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Bloch: Violin Sonatas / Hagai Shaham, Arnon Erez


Release Date: 03/08/2005 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67439   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ernest Bloch
Performer:  Hagai ShahamArnon Erez
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 9 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Written in 1920 and 1922, Bloch's violin sonatas are among the finest of the past century. The First is a Bartókian virtuoso piece whose slashing attacks and violent rhythms reflect an emotional hangover from the devastation of World War I. The Second, subtitled "Poème mystique", strives for transcendence. It's a substantial single continuous movement that includes sections derived from Catholic liturgy and from the Jewish themes that occupied the composer during this period. Both require players attuned to Bloch's style and the intensity of the music. Hagai Shaham and Arnon Erez are two such musicians.


They are up to the aggressive modernism of the outer movements but also are affecting in the
Read more second movement, with the violin singing over piano arpeggios. They capture the pounding rhythms and forward motion of the Finale, and they're marvelously eloquent in the last third of that movement, where aggressiveness gives way to a poignant sense of exhaustion. In the more lyrical Second, both artists are passionate in a more concentrated work, if (for me) a less compelling one.


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.


Competition comes from Isaac Stern, whose febrile First I recall (but memory may be wrong) as a take-no-prisoners exercise in frenzy, and Jascha Heifetz, whose early 1950s versions of both sonatas are brilliantly played (what else from this source?). But he's also too brisk, making the ending of the First less telling than it should be. As heard in RCA's Heifetz Collection, close microphoning makes him sound strident at times and his pianists are too recessed. Miriam Kramer, on Naxos, is slower than the competition but plays with deep feeling, almost overcoming so-so engineering. She's at budget price though, and adds the substantial Suite hébraïque, which Shaham does not. Instead, he plays the Nuit exotique, which she doesn't. Both include the brief but sweet Mélodie and Abodah.


These shorter works are worth having, but the sonatas are the main event, and the Shaham-Erez performances are now the clearly preferred versions. My only disappointment with Hyperion's otherwise vivid engineering is the too-wide separation of the instruments, lending an unnecessary artificiality to the disc even as it may clarify some of the cross-rhythms and counterpoint. [1/25/2006]
--Dan Davis, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 1 by Ernest Bloch
Performer:  Hagai Shaham (Violin), Arnon Erez (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920; USA 
2.
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 2 "Poème mystique" by Ernest Bloch
Performer:  Hagai Shaham (Violin), Arnon Erez (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1924; USA 
3.
Melody for Violin and Piano by Ernest Bloch
Performer:  Hagai Shaham (Violin), Arnon Erez (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1929 
4.
Nuit exotique by Ernest Bloch
Performer:  Hagai Shaham (Violin), Arnon Erez (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1924; USA 
5.
Abodah by Ernest Bloch
Performer:  Hagai Shaham (Violin), Arnon Erez (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1929; USA 

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