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Hyperion Records

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The Old Violin (1888) by Jefferson David Chalfant (1856-1931)
Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, USA, Copeland Fund Purchase / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67663
Recording details: June 2007
Jerusalem Music Centre, Israel
Produced by Eric Wen
Engineered by Zvika Hershler
Release date: June 2008
Total duration: 13 minutes 30 seconds

'This is a magnificent release. Shaham and Erez have thoroughly absorbed a style that demands continual flexibility, playing together with such ease that it's easy to forget the art and care that have gone into achieving such beautiful ensemble' (Gramophone)

'Hagai Shaham and Arnon Erez complement each other perfectly here, evincing fire, fury, and sweet sadness, and they act as a brilliant showcase for Joachim's work both as an arranger and a composer' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Virtuoso performances from the Israeli violinist Hagai Shaham that get to the heart of the style … the playing fizzes with energy and suavity' (The Daily Telegraph)

'This recording by Hagai Shaham and Arnon Erez is probably the most dazzling that I have heard' (American Record Guide)

'These deservedly popular pieces overflow with charm and infectious melody … Hagai Shaham and Arnon Erez sound right inside the idiom, playing with an infectiously relaxed bravado wherever necessary, while inflecting those timeless phrases with a suave confidence and relaxed inevitability that prevents them ever straying into camp 'geepsy' territory … there is a subtly understated charm about these performances which I enjoyed a great deal, gently cajoling us into its colourful sound-world rather than hustling us in. Most importantly, Shaham always gives the music a distinct Brahmsian lilt … many recordings provide just the Hungarian Dances, but Hyperion includes a typically inventive 'filler' in the form of Joachim's E minor Varations … Calum MacDonald provides an exemplary booklet note, and the recording is convincingly balanced, capturing Shaham's lithe, glistening tone to a tee' (International Record Review)

'On this recording, the Israeli violinist Hagai Shaham gives it all he's got, digging deep with a fabulous flair for this romantic style and relishing every juicy slide and glittering arabesque. Excellent accompaniment, too, from Erez' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Though the pieces themselves may be highly virtuosic (on second thought, forget the 'may be'), Shaham hardly allows these built-in difficulties to be obvious, so intent does he seem in communicating their impassioned rhetoric … Arnon Erez plays the piano parts of Brahms's pieces with a liveliness and sympathy … urgently recommended' (Fanfare, USA)

'Eine grandiose CD, die ich jedem Violinmusik-Freund ans Herz legen möchte: Johannes Brahms' Ungarische Tänze, vom großen Violinisten Joseph Joachim aus der vierhändigen Klavierversion für Violine und Klavier arrangiert. Hagai Shaham und Arnon Erez servieren sie absolut „exciting“—mit Herz, Seele und natürlich umwerfender Bravour. Hagai Shaham (offenbar nicht mit Gil Shaham verwandt) entlockt seinem Instrument einen geradezu erotisch warmen Ton (was der Engländer „thrilling“ nennt). Das macht auch Joseph Joachims Variationen in e-Moll so schön aufregend prickelnd.—KAUFEN!' (Der neue Merker, Austria)

Variations in E minor
composer
dedicated to Pablo de Sarasate; first performed by Joachim on 15 February 1881 in Berlin

Theme  [0'26]
Variation 1  [0'26]
Variation 2  [0'27]
Variation 3  [0'26]
Variation 5  [0'24]
Variation 6  [0'26]
Variation 7  [0'25]
Variation 8  [0'24]
Variation 9  [0'24]
Variation 10  [0'25]
Variation 11  [0'26]
Variation 12  [0'25]
Variation 14  [0'27]
Variation 18  [1'37]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The dreamy, rhapsodizing introduction, in which the violin speaks with the unmistakable accents of the gypsy fiddler, is one of the few overtly ‘Hungarian’ passages in the work. The lyrical theme itself is announced by the piano, espressivo, and is then restated by the violin to form the first variation. The next four variations decorate the theme in progressively smaller note-values, giving the impression of a controlled acceleration that arrives at a ‘hunting’ variation with the violin in virtuosic counterpoint against horn-imitations in the piano. After a lively continuation in variation 7, variation 8 features the violin, unaccompanied, with impressive chords which are taken up by the piano in variation 9.

A new and pensive melody, sung by the violin over the theme’s original harmonies, forms variation 10 and leads to two expressive major-key variations (11 and 12) which, with 10, form a kind of central ‘slow movement’ in the sequence. The momentum picks up over the next four variations (13–16), culminating in another ‘hunting’ variation (17) shared between violin and piano. Variation 18 forms the introduction to the finale, a lively movement founded on a new violin theme that goes in combination with the original theme in the piano. This is a kind of rondo (and here Joachim again indulges in explicit colouring all’Ongarese) that races to a brilliant conclusion in E major.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2008

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