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Hyperion Records

Click cover art to view larger version
Track(s) taken from CDA67439
Recording details: February 2004
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Eric Wen
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: February 2005
Total duration: 29 minutes 45 seconds

'Bloch's first Sonata given a 'devastating performance' … If there is any justice, this fine new recording will win these undervalued works new friends. Please try these sonatas, whether or not you already know them' (BBC Radio 3 CD Review)

'With fine engineering, realistically balanced, and excellent annotation, this is a digital front-runner' (Gramophone)

'Mix Bartok, Debussy and a dash of Lisztian bravado and you'll get something very close to Bloch's folksong-inflected, post-Romantic sound-world. Intoxicating performances guaranteed to set the pulse racing' (BBC Music Magazine)

'In both works, Shaham meets Bloch's extreme technical demands without flinching; and his timbral control is dazzling throughout (his ability to spin silk at the top of his register is especially astonishing). Pianist Arnon Erez seconds him admirably, whether the score demands that he engage in intricate give-and-take with the violinist or that he slip off into a different world entirely' (International Record Review)

'Played with lean intensity and dead-centre intonation reminiscent of the young Heifetz, these neglected works come fizzing off the page to mesmerising effect' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Hagai Shaham…(compared to Isaac Stern's recording of the first sonata) plays with similar intensity if not with equally ecstatic frenzy … Hagai Shaham, who has championed the music of violinist-composers Joseph Achron and, more recently, Jenö Hubay, produces a steely rather than a sumptuous tone. His grandiloquent oratorical flourishes, as well as his edgy technical display, therefore flash like tempered steel, however, leaving the least trace of coldness … So another disc or so from Shaham could encompass everything Bloch wrote for the violin (and perhaps even include the concerto). Given the strong appeal of this initial offering, that's a consummation devoutly to be wished. Highly recommended' (Fanfare, USA)

'Shaham impresses in all aspects of these sonatas. His manner is fiery, his tone is full-bodied from a top of great purity to a bottom deep and resonant, and he tosses off the virtuoso passages with aplomb. Erez is a full partner, sometimes coming close to usurping the lead, which can be all to the good here. He roams the keyboard with assurance, playing with crisp exactitude and full-bodied tone' (ClassicsToday.com)

'Here Shaham and Erez play with wonderful empathy and understanding, undoubtedly this is music that they feel with a deep passion. The aching Molto quieto is also very beautiful whilst the concluding Moderato really kicks off a whirlwind of activity that has Shaham on true top form…this whole disc is a definite must for lovers of solo violin especially those with a penchant for Bloch's unique music' (Classical.net)

'It's a credit to Shaham and accompanist Arnon Erez that this work carries such a punch. Bloch's knowledge of the violin—he was taught by a master in Ysaye—means that the passagework is frequently taxing, but with this completely under his fingers Shaham has no worry' (MusicOHM.com)

'Hagai Shaham confirms a remarkable talent, which goes far beyond the technical performance … This disc is essential at the head of a rather thin but high level catalogue [of this repertoire]' (Diapason, France)

'Bloch of emotions: vehemence and serenity, stud and certainty, poetry, brutality, sensuality, spirituality: the interpretation which is delivered to us by Hagai Shaham and Arnon Erez is of an incredible richness … But it is especially the interpretation of the five works which confers all its richness. There Hagai Shaham signs one of the most beautiful versions of these partitions: all is translated in a way subtle and inspired by a bow of an absolute control, a sumptuous sonority and a vibrato of an infinite diversity… in this album, Hagai Shaham and Arnon Erez, which one will never say enough the virtues of executants and especially of interpreters, reach the level of excellence' (Classica, France)

Violin Sonata No 1
composer
1920

Agitato  [11'38]
Molto quieto  [9'36]
Moderato  [8'31]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Bloch stated that his tormented Violin Sonata No 1 in three movements was written soon after World War I: ‘the terrible war’ and ‘the terrible peace’ that followed it. The first movement, Agitato, begins with a violent, ritualistic motif on the violin, combined with intricate cross-rhythms in the piano, depicting the ‘atmosphere of battle’. The second subject provides a dream-like contrast. An interesting modal feature is Bloch’s use of motifs based upon an eight-note scale, comprising the intervals of two disjunctive minor tetrachords separated by a semitone: A–B–C–D–Eb–F–Gb–Ab. The second movement, Molto quieto, was written after Bloch had read a book about Tibet. (Although he never visited the Far East, its impact upon him finds expression in several works.) The composer has described this movement as mournful and restless at the beginning, leading to a spectacular outburst of emotion which then abates. The flowing cantilena is interrupted by a striking passage of tremolo pizzicato. In the piano part ‘chime’ effects are produced by the bitonality of the broken chords spread across two hands. Bloch described the last movement, Moderato, as a barbaric march – a vision of an angry, pitiless, primitive deity; but at the end there is an atmosphere of resignation, and then the acceptance of peace. Originally, Bloch intended to end this work with a different finale, but it was rejected on the grounds that its colour was too Jewish and therefore incompatible with the first two movements. The significance of this is that the Sonata No 1, dedicated to the American music critic Paul Rosenfeld, was written soon after the ‘Jewish Cycle’, and Bloch was keen to establish a new idiom for himself. Bartók, whose first sonata for violin and piano appeared at about the same time, performed Bloch’s work in Europe with different violinists during the early to mid-1920s.

from notes by Alexander Knapp © 2005

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