Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ernest Bloch - Violin Sonatas (Hagai Shaham; Arnon Erez)


Information

Composer: Ernest Bloch
  1. Violin Sonata No. 1: I. Agitato
  2. Violin Sonata No. 1: II. Molto quieto
  3. Violin Sonata No. 1: III. Moderato
  4. Violin Sonata No. 2 "Poème mystique": I. Andante moderato -
  5. Violin Sonata No. 2 "Poème mystique": II. Animato -
  6. Violin Sonata No. 2 "Poème mystique": III. L'istesso tempo -
  7. Violin Sonata No. 2 "Poème mystique": IV. Animato
  8. Mélodie
  9. Nuit exotique
  10. Abodah

Hagai Shaham, violin
Arnon Erez, piano
Date: 2005
Label: Hyperion
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDA67439

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Review

There are significant parallels between the violin sonatas of Bloch and Bartók, not least their uncompromising musical language. All four works date from the early 1920s, Bloch’s First preceding Bartók’s by a year, whereas his Second Sonata was composed some two years after Bartók’s Second. My guess is there was some sort of reciprocal influence at play: indeed we know (from Alexander Knapp’s excellent notes) that Bartók performed Bloch’s First Sonata in recital and the angular, aggressive language of its outer movements has a very Bartókian thrust.

The symbiotic musical partnership of Hagai Shaham and Arnon Erez take that aggression as a starting point, but they also achieve a more inward communion for the work’s central Molto quieto. The Second Sonata follows Bartók’s Second in trading outward aggression for inward agitation and an earthy spirituality, folk-like in Bartók’s case (whose slow-fast pattern recalls Liszt’s and Bartók’s own Hungarian Rhapsodies), with Bloch more attuned to the world of prayer.

Bloch saw his Second Sonata as a fervid, idealistic counterbalance to the primordial onrush of his First, and the ecstatic harmonies that dominate the Second Sonata’s solo line have a profoundly prayerful effect. Shaham again scales the heights with mostly true intonation, a warm tone and meaty double-stops, though as soon as the first notes have sounded the searing benchmark of Jascha Heifetz inevitably invades the memory, more so than in the First Sonata, where the tender-hearted Louis Kaufman merits a special mention. That said, in both sonatas Shaham enjoys a more equal partnership with his pianists than Heifetz did. 

The makeweights for this particular programme work well in context, Nuit exotique having a more eastern feel than the relatively modest Mélodie. Abodah (‘God’s Worship’), written for the child Yehudi Menuhin, outshines both, and Menuhin’s heart-rending 78, made during his early maturity in 1939, rather outshines Shaham’s, though to be fair it’s probably Menuhin’s most perfect single recording – quite an act to follow.

With fine engineering, realistically balanced, and excellent annotation, this is a digital front-runner, not forgetting the admirable Lionel Friedman whose sound and overall approach are on balance less distinctive than Shaham’s.

-- Rob Cowan, Gramophone

More reviews:
ClassicsToday  ARTISTIC QUALITY: 10 / SOUND QUALITY: 9

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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.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Bloch

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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.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagai_Shaham

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