The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Arts May 5, 2007

Shaham Captivates Audience with Virtuosic Brahms Performance

The full audience in Finney Chapel watched in astonishment as the miniscule tip of violin virtuoso Gil Shaham’s bow waved effortlessly through the air, concluding the last in a series of selected Brahms Hungarian Dances. Last Friday capped the Conservatory’s Artist Recital Series with an all-Brahms chamber music explosion featuring Shaham.

Pianist Akira Eguchi matched Shaham color for color, shape for shape, emotion for emotion, producing a beautifully varied and adventurous first half of the concert. The duo achieved myriad textures, moving from a filmy transparency to a more layered sound in half-seconds. The last movement — Presto agitato, in the Violin Sonata No. 3 in d minor, Op. 18 — contained great swells creating a continuous expanse that moved fully both up and down.

Shaham and Eguchi were a great team both onstage and off; they patted each others’ backs while exiting the stage. Such camaraderie was evident in their playing, especially in the sometimes sarcastic, often jovial tone heard in the Hungarian Dances with unexpected gypsy-esque rhythmic fervor.

“It’s very inspiring to be on stage with them,” Shaham said of his chamber music partners in an interview with the Review. Such inspiration became even clearer with their performance of the Sextet No. 1 in B-flat Major, Op. 18.

Shaham’s strength carried over, this time joined by his wife, violinist Adele Anthony; violists Masao Kawasaki and Dov Scheindlin; and cellists Jian Wang and Alisa Weilerstein. Kawasaki and Anthony created a wonderfully structured, but subtle, dialogue in the first two movements. Wang’s solos sang with bravura and Weilerstein moved with passion; Scheindlin’s inner melodies filled the phrases with warmth.

“I’ve always loved this music,” said Shaham of Brahms. According to him, he was first introduced to the composer’s work by his older brother, calling it “beautiful.”

Although born in Illinois, Shaham moved at age two with his scientist parents to their homeland of Israel. His family returned to the United States nine years later. He recalls the “big shock” of moving from Jerusalem to New York City.

Shaham laughed, confiding that his method for dealing with the change was simply to stay in his room and practice. He then attended the Juilliard School with the late Dorothy DeLay, who studied at Oberlin. Now in his 30s, all that quality time with his violin has carved an impressive career.        Between his hectic schedule of approximately 50 concerts a year and Anthony’s schedule of about 30 (already fewer in comparison to previous years), Shaham could just barely spare one week rehearsing for this concert, coming to Oberlin from Buffalo, NY. The musicians have just taken their program to Carnegie Hall this past Wednesday.

And when not coloring the world with his flowing melodies and gorgeously chocolate-y tones, Shaham enjoys spending time with Anthony and their two young children, aged 4 and 1.


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