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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67571
Recording details: May 2006
Jerusalem Music Centre, Israel
Produced by Eric Wen
Engineered by Phil McClelland
Release date: February 2007
Total duration: 14 minutes 29 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)

Sonata for solo violin in G, Op 44
composer
1951; commissioned by Yehudi Menuhim who first performed it in February 1952 at Carnegie Hall

Allegro energico  [5'43]
Molto allegro  [3'46]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
As with composers such as Bartók and Vaughan Williams involved in the folk-music revival, folk influences are to be found throughout the very fabric of Ben-Haïm’s original œuvre, including two symphonies, the award-winning oratorio The Sweet Psalmist of Israel, and a large output of chamber and vocal music. One of his most compelling string works, which combines the Eastern Mediterranean style with a neoclassical approach, is the Sonata in G for solo violin Op 44. It was composed in three days in 1951 to a commission from Yehudi Menuhin, who gave the premiere at Carnegie Hall in February 1952. It was also for Menuhin that Ben-Haïm composed one of his last works, the Three Studies for solo violin of 1981. The Sonata Op 44 was inspired by Bartók’s solo Sonata, which Menuhin performed in 1951 in Tel-Aviv, and shares with that work the influence of Bach’s solo Sonatas and Partitas.

The neo-Baroque elements are most marked in the sonata-design first movement, Allegro energico, based on a memorable strident rhythmic motif, which recurs at important junctures in different keys rather like a Baroque ‘ritornello’ form, leading to a climactic final statement that resembles a sonata recapitulation. It is interspersed by fluid passagework and Bachian contrapuntal textures, yet infused with a modal flavour that seems to blend Middle Eastern colours with the impressionism of Bloch, Debussy and Ravel. Folkloristic elements are more pronounced in the last two movements, the more expressive of which is the slow movement that inhabits the pastoral mood suggested in biblical psalms, shepherd pipes and Bedouin chants. There is an exotic magic to the long winding melody that weaves melismas around the main notes of a simple mode. The finale is fizzing Hora, a dance that, speeded up from its slow Eastern European roots, became an Israeli national dance. Here it is treated as a moto perpetuo in rondo form, adorned with exuberant violinistic pyrotechnics that concludes the Sonata with virtuoso panache.

from notes by Malcolm Miller © 2007

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