Christian Mǎcelaru conductor
Gil Shaham violin
Brahms Violin Concerto
Shostakovich Symphony No.1
About the performance
A virtuoso violinist tackles Brahms.
Suitable only for the world’s greatest violinists, the fiendishly complicated Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D major provides Gil Shaham the perfect platform to display his legendary virtuosity.
Famed 19th century violinist Pablo de Sarasate refused to play it because Brahms included an oboe solo, remarking that he didn’t want to “stand on the rostrum, violin in hand and listen to the oboe play the only tune in the adagio”. American–Israeli violinist Gil Shaham has no such qualms; he has played the piece to great acclaim the world over.
A work of immense beauty, it is greatly indebted to the one man who towered over Brahms, psychologically as much as musically, Beethoven. This concerto references Beethoven’s in complex ways, but refuses to remain under its shade. Shaham’s exquisite playing demonstrates the work’s legitimacy in its own right.
Accompanying this work is a cycle of pieces originally written for piano but later arranged for orchestra, Dvořák’s Legends. It was largely because of Brahms — who was on the panel of judges that awarded Antonín Dvořák the Austrian State Prize in 1874 — that Europe came to know the then 33-year-old Czech composer’s music. Brahms recommended Dvořák to his publisher, who then commissioned what became the Slavonic Dances, Op. 46. The sheet music sold extremely well and Dvořák’s international reputation was launched.
Composed while he was a student at the Leningrad Conservatory and premiering when he was still a teenager, Shostakovich’s First Symphony was a triumph for the furiously ambitious young composer. With influences from Tchaikovsky, Mahler and Stravinsky’s Petrushka particularly, the piece is an exuberant, imaginative musical outpouring. Shostakovich explores the four traditional symphonic movements with flexibility and freshness. The work’s premiere in 1926 heralded the arrival of an individual, unmistakable musical voice which was to endure so much in the decade to come.