BLOCH: Baal Shem Suite; Suite hebraique; Suite No. 1 for Solo Violin; Suite No. 2 for Solo Violin; BEN-HAIM: Sonata in G Minor for Solo Violin; Berceuse sfaradite; Improvisation and Dance – Hagai Shaham, violin/ Arnon Erez, piano – Hyperion

by | Jul 3, 2007 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

BLOCH: Baal Shem Suite; Suite hebraique; Suite No. 1 for Solo Violin; Suite No. 2 for Solo Violin; BEN-HAIM: Sonata in G Minor for Solo Violin; Berceuse sfaradite; Improvisation and Dance – Hagai Shaham, violin/ Arnon Erez, piano – Hyperion CDA67571, 74:21 (Distrib. Harmonia mundi) ****:

Inscriptions of eminently Jewish music made 2004-2006 by Hagai Shaham – who made an international repute in 1985 when he joined Pinchus Zukerman as part of a tribute to Isaac Stern’s 65th birthday. The 1923 Baal Shem Suite celebrates the founder of modern Hassidism, Israel ben Eliezer of Miedzeboz, Poland. This piece has found strong acolytes in Stern, Szigeti, and Gulli. Incantational and dancelike, the suite allows for Shaham’s expressive powers to vent fully, especially in the familiar Nigun section. But Simchas Torah, too – the celebration of The Law – finds mellow ecstasies in the hands of Shaham and Erez. Fluid in pitch and dynamics, Shaham reveals a penetrating intensity in this suite, exalted and colorful at once.

Suite hebraique
(1951) finds its melodic origins in a projected opera, Jezebel, that Bloch had outlined 1917-1923. In three sections–Rapsodie, Processional, Affirmation–the music absorbs traditional Hebrew melodies while subjecting them to Bloch’s expressive, modal harmony. Shaham has his violin chanting and pining in equal measure, stridently pleading or coaxing, as the music requires. Blistering attacks and incisive expressivity mark the Processional. The tension of the music relents somewhat for the final Affirmation, a sweet setting of the Semitic melody Geshem cross-fertilized by a cantor’s tune, Hazzamut. At several moments, the piercing sound of Shaham’s instrument recalls Joseph Szigeti’s cat-gut realizations of this emotional music. In 1958, Yehudi Menuhin commissioned the solo Suites from Bloch, both of which emulate Bach Partitas. The first hovers around G Minor, and its melodic content is cyclic, liberally redistributing themes from prior movements in the feverishly grand finale. The Allegro in E reminds us of Bach’s Partita in the same key, virtuosic and vigorously restless. The second suite–played without pauses–dallies with elements of Bartok and serialism, opening in an improvisatory manner. After a frenetic Moderato movement, a lyrical sarabande emerges, Andante. The last movement, a perpetuum mobile, is rife with chromatic leaps and repeated notes, Shaham’s fingers eminently busy.

Paul Ben-Haim (nee Frankenburger) represents a Zionist tradition in music, although the commission for the G Minor Solo Sonata, Op. 44 (1951) originates with Menuhin. Bach and Bartok remain the first movement’s spiritual antecedents. An orientalism pervades the musical syntax of this work: Jewish liturgy and Moorish rhapsody. Shaham traverses its knotty and dervish-like contours with easy facility. The Lento e sotto voce might be a soft, extended, pastoral imitation of a muezzin’s call. The Rondo-Hora that concludes the sonata looks to Paganini–and Sibelius’ fifth Humoresque–for its motor invention, Shaham’s negotiating pyrotechnics with aggressive panache. Berceuse sfaradite (1939; rev. 1945) for violin and piano spins a silken melody over varying registers and harmonic patterns most beguilingly. A salon piece with virtuosic aspirations, this charming opus. Finally, Improvisation and Dance, Op. 30 (1939), another display piece, transforms Ravel’s Tzigane into Middle Eastern sensual and vibrant thoughts, often traced delicately into nether regions.

— Gary Lemco

Related Reviews
Logo Pure Pleasure
Logo Apollo's Fire
Logo Crystal Records Sidebar 300 ms
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01