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Haydn: Violin Concertos; Mendelssohn: Octet

Haydn / Mendelssohn / Sejong Soloists / Shaham
Release Date: 03/30/2010 
Label:  Canary Classics   Catalog #: 8   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Franz Joseph HaydnFelix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Gil Shaham
Orchestra/Ensemble:  International Sejong Soloists
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 2 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



HAYDN Violin Concertos: No. 1 in C; No. 4 in G. MENDELSSOHN Octet Gil Shaham (vn); Sejong Soloists CANARY 08 (62:06)


Gil Shaham has been playing Haydn’s Concerto in C Major in public for some time; he recorded it with Daniel Ettinger and the Israel Philharmonic on a DVD, To5ne 90007. The first movement of his performance with the Sejong Soloists sounds suavely opulent on his 1699 Polignac Stradivari, with a witty lilt in the passagework (such Read more playing could only have enhanced the reputation of Luigi Tomasini, for whom Haydn wrote the work). In earthy energy, Shaham’s more than equals that of Isaac Stern’s early recording (Columbia ML 5428, reissued as part of Sony’s collection of Stern’s early concerto recordings, M3K 45952 ) and exceeds Christian Tetzlaff’s (on Virgin 59266—reviewed as Virgin Classics 91489 by James H. North in Fanfare 15:4); the recording by Federico Guglielmo, on period instruments, Brilliant 94003, belongs perhaps in a different category. Shaham's tempo in the slow movement allows its long-breathed line to flow without stagnating; the finale sparkles with a wit that may not be surprising in itself but seems more so when it reappears in the first movement of the Concerto in G Major. That entire concerto has often been described as making few technical demands, but Shaham’s bright, jubilant manner and the ensemble’s buoyancy rectify any want of brilliance in the writing. Shaham infuses the slow movement of the G-Major Concerto with such ardor that it almost seems to rival that of the C-Major Concerto; the finale, if it doesn’t strike so many flinty sparks as that of the earlier work, still sounds genial and spirited, perhaps due to Shaham’s passagework, but perhaps as well to the soloist’s and ensemble’s dynamic shadings, more subtle than those to which many listeners may have become accustomed.


The story goes that Mendelssohn didn’t allow the Octet, one of the most stunning products of his youth (or of anyone’s youth), to be published until he had revised it several times. According to Stephen Somary’s booklet notes, Gil Shaham and members of the Sejong Soloists have combined the final, published, version with the first one, which Mendelssohn may have considered too immature for general dissemination, despite publishers’ requests to release it. The opening of this hybrid sounds in Shaham’s performance almost like a violin concerto, although the impression doesn’t last long; still, Shaham’s mastery shines through while it does (and such moments peek out through the first movement). If this movement demands a high level of virtuosity at the tempo Shaham has chosen, he and the Sejong Soloists display it in ample measure, at times recalling the excitement I experienced upon first hearing the work. The pace never slackens, and the energy never abates. But it’s not all forward thrust, and quieter moments in the central section serve as a poignant—or at least reflective—contrast. Shaham and the Soloists take the Andante at a loping, rather than a walking, tempo. At its rapid pace and with its subtle dynamics, the Scherzo sounds even more sprightly than usual. I remember a passage from, I believe, Goethe, about leaves dancing in the wind, a passage that supposedly influenced Mendelssohn in conceiving this movement; but Shaham’s performance seems altogether too diaphanous even for that, a fussiness that may perhaps put off some listeners. The performance returns to more solid realities (and the first movement’s headlong exuberance) in the last movement’s hell-bent-for-leather counterpoint.


I remember Paul Stoeving lamenting in his poetic book on the violin that he could never again hear Mendelssohn’s E-Minor Concerto for the first time. But if you can’t generally go home, there may be exceptions, and Shaham’s recording of the Octet seems like one of them. The recorded sound in the concertos provides ample, but not excessive, reverberation, but also a sense of depth despite the relatively small size of the chamber orchestra. The Octet shares much of this acoustic ambiance. Urgently recommended for all three performances and for the spacious recorded sound.


FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Violin no 1 in C major, H 7a no 1 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Gil Shaham (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  International Sejong Soloists
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1769; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts and Letters, Ne 
Length: 16 Minutes 1 Secs. 
2.
Concerto for Violin no 4 in G major, H 7a no 4 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer:  Gil Shaham (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  International Sejong Soloists
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1769; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts and Letters, Ne 
Length: 17 Minutes 13 Secs. 
3.
Octet for Strings in E flat major, Op. 20 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Gil Shaham (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  International Sejong Soloists
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1825; Germany 
Venue:  LeFrak Hall, Queens College, City univer 
Length: 27 Minutes 26 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Violin Concerto in C Major, Hob.VIIa:1: I. Allegro moderato
Violin Concerto in C Major, Hob.VIIa:1: II. Adagio
Violin Concerto in C Major, Hob.VIIa:1: III. Finale: Presto
Violin Concerto in G Major, Hob.VIIa:4: I. Allegro moderato
Violin Concerto in G Major, Hob.VIIa:4: II. Adagio
Violin Concerto in G Major, Hob.VIIa:4: III. Allegro
String Octet in E-Flat Major, Op. 20, MWV R20: I. Allegro moderato ma con fuoco
String Octet in E-Flat Major, Op. 20, MWV R20: II. Andante
String Octet in E-Flat Major, Op. 20, MWV R20: III. Scherzo: Allegro leggierissimo
String Octet in E-Flat Major, Op. 20, MWV R20: IV. Presto

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