Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ferdinand David - Violin Concertos Nos. 4 & 5 (Hagai Shaham)


Composer: Ferdinand David
  1. Violin Concerto No. 4 in E major, Op. 23: 1. Allegro
  2. Violin Concerto No. 4 in E major, Op. 23: 2. Adagio cantabile, non troppo lento -
  3. Violin Concerto No. 4 in E major, Op. 23: 3. Allegretto grazioso
  4. Violin Concerto No. 5 in D minor, Op. 35: 1. Allegro serioso
  5. Violin Concerto No. 5 in D minor, Op. 35: 2. Adagio -
  6. Violin Concerto No. 5 in D minor, Op. 35: 3. Vivace
  7. Andante and Scherzo capriccioso, for violin & orchestra, Op. 16

Hagai Shaham, violin
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Martyn Brabbins, conductor

Date: 2010
Label: Hyperion



Ferdinand David, remembered by general listeners as the violinist who helped Mendelssohn fashion the solo part of his E-Minor Violin Concerto and gave the work its premiere, also figures in the everyday life of modern violinists as the editor who brought out the editions in which many Baroque and Classical works first appeared for general consumption. A student of Louis Spohr, he passed on the German tradition he inherited from him to his own students, among them August Wilhelmj, the well-known teacher and editor Henry Schradieck, and, especially, Joseph Joachim. The booklet notes mention five violin concertos among David’s works, but some other sources list six (opp. 3, 10, 14, 17, 23, and 35), of which the last two in Hyperion’s collection (Volume 9 if its series The Romantic Violin Concerto ), the Fourth and Fifth, appear as the Fifth and Sixth. 

The Fourth Violin Concerto opens with an Allegro that showcases the violinist’s technique in sonorous passages that give way to batteries of technical display, much in the manner of Henri Vieuxtemps’s majestic concertos; but Vieuxtemps, a student of Charles de Bériot, developed as a violinist and composer in a somewhat different tradition. Still, the slow movement of David’s work resembles in its straightforward songfulness the Adagio religioso of Vieuxtemps’s Fourth Concerto. The finale brings a return of fireworks, this time led off by a sprightly melody that recalls the finale of Paganini’s Second Concerto (perhaps as filtered through Vieuxtemps-like sensibilities). Hagai Shaham, Martyn Brabbins, and the orchestra play this concerto with a warmth and sympathy that should compensate to a degree for whatever lack of subtlety sophisticated listeners may find in it. The engineers have placed Shaham slightly forward, capturing the richness of his tone in the lower registers, although leaving it sounding a bit thin in the upper ones; the result perhaps diminishes the impact of technical passages assigned to them, although Shaham plays them with great assurance and aplomb. 

The Fifth Concerto begins more dramatically, though at least equally colorfully (David highlights the orchestral tuttis in the Fourth with woodwind timbres and the Fifth with both woodwind and brass; in the Fifth Concerto, he punctuates the solo parts with woodwind dialogue). From time to time, the violin answers stormy orchestral tuttis with dashing passages in double-stops, a recitative occasionally heightening the drama; such barn-burning alternates with engaging cantabile. After an affecting if once again simple melodic slow movement, the finale, as in the Fourth Concerto, returns to a kind of rollicking virtuoso display that harks back as far as the rhythmic piquancy of Viotti’s concerto finales and foreshadows the display in such remote works as Glazunov’s concerto (and it uncannily resembles at its end the last pages of Mendelssohn’s concerto). 

Hyperion’s program concludes with a brief work, Andante and Scherzo capriccioso ; the booklet notes suggest that it may come from about the time in which David played Berlioz’s Rêverie et Caprice (composed in 1839 but brought to light in the last century by Joseph Szigeti) with the composer. But if Berlioz’s work pulls its punches and seems at times more fey and reserved than brilliant and extrovert, David’s counterpart makes almost the opposite impression. Shaham and Brabbins make of this work a commanding nine-odd minutes of flashing quicksilver. 

If traces of Mendelssohn’s influence appear here and there, David’s works seem more strongly reminiscent of Spohr’s nobility and Vieuxtemps’s heroism. Although those seeking the origins of Mendelssohn’s writing for the violin in his concerto may not find them in these works, those who enjoy swashbuckling virtuosity combined with affable melody should nevertheless find much to enjoy in them. Strongly recommended for both music and performances to the latter sort of listeners. 

-- Robert Maxham, FANFARE

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Ferdinand David (19 June 1810 – 18 July 1873) was a German virtuoso violinist and composer. David was a pupil of Louis Spohr and Moritz Hauptmann. David worked closely with Mendelssohn, providing technical advice during the preparation of the latter's Violin Concerto in E minor. He was also the soloist in the premiere of the work in 1845. David's 1742 Guarneri violin later became the main performance violin for Jascha Heifetz. David's own compositions number about 50 works. His most played piece today is his Concertino for Trombone and Orchestra (Op. 4).


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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