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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67571
Recording details: October 2004
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Eric Wen
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: February 2007
Total duration: 11 minutes 31 seconds

'Both composers are served extremely well on this beautifully recorded disc, Hagai Shaham and Arnon Erez in particular giving a totally convincing performance of Bloch's well-known Baal Shem … The overall impact is all the more powerful for the sure sense of pacing both artists demonstrate through the recital' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Such a fine soloist as Hagai Shaham … The Baal Shem Suite … receives an excellent performance. Shaham projects the ectsasy of the climaxes marvellously, underpinned by evocative fanfares from Arnon Erez's piano … This remains a fine release of worthwhile and relatively neglected repertoire' (International Record Review)

'Shaham's fiddle weeps with an expressive rich, dark tone, especially in the Nigun movement…' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Hagai Shaham possesses the ideal kind of silver-toned, narrow-vibratoed purity to make these occasionally melodramatic pieces ring true. Rather than fall back on a well-upholstered, opulent sound, he streamlines his tone, adding a special kind of intensity to Bloch's soaring climaxes. Shaham strikes just the right balance between interpretative cool and swashbuckling bravado in Baal Shem … the recording is excellent throughout' (The Strad)

'The vibrancy of Hagai Shaham’s tone and his willingness to engage in expressive devices, apparent from the first notes of Ernest Bloch’s Baal Shem, promises visceral performances of commanding penetration. That the tone, however refined, also possesses a sprinkling of grit hardly detracts from the strong-mindedness of his readings … Hagai Shaham sounds as much at home in this kind of ethnic material as in the hushed sections of the second movement or in the bold, virtuosic gestures of the third. By contrast with the Solo Sonata, Ben-Haïm’s two pieces for violin and piano present contrasting faces of romanticism, the Berceuse sfaradite, a rich melodious outpouring, and the Improvisation and Dance, a flamboyant showpiece. Those drawn in any way to these composers should find Shaham’s advocacy convincing. Strongly recommended, however, to all kinds of listeners' (Fanfare, USA)

'Shaham reveals a penetrating intensity, exalted and colorful at once' (Audiophile Audition, USA)

'These [performances] are truly inspiring. Shaham is unafraid of liquid, quick portamenti in the Baal Shem Suite and he is at pains to balance Hebraic fervour with high lying lyricism. The harp-like ripple of the second movement is a testament to Erez’s involving and colour-conscious playing. Shaham intelligently varies his tone here – this is not an understated Nigun but it is one that says a lot without saying too much. The joyous buoyancy and culminatory exultation of the finale show how adept the duo has been throughout – they pace the suite extremely well … The playing is insightful, expressive, and thoroughly idiomatic. These two musicians make an articulate and important statement about both composers’ work' (MusicWeb International)

'Performances are simply electrifying, and the relentless tension that they create is almost unbearable. A vividly recorded and superbly documented disc all round' (Classical.net)

'Les interprètes abordent ces deux compositeurs avec la ferveur à la fois distanciée et fiévruese qu'ils mettaient au service de Grieg. Ils imposent une grande liberté rhapsodique, mais sans rien de maniéré. Le son de Hagai Shaham est puissant, à la fois bourru et attendri' (Le Monde de la Musique, France)

Hagai Shaham complète l'intégrale des oeuvres pour violon et piano de Bloch, commencée avec succès il y a deux ans. On retrouve dans le Bal Shem dans la Suite hébräique et dans les deux très rares Suites pour le violin seul, les mêmes qualités que dans les ouvrages déjà gravés: archet conquérant, superbe sonorité, phrasés élégants et intelligemment pensés donnant à l'interprétation sensualité ou spiritualité. Les trois oeuvres de Ben-Haïm—Sonate pour violin seul, Bercuese sfaradite et Improvisation et Dance —bénéficent également d'une lecture de tout premier plan … Toujours exemplaire, Anon Erez au piano, anticipe toutes les intentions de son partenaire' (Classica, France)

Suite hébraïque
composer
1951; for violin or viola and orchestra or piano; originally entitled Cinq pièces hébraïques

Rapsodie  [5'51]
Processional  [2'10]
Affirmation  [3'30]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
From the early years of the twentieth century until deep into the 1920s, Bloch struggled with a biblical opera on the story of Jezebel. In order to revive his interest in the subject once he had settled in New York in 1917, he searched through the 1901–06 edition of the twelve-volume Jewish Encyclopedia for traditional melodies from all over the Jewish world, and he wrote most of them in a manuscript book that bears the name Chants juifs. Although Jézabel never progressed beyond a mass of sketches, now preserved in the Library of Congress, Washington DC, Bloch used many of the collected materials in other works, including his Suite hébraïque of 1951. An extant sheet of paper in Bloch’s handwriting identifies all the most prominent traditional Jewish melodies incorporated into the three movements of the suite. The first movement, Rapsodie, includes Shemot, the Jewish ‘profession of faith’ as it is chanted traditionally at the end of the Day of Atonement in Ashkenazi synagogues. The second movement, Processional, contains two melodies: Kerobot, a melody for a strophic hymn text by the ancient Jewish poet Kallir, and Ahot Ketannah, a tune dating back to 1533 in Salonika. Bloch has used two traditional melodies in the last movement entitled Affirmation: Geshem in the Perso-Arab-Jewish manner, and a short fragment of Ashkenazi Hazzanut (cantorial chant).

The suite began life as Cinq pièces hébraïques for viola and piano in 1951. Three of the five movements were selected and scored for full orchestra two years later; and the work can be played by violin or viola, with piano or orchestral accompaniment. It was conceived following a week-long seventieth-birthday Bloch Festival in Chicago in 1950, comprising chamber music, synagogue performances, and two concerts by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Jan Kubelík. The driving force behind the festival was Samuel Laderman, Chairman of the Music Committee of the Covenant Club of Illinois. Bloch, on returning to his home in Oregon, wrote this suite in a popular, ‘classical’ Jewish style as a gift to the Covenant Club in gratitude for the festival.

from notes by Alexander Knapp © 2007

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