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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ernest Bloch; Paul Ben-Haim - Music for Violin & Piano (Hagai Shaham; Arnon Erez)


Composer: Ernest Bloch; Paul Ben-Haim
  • (01-03) Bloch - Baal Shem
  • (04-06) Bloch - Suite hébraïque
  • (07-10) Bloch - Suite for solo violin No. 1
  • (11-14) Bloch - Suite for solo violin No. 2
  • (15-17) Ben-Haim - Sonata for solo violin in G minor, Op. 44
  • (18) Ben-Haim - Berceuse sfaradite
  • (19) Ben-Haim - Improvisation and Dance, Op. 30

Hagai Shaham, violin
Arnon Erez, piano (1-6, 18, 19)
Date: 2007
Label: Hyperion



Hagai Shaham and Arnon Erez have already issued one Bloch CD including the two violin and piano sonatas (Hyperion, 4/05) and this disc completes their survey of his violin music. The two unaccompanied suites date from 1958, the year before Bloch’s death; they combine a chromatic idiom with a strong sense of tonality. Occasionally the music seems to lack individuality – the third movement of the First Suite is almost like pastiche Bach and its final cadence is academically predictable – but more often one’s attention is caught and held by the expressive melodic writing and, in both suites, by a compelling sense of continuity. Shaham revels in Bloch’s demanding yet imaginatively idiomatic violin writing. In the solo suites, as well as the more extravagantly emotional pieces with piano on Jewish themes, he enters wholeheartedly into the feeling of the music yet retains a measure of balance and restraint – the vibrato isn’t exaggerated and a feeling of rhapsodic freedom is achieved without sacrificing natural flow.

Bloch’s popularity has waned somewhat in recent decades, and the Israeli composer Paul Ben-Haim (1897–1984) is even more poorly represented in the CD catalogue. His Solo Sonata, written for Yehudi Menuhin, is, however, a masterly work, not at all original in form and idiom, perhaps, but full of memorable ideas. Shaham’s playing of the central Lento e sotto voce is stunningly beautiful. And the “Improvisation and Dance”, a folk-style showpiece after the manner of the Bartók rhapsodies, inspires both Shaham and Erez to brilliant feats of virtuosity.

-- Duncan Druce, Gramophone

More reviews:


Ernest Bloch (July 24, 1880 – July 15, 1959) was a Swiss-born American composer.  Bloch's musical style does not fit easily into any of the usual categories; he studied variously with Jaques-Dalcroze, Iwan Knorr and Ludwig Thuille, as well as corresponding with Mahler and meeting Debussy. Many of his works - as can be seen from their Hebrew-inspired titles - also draw heavily on his Jewish heritage. He held several teaching appointments in the U.S., with George Antheil, Frederick Jacobi, Quincy Porter, Bernard Rogers, and Roger Sessions among his pupils.


Paul Ben-Haim (5 July 1897 – 14 January 1984) was an Israeli composer. He studied composition with Friedrich Klose and he was assistant conductor to Bruno Walter and Hans Knappertsbusch. Ben-Haim composed chamber music, works for choir, orchestra and solo instruments, and songs. He championed a specifically Jewish national music: his own compositions are in a late Romantic vein with Middle Eastern overtones, somewhat similar to Ernest Bloch. His notable students include Eliahu Inbal and Henri Lazarof.


Hagai Shaham (born July 8, 1966) is an Israeli violin virtuoso. He began studying the violin at the age of six and was the last student of the late Professor Ilona Feher. As a soloist he has performed with many of the world's major orchestras. He also performs as a recitalist and appears in chamber music performances. Shaham has recorded music of Achron, Bloch, Brahms, Hubay, Grieg, Mozart, and more for labels such as Biddulph, Hyperion, Avie, Naxos, Talent. He is also a violin teacher, and a professor at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music.


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