Video Interview with Gil Shaham: Beethoven and Brahms Violin Concertos, Side-by-Side

January 26, 2021, 11:15 AM · You don't need to read any history to sense the connection between the Beethoven and Brahms violins concertos -- it's right there in the music. This idea led to a wonderful conversation with violinist Gil Shaham, who releases his new recording of Beethoven and Brahms on March 12. In the video below, Gil demonstrates nearly a dozen places where the two concertos mirror one another, playing on a c.1719 Strad from Rare Violins In Consortium Artists and Benefactors Collaborative.

Even while simply sitting at his desk chair and playing without accompaniment, Gil's playing can still take one's breath away, eh?

The history of this connection - between Beethoven, Joachim and Brahms - is actually quite interesting. When Gil talks about why he decided to record both the Beethoven and Brahms violins concertos together on one album, he points to one historical moment: March 11, 1848, the fateful day when Johannes Brahms, just 14 years old, watched Joseph Joachim perform the Beethoven Violin Concerto at a concert in Hamburg. "Apparently, this concert changed his life," Shaham said, citing the historical research by Styra Avins, who wrote the program notes for his new album and who also wrote the 1998 book Johannes Brahms: Life and Letters.

Fast-forward to the 44-year-old Brahms, who had just started composing his own violin concerto. He turned, of course, to Joachim, who was by then a close friend. They talked about technical considerations, playability, etc., and Joachim wrote a cadenza which is still used today by violinists, including Gil in this recording. Brahms dedicated the work to Joachim -- who actually opened the premiere performance concert by playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto!

For his new recording, Shaham performs with NYC-based orchestra The Knights, conducted by Eric Jacobsen. it's also Gil's first-ever commercial recording of the Beethoven. During the next month we plan a little CD giveaway, so be sure to check in with Violinist.com about that, and we'll also have another chat with Gil, together with Eric Jacobsen.

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Replies

January 27, 2021 at 02:55 PM · Wow! Such a great interview. Felt like a splash of sunlight !! I love his sound and smile. Kol hakavod Gil. Thanks for this Laurie.

January 27, 2021 at 09:08 PM · Thank you, Laurie, for this wonderful interview with Gil. At 10:58 he plays the last statement of the Beethoven theme, and I have listened to it four times and I cry every time. I can’t wait to get this recording and sit under a big tree and disappear into this most glorious music, played by a master story-teller.

January 28, 2021 at 12:39 AM · I would have purchased Mr. Shaham's recording without this interesting analysis, but the comparisons between the concertos of Beethoven & Brahms will further add to my listening enjoyment. The album also slightly decreases my disappointment that I won't be able to drive over to Little Rock in February to hear Mr. Shaham play, as I had hoped to do. Thanks for a wonderful interview, Laurie. It made me nostalgic for Gilharmonic.

January 28, 2021 at 08:01 AM · I am so grateful to you for this great moment of violonists'ssss... exchange. And the magistral and happy demonstration of Gil Shalam is so rare and precious. The Beethoven unique violin concerto (just one among so many pianistic, symphonic, quatuors, etc. compositions) has opened to me the world of musical creation. As the french histotian, Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch told it on the radio 2 years ago: (https://www.franceculture.fr/emissions/lidee-culture/catherine-coquery-vidrovitch

I have been stunned and grasped the first time I heared Yehudi Menuhin interpreting the concerto by side of Wilhelm Furwängler; it was in Lucerne, 1947... And since; it remains my true source of joy.

My first violin professor said he preferred the Brahms concerto: why dissociate them? They speak each other "en écho", and you give us so nicely this delightful marriage!

Thank you

Bernard B.

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