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Choral and Vocal
SILVER ANNIVERSARY BACH RECITAL AT INCARNATION'S EVENSONG SERVICE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 4, 2022
Symphony
JOY, LOVELY DIVINE SPARK!
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 4, 2022
Other
DINOVA PIANISM CHARMS SATED AUDIENCE AT J-B MARIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 20, 2022
Symphony
SHOSTAKOVICH 5TH A TRIUMPH FOR SSU ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 19, 2022
Choral and Vocal
SONOMA BACH'S WORLD IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, November 19, 2022
Recital
ASSERTIVE PIANISM IN YAKUSHEV'S OCCIDENTAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 13, 2022
Symphony
SPARKLING PONCHIELLI AND IMPOSING SCHUMAN AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 12, 2022
Chamber
CONTRASTS GALORE AT THE VIANO'S CONCERT AT THE 222
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 11, 2022
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY STOMPS ALONG TO MARSALIS VIOLIN CONCERTO
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 6, 2022
Choral and Vocal
TRAVELS WITH SEBASTIAN IN SONOMA BACH'S OPENER IN SCHROEDER
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, October 29, 2022
RECITAL REVIEW

Gil Shaham and Akira Eguchi April 26 in Weill Hall (Green Music Center Photo)

SHAHAM-EGUCHI DUO'S EXCITING MUSICAL GENEROSITY IN WEILL

by Abby Wasserman
Friday, April 26, 2019

Violinist Gil Shaham may be the most modest virtuoso on the concert stage today, and it is the great music he most wishes to put forward, never himself. Generosity, a quality he is known for, was abundantly clear in Weill Hall April 26 when he performed, with pianist Akira Eguchi, a generous program spanning four centuries of music.

The duo opened the program with Kreisler’s exhilarating Praeludium and Allegro. The piece, which Kreisler pretended for years was by the Baroque composer Gaetano Pugnani, opens with breathtaking leaps in shifting intervals of four, five, six, eight and 10 notes in the soprano register while the piano line reminds us of the presence of gravity with slow block chords. Mr. Shaham performed with a breadth of feeling that this tour-de-force requires.

Scott Wheeler’s delightful The Singing Turk: Sonata No 2, plays daredevil tricks of its own and merits future performances. Wheeler was inspired by Larry Wolff’s 2016 book The Singing Turk, about the role of Turkish characters in 100 European operas written between the 1680 and 1820 during the Ottoman Empire. Drawing lightly from Handel’s Tamerlane; Gilbert’s The Three Sultanas; and Rossini’s The Turk in Italy, the three movements create musical conversations of Wheeler’s own. The first, “Sů la sponda,” evoked two strangers walking along a shore involved in their own thoughts. There were spurts of notes and violin pizzicato, with shimmering pianism from Mr. Eguchi, bearing snatches of melodic thoughts coalescing eventually into a duet. Movement two, “O vous, que Mars rend invincible,” was somber and delicate, and the third movement, “In Italia,” featured themes in the piano part with a sparkling pulse while the violin part dazzled with a perpetual motion speed.

Mr. Shaham’s sound is light, pure, and mutable. With his magical bow he achieves unusual softness in high registers. His pianissimo can whisper, then grow to an amber mezzo forte or rough fortissimo in a nanosecond. He demonstrated all of this in Israeli composer Avner Dorman’s Nigunim, a thickly textured stew of Jewish music from many cultures and many time periods. The work was commissioned in 2011 by Mr. Shaham and his sister, pianist Orli Shaham, and premiered by the siblings in New York that same year. Within it are the textures and emotions of Jewish music in North Africa and the Middle East, with some non-Jewish musical traditions mixed in.

There are four movements and the first, adagio religioso, begins almost noiselessly. Mr. Shaham’s bowing was eerily quiet, as though heard from a far distance. The piano sounded a theme, inviting the violin to come closer, as it did before again evaporating into the ether. The second movement, scherzo, incorporates Georgian folk rhythms and Turkish/Middle Eastern drone sounds. Its vivid melodies are drawn from Ashkenazi music. In the third (adagio) movement, the piano part evokes water dripping onto a rock or ice melting from a roof, and culminates with a prayer-like melody. The ecstatic presto fourth movement blends Jewish music of Eastern European with Macedonian folk dances. It was a rousing performance by both artists of a complex work, leaving an indelible impression of a rich musical heritage and its cross-cultural influences.

After intermission Mr. Shaham returned to play Bach’s E Major Partita No. 3 (BWV 1006), and he chose a brisk tempo, faster than it is often played, yet it was not really rushed. He employed expressive vibrato and rubato to define the borders of each of the six movements (he played the two Minuets without separation). Performed without a score, unlike the rest of the program that was with a score on tablet, this was Mr. Shaham’s most intimate conception. At times he turned in profile, moving along the apron of the stage as though alone in his studio, then turning and smiling almost shyly at the audience as though saying, Yes, we are here together experiencing the incomparable beauty of Bach’s music. The Preludio first movement, with its gorgeous chromatics, was a standout of the evening. Mr. Shaham plays expressively with his entire body, his face seemingly reflecting how the music affects him.

Franck’s Sonata in A Major, written for his friend and fellow Belgian Eugčne Ysa˙e on the occasion of Ysa˙e’s wedding in 1886, was the evening’s final selection. Franck was a pianist, and Mr. Eguchi’s virtuosity shone in this performance. He had consummate discipline in maintaining a balance with the violin, and though he played strongly and with nuanced inner voices, he could have brought out the gorgeous piano part in the second movement more without overwhelming the violin part. It’s nearly as much a sonata for piano as it is a sonata for violin. The third movement recitativo-fantasia: ben moderato was a performance standout, sensitive and uplifting in the way that only lilting melancholy can attain. As though bookending the Kreisler work, Mr. Shaham’s violin sound floated from note to note in lovely intervals during this movement, like a spider spinning silk.

A standing ovation arose from 600 in the hall, and three curtain calls later, the duo took the stage a last time to play an encore of Bolcom’s elegant Graceful Ghost Rag, a perfectly laidback, delicately rhythmic end to a soul-satisfying musical evening.