping with the demands of the composers, though the sound quality is slightly uneven due to the changes of venues. However, Shaham is front and center, and his presence dominates the performances, giving the solo parts warmly personal interpretations that, for all their technical virtuosity, are rather more on the brooding side and serious in expression. For future volumes, Shaham is expected to record concertos by Bartók, Bloch, Hindemith, Martinu, Prokofiev, Schoenberg, Szymanowski, and Walton, so fans of modern violin concertos should keep a sharp lookout.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
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.

CD1. 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 (CC08), the New York Times observing from a concert performance of the Hartmann that Shaham “perfectly characterized the work’s anguished and occasionally angry spirit”.

CD2. 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.”

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Product Details

Release Date:
Canary Classics

Related Subjects


  1. Concerto Funebre for violin & string orchestra  - Karl Amadeus Hartmann  - Gil Shaham  - Gil Shaham  - Emily Davis
  2. Violin Concerto  - Alban Berg  -  Dresden Staatskapelle  - David Robertson  - Gil Shaham  - Emily Davis
  3. Violin Concerto, Op. 14  - Samuel Barber  -  New York Philharmonic  - David Robertson  - Gil Shaham  - Emily Davis
  4. Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 15  - Benjamin Britten  -  Boston Symphony Orchestra  - Gil Shaham  - Emily Davis  - Juanjo Mena
  5. Violin Concerto in D major  - Igor Stravinsky  -  BBC Symphony Orchestra  - David Robertson  - Gil Shaham  - Emily Davis

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Gil Shaham   Primary Artist

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1930s Violin Concertos, Vol. 1 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
KlingonOpera More than 1 year ago
Powerful contemporary works brought to life by Gil Shaham This recording is interesting, in that violinist Gil Shaham has chosen 5 violin concertos composed in the 1930s, from Samuel Barber, Alban Berg, Karl Amadeus Hartmann, Igor Stravinsky, and Benjamin Britten. The well written liner notes provide informative and relevant background information on each of the works, as well as detailing Mr. Shaham’s interest in exploring violin concertos written in the early 1900s. If this first volume (in the form of a 2 CD set) is any indication, then these pieces and those to come are certainly worth listening to and contemplating. The first work is Barber’s Violin Concerto, Op. 14. The piece is beautiful, particularly the first two movements, and the historical background is equally fascinating. The third movement, while not as melodically stunning as the first two, requires virtuoso skills from the soloist that made this listener want to applaud the recording as well. Amazing. The second work, Berg’s Violin Concerto “To the Memory of an Angel”, is a haunting and powerful tribute to an 18 year old girl that Berg (per the liner notes) “loved as if she were his own child.” I was unfamiliar with the background to the piece prior to hearing it, but emotion and intent was clear right away. And Mr. Shaham’s abilities turn this into a captivating and very human experience. Closing the first CD is Hartmann’s “Concerto funebre”, which is performed with the Sejong Soloists. While this concerto is bit more chromatic and angst filled, it is also very approachable and not off putting in the slightest, particularly given the historical events occurring at the time of the creation of the piece. The first of the two works on the second CD is Stravinsky’s “Violin Concerto in D Major”. This is a somewhat playful piece that requires great dexterity on the part of the soloist, but filled with back-and-forth Stravinsky motifs throughout the work. This is definitely not a concerto for the timid, and Mr. Shaham attacks it and conquers it. The final piece in this collection is Britten’s “Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 15”, a rather pensive sounding piece, both uneasy and driven at the same time. It is clear that Britten was uncomfortable with current world events at the time (and who can blame him?), and this clearly shows in the musical language that he uses here. That being said, the work is also strikingly clear and lovely in the same way that an overly chilly frost-laden day is first thing in the morning. This is a unique composition, and most definitely deserving of in-depth active listening. This recording is also of exceptional quality, in addition to giving the listener much to experience intellectually and emotionally. Strongly recommended.
RGraves321 More than 1 year ago
There's an advantage to running your own record label -- it's easier to do the projects that you really believe in. In this case, Gil Shaham is the owner/operator of Canary Classics, and the project is a survey of violin concertos of the 1930's. Just the lineup of composers for this first volume show how rich this decade was: Samuel Barber, Alban Berg, Benjamin Britten, Karl Amadeus Harmann, and Igor Stravinsky all wrote violin concertos in the 1930's.This 2-CD set brings together recordings of Shaham performing in different venues with different forces, so there's a little unevenness in the sound. But not in the performances themselves. Shaham plays every work insightfully and with conviction. Shaham's rendition of Berg's Violin Concerto brings out the emotion suggested by the subtitle "To the Memory of an Angel." He highlights the romantic expressiveness of the work, letting the dodecaphonic structure fade far into the background.Stravinsky's Violin concerto is played with dryness and acerbic wit, while Britten's youthful Op. 15 concerto revels in its more somber tone and thicker harmonies. For me, the two standouts (and that's a relative term) were the Hartmann "Concerto funebre" and Samuel Barber's violin concerto. Hartmann's work reflects the deep despair this anti-fascist composer felt living in the heart of Nazi Germany. Shaham both plays and conducts, making this a very intimate reading. The pathos expressed is heart-breaking, and Shaham delivers it with the sensitivity it deserves. The opening work is Barber's violin concerto, recorded in a live performance. David Robinson and the New York Philharmonic make this richly romantic work positively luminescent. Shaham sings through his violin, taking full advantage of Barber's lyrical music. The energy in the final movement is almost palpable, and the enthusiastic response is well-deserved.