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’sLegends.
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
theSlavonic 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.